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Visual cues like the upswept rocker panels and the deeply contoured rear fenders lend the 2015 Murano an athletic appearance meant to reestablish the model as a style leader in its segment.

Nissan tries to re-create Murano buzz through design

Nissan aims to recapture some of the magic that helped set the original Murano crossover SUV apart from the rest when it debuted as a 2003 model. It was one of the first crossover SUVs from a mainstream brand that incorporated elegant style and premium features in much the same way personal luxury coupes did for an earlier generation.

A flood of competitors and a more conservative second-generation design left the Murano as just one of a crowd in the midsize SUV segment, so the company developed the 2015 model to reclaim its place as a halo vehicle in the brand’s lineup.

Nissan staked out its territory for the new model when it showed the Resonance concept vehicle last year. The speedy trip from concept at the 2013 North American International Auto Show to showrooms before the end of 2014 was the result of a dual development path that saw the Resonance concept and the production Murano created on parallel tracks rather than one after the other. The object was for both to share common design elements, such as the company’s new “boomerang” headlight style that it intends to be a brand signature, and a floating roof treatment.

The headlight design debuted on the 370Z, and the Murano’s execution sees its shape slimmed, with optional LED illumination available. The roof appears to float on glassed-over D-pillars that visually separate the roof from the rest of the car.

The company’s designers worked with clay models from the beginning of the project in a bid to lend a more sculptural feel to the car’s appearance. This contributed to a design that sees a stronger curavature of the rear fender stampings in a design that follows the traditional “longer, lower, wider” maxim.

Despite a more curvaceous shape, details like a grille shutter, fender lip moldings, refined bumper surfaces, rear tire deflectors, and a rear spoiler whittle 16% from the drag compared to the outgoing model. “The designers and engineers invest three times the normal wind tunnel testing of the new Murano to gets its 0.31 coefficient of drag,” reported Shiro Nakamura, Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Nissan.

Inside, designers slashed the number of buttons and switches for the audio and navigation systems by 60%, from 25 to 10. Fortunately, in doing so, they preserved conventions familiar to drivers, so rather than forcing them to learn unfamiliar new controls, drivers will find the familiar rotary volume knob on the driver’s side of the infotainment display, and a tuning knob on the far side. Similarly, driver- and passenger-side temperature controls are managed by intuitive rotary knobs on the left and right sides.

The new model carries on with the same 260-hp (194-kW), 240-lb·ft (325-N·m) 3.5-L DOHC gasoline V6 as before, but a 130-lb (59-kg) mass reduction, reduced drag, and tweaks to the drivetrain tuning for more efficiency combine to boost fuel economy by 20%.

The car includes as many as four cameras and three radars to gather information for its numerous safety systems such as blind-spot warning, forward collision warning, emergency braking, cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.

The Murano will be built in the U.S. for the first time, at the company’s Canton, MS, factory, as the ninth vehicle assembled there.

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