BY Bob Gritzinger, Contributor | @bobgritzinger Before introducing the 2015…
Nissan has a herd of crossovers–from the three-row maxi-ute Pathfinder all the way down to the appropriately named super-fun, mini-ute dubbed the Juke. We recently had an opportunity to drive all of Nissan’s CUVs on a short, varied test loop at a press event in Michigan. These are all unibody, car-based vehicles, meaning they tend to have smoother rides and easier handling (and better fuel economy) compared to their bigger, heavier, truck-based body-on-frame siblings such as the Armada.
If you’re buying a CUV, big or small, Nissan has a vehicle worthy of your consideration–especially considering the brand does such a good job of competitively equipping and pricing its products.
Here’s our roundup of Nissan’s 2015 CUVs:
Rogue: Now with Eco Mode
(SL AWD tested: $29,630 base price, $32,690 with options/destination)
All new for the 2014 model year, the second-generation Rogue has held on to its title as Nissan’s best-selling crossover (and second-best seller in the Nissan lineup after the Altima), and for good reason. The Rogue cuts a stylish line and offers huge interior flexibility—you can even outfit this midsizer with an optional third row giving it seating for seven. Safety options include Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which provides a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of everything going on around the vehicle.
For 2015, the Rogue adds standard Eco mode to help get the maximum fuel economy from the 2.5-liter, 170-hp 175-lb-ft four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. If there’s a downside to the Rogue, it’s that the engine can seem noisy and tends to feel like it is over-revving due to the transmission characteristics. But if your driving is steady and smooth, it won’t be as noticeable.
Pathfinder: Still carving paths of its own
(Platinum 4×4 tested: $43,100 base, $44,170 with options/destination)
Known primarily for its rugged body-on-frame chassis and rough-and-ready drivetrain and styling for two of its first three generations since its introduction in 1986, the Pathfinder returned to a unibody platform with the introduction of the 2013 model. This fourth-gen Pathfinder, which shares its chassis and powertrain with the luxury Infiniti QX60, gets a significantly better ride as a result. This is now a three-row, seven-passenger family hauler vs. its previous persona as the go-to ute for adventure seekers.
Make no mistake though: the Pathfinder remains a very capable off-roader and towing vehicle, with 4WD Lock mode and Hill Descent Control to take on the tough terrain, and a class-leading 5,000-lb towing capacity.
The Pathfinder’s suspension feels a bit sluggish, but the punchy 3.5-liter, 260-hp, 240-lb-ft V6 engine makes up for it. Beware of the pinched rear visibility—you’ll have to rely on the 360-degree cameras to “see” behind the vehicle.
Murano: Keeping it classy and plush on the inside
(Platinum AWD tested: $40,600 base, $43,955 with options/destination)
The class of the Nissan crossovers, and for good reason: The 2015 model (introduced in late 2014) is the freshest model in the Nissan CUV family and represents a huge design departure for the brand’s crossovers. Inside and out, the third-gen Murano exudes a premium feel, and refinements in the chassis and powertrain provide ample support.
The variable-effort steering feels light, but provides distinct and reassuring road feel, while body roll is held in check.*
The 3.5-liter V6 is quiet and powerful, while the supporting CVT does a credible job of mimicking a seven-speed automatic. The all-new interior is particularly impressive, with the redesigned center stack offering all the right dials and knobs for easy control of audio and ventilation systems from the supportive, NASA-inspired Zero Gravity front seats.
Juke: It’s just plain awesome
(SL AWD tested: $26,940 base, $28,225 with options/destination)
Fun, fun and more fun. If you can get past the Juke’s quirky, love-it-or-hate-it appearance, which underwent a styling makeover for 2015, the underlying CUV is a blast on par with a go-kart when it comes to the driving experience. Punch up Sport mode and the steering effort stiffens and the 1.6-liter, 188-hp, 177-lb-ft turbo four comes to life, while the torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system provides reassuring traction and grippy cornering.
An option for 2015 is Color Studio, a dozen color-coordinated accessories available in eight colors to brighten everything from the roof spoiler to the floor mats. Our favorite feature in the Juke, however, remains its multi-functional center stack screen, which can display a variety of information, including cornering, acceleration and braking G forces. Love it.
*Editor’s Note: The BCC team has slightly differing opinions on the severity of the Murano’s body roll. While Bob describes it as being “in check”, I found the roll to be much more severe. Of course, this could be a completely biased opinion based on the stiff dynamics provided by my German-brand daily driver CUV. Bottom line, if you’re considering the Murano — or any of these terrific CUVs by Nissan — don’t overlook the importance of a healthy, long test drive. It’s the best way to discover if a car is truly “right” for you.
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