The Murano is one of those 'if only' cars: a large, family-sized SUV aimed at the BMW X5 that, if only it had had a diesel engine from launch, might have made a more positive impression on a sceptical British public. Instead, it arrived in 2005 powered by a large, thirsty petrol engine, albeit an exotic 3.5-litre V6 that it shared with the Nissan 350Z, admittedly producing 245bhp rather than 276bhp.
It was a marketing howler but explained by the fact that, at the time, Nissan was on a mission to make more of its products available in Europe, whether we wanted them or not. What was good for the smooth, arrow-straight highways and low fuel prices of the US, it reckoned, would be good enough for the twisting and pockmarked roads and overcharged motorists of the UK.
The company didn't stop with the cooking V6 version, either. The following year, 2006, it sprang a special high-performance concept called the GTC. Its uprated V6 made 338bhp and it could dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in 7.0sec, compared with the standard car's still-respectable 9.0sec. To keep the two-tonne beast in check, it was lowered by one inch and fitted with stiffer Bilstein suspension and AP Racing brakes. It was a one-off designed to remind everyone of the Murano's existence and potential, but it had a few too many bugs and disappeared without trace.
Which left the standard car. Not too standard, though. The Mk1 Murano is packed with kit, including alloy wheels, xenon headlights, leather trim, a reversing camera and a Bose sound system. It's a genuinely roomy car with space to spare. Practical, too; the rear seats and tailgate have remote releases controlled from the dashboard. Unlike more agricultural ladder-frame rivals of the time, it's a monocoque. The 4x4 system directs drive to the front wheels by default and to the rears in extremis, unless you press the button that locks all four in play. It's a good-looking car that's smooth, neatly integrated and well proportioned. Rear vision is a bit restricted but there's always the reversing camera.
The Mk2 Murano arrived in 2008 with an improved gearbox, restyled nose (in fact, every panel was new), sharper dynamics and even more equipment. All good so far, except that it was still powered by the same 3.5-litre V6, albeit boosted by 20bhp. In 2010, Nissan saw the light and introduced a 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel producing 187bhp and a very useful 332lb ft torque. Inherited from Nissan's aged Pathfinder SUV, it required a lot of sound deadening to make it acceptable in the svelte Murano. It also required its own more conventional six-speed automatic gearbox.
To celebrate its arrival, Nissan gave both models a mild makeover. It was too little, too late and disappointing sales prompted Nissan to pull the plug on the Murano the following year. Today, petrol versions dominate the small ads. You may be lucky and spot a diesel. If you need to tow a boat or caravan, it's the one to choose.
How to get one in your garage
An owner's view
Gordon Thompson, Nissan Murano 3.5 V6 CVT: "We bought our Murano 3.5 a few years ago. It's a second-generation car on a 2009 plate. We bought it for its space and comfort. It's really smooth and has been trouble-free but then we've looked after it. It's loaded with gadgets, some of which I'm still discovering. Only recently, I discovered that if you press the reversing camera button twice, it displays a kerbside view so you can avoid marking the alloys. Spares can be a headache. For example, the windscreen wipers are a special size that you can only source through Nissan dealers, at a price. I'm no fan of the CVT gearbox, either."
Engine: The 3.5 petrols can suffer head gasket issues, so check the coolant level and for emulsified gunk on the dipstick and around the oil filler neck.
Transmission: Look for oil leaks around the transfer case. On petrol models, if you're concerned about the CVT gearbox, have the deterioration value of the transmission fluid checked via the car's OBD port. Regarding the six-speed auto on diesels, make sure drive can be selected without shunting.
Chassis, suspension and exhaust: Inspect the underside for signs of careless off-roading, including the exhaust, which is quite exposed. The axles and suspension score poorly in reliability surveys, so check them carefully, including on the test drive.
Brakes: It's a heavy car so check the pads and discs. The system is sensitive to regular (biennial) brake fluid changes to avoid water contamination.
Body: Perished sunroof seals are a problem so check their condition and for water marks inside the car. Make sure the windscreen scuttle drain holes are clear because blockages here re-route rainwater down the front bulkhead, where it risks damaging the ECUs.
Interior: Check all the features work including the remote tailgate and rear seats releases. Make sure the driver's seat is secure. Some can work loose over time.
Also worth knowing
The Murano rates 'poor' on Warranty Direct's Reliability Index, with a score of 194, but that's better than a BMW X5, which scores 254. Average repair costs for a Murano are £665. Axles and suspension account for the lion's share of faults. The engine, electrics and steering system rarely give trouble.