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Test Driving The High End Of The Low End Nissan Murano

October 15th, 2010

The somewhat robotic looking Nissan Ti sits with each if it’s corners perched out over it’s wheels in a chunky, but smoothly defined stance in the Nissan showroom.

The beautiful pearlescent exterior and stunning tan interior lured me in, a very inviting 4WD with a very warm presence.

Opening the door, you are hit with the beautiful interior which has a red carpet rolling out taking you into a seductive embrace.

The Murano has everything you’d expect from a $150,000 luxury European 4WD, yet it’s less than half the price.

Exterior

Apart from looking great and having a defined presence on the road, it’s actually a tough and robust vehicle with some serious off-road capabilities. A real 4WD with buttons inside to alter your off-road experience. Because it is a test drive, I am unable to take it off-road, but having owned a Nissan X-Trail Ti myself, it’s off-road capabilities are outstanding. It does and goes where you want it to… And you worry less about damaging it because it’s cheaper!

The dual tail pipes, 18″ wheels and rear spoiler make it look more aggressive. Features like rain-sensing wipers and auto-sensing headlights help with the elements.

You either love it or you hate it – the exterior styling isn’t for everyone. This new refined model is definately more beautiful then the last model.

Interior

This car does everything plus a little more. Extra little refinements you wouldn’t expect for a Japanese brand that makes cars which are also affordable.

It’s the little buttons from the driver seat which I liked playing with. The electronically adjustable steering column, the electronic folding rear 2nd row seats, the keyless start/stop button, dual moonroof with electronic blinds, electronic tailgate, rear air-conditioning in the pillars between front and rear doors, satellite navigation, rear parking camera and many other small luxuries which make life that little bit easier and add a little bit of fun in the mix. The Bose sound system is wicked – 11 speakers plus 2 subwoofers! It’s crazy! Although – when it’s up loud… there are little rattles here and there which are annoying.

There is plenty of space for all passengers. The boot space is good, although the boot floor is a little high which limits the cargo area.

Driver comfort is almost flawless. Footwell is spacious, although I really don’t like the foot activated parking brake. I feel it should have been an electronic push button brake. The driver seat is electric and has 3 memory function. Satellite Navigation is easy to use, as well as all the other controls on the dash. I found everything to be in easy reach and the dash is attractive to look at.

Engine

Using the same 3.5 litre V6, 191kW engine as the Nissan Maxima, the Murano has a good amount of power behind it, even being such a large car.

If you’re after quick acceleration, top speeds and a fun quick shift engine,  maybe try elsewhere. The tiptronic works well, but just didn’t do it for me…  Just keep it in auto and enjoy the smooth ride.

The thing I didn’t like (well… miss rather) is the sound of the engine. When  I drive a big chunky 4×4, I want to hear the high pitch ringing noise that  European luxury 4×4′s have under heavy acceleration. I think it’s a Euro  thing – like the heavy thud of the solid doors. I guess the Japanese will catch  up one day.

Safety

Outside safety includes the sharp white Xenon headlights and rear LED lights which are bright and quick.

Again this car has all the European car safety features, 2 front, 2 side and 2 curtain airbags, traction control, electronic brake distribution (EBD), ABS and all the other features that make this car super safe and perfect for the young family.

Braking is good, but doesn’t have that strong solid feel as the Audi Q5 I test drove recently. It has a very Japanese feeling once again… Slightly tinny.

Likes: I love the little touches here and there – like the electronic folding rear seats, moonroof blind and start button for the price range. Also Nissan finally make a good looking key!

Dislikes: The typical Japanese feel – not the solid ‘real’ thud of the door feeling. It has the fake solid thud by adding extra rubber seals.

Would I buy it: Absolutely! Well… yes and no. If I wanted a real luxury car, but didn’t quite have the cash to purchase a European one, I would buy it. If I wasn’t fussy about brands, I’d definately would. A Nissan wouldn’t ever be on my consideration list otherwise.

Price: $62,000 driveaway! This is for the top of the range Murano Ti.

Final say: Great car, great package, luxurious, comfortable, intelligent, stylish, alot of fun with strong presence on the roads. BUT as I’ve said many times about other cars, it depends on the colour combination. If you get a dull colour, you’ll have a dull car! Spec up and choose your colours wisely.


Like A Shotgun Off The Lights – The Audi Q5

September 28th, 2010

I was handed over the key to my black Audi Q5, with the disclaiming words… “Becareful, it’s fast.”

I thought to myself… “Thankyou. A) I know how to drive a fast car and B) I’ve driven cars like the Jaguar XKR and Mercedes C63, so don’t tell me how to drive!”

As I left the car park, I drove slowly out to the street, till I got to the lights. They turned green and the roads were clear. I floored it expecting nothing too exciting. Then BANG! after a 1 second delay (the car goes into neutral when you are stopped and apply the brake), the car shot like a gun, hitting 60 before I could even look down. My head was literally thrown back into the black leather headrest.

Ok… I should rewind back to the beginning. When I first saw the Audi Q5, I thought it was boring, drab and about as exciting to look at as the new Nissan Dualis. But then I saw one on the road which I hadn’t seen before. Black metallic paint, dark tinted windows, polished chrome trimmings, chrome side steps and enormous 22″ wheels. I did the double take. Then a squint of my eyes to see what it was – it was the Q5 to my suprise.

Off to Audi I went, with the expectation of being disappointed because the S5 Cabriolet disappointed me so much. But I test drove the Q5 and boy I was hooked.

So let’s fast forward back to where I was. This car has balls! Massive ones at that. For a 2.0 litre SUV, it has get up and go! The gearbox works away at ease, with the 7 speed steptronic transmission making gear changing, whether you’re in automatic or manual a silky ride. There are paddles behind the steering wheel if you choose not to change the gears at the centre console.

Exterior

Bold, agile and charismatic. If this car were a person, it would be Daniel Craig as James Bond. Smooth and fast. Functional and easy. Fun but also sensible. Beautiful lines. A toned body. And a big wide…. grille.

But it just depends on the model you get and how you customise it. Most of the Q5′s I’ve seen on the road look terrible. They have small wheels, terrible colour combinations and are the basic model, which looks like some sort of basic model Honda.

To make this car stand out – it needs to have a little more cash thrown at it and customised to make it look rough and sexy.

Interior

Opening the door, the height is perfect for me to glide in and out of, but with the feeling of sitting a little bit over everyone else. The leather seats are comfortable for short and long periods of driving whether it be traffic or freeway. My arms always have a place to rest with the adjustable sliding middle armrest, which is the lid to the centre console.

Infront of the centre console is a little feature I quite admire – the cooling and heating cup holders. Unlike you’re regular cooling or heating cup holders which just have a vent from the airconditioning, these ones actually have a heating element, and a refrigeration system in them, which gets super hot, and really cold!

The gears are easy to change if you are keeping it in automatic, but if you change it to steptronic and change the gears manually, it can get confusing as you naturally expect pushing the gear towards the dashboard would go up a gear, infact it goes down.

I found this same issue being on the infotainment system built into the dashboard with the large LCD screen. When you are selecting anything from radio, to iPod, the air conditioning or the telephone, the knob works the opposite way. This could have something to do with the changing of driving side perhaps for Australian roads. You’d expect to turn things down by turning the knob to the left, infact, it also works the opposite way. The steering wheel controls are very simple and clear to use, although anything on the steering wheel is to be viewed on the small screen between the speedo and tacho. So I sometimes forget which screen to look at.

Using the iPod/iPhone docking station in the glove compartment is a little stressful – you simply plug it in, that’s the easy part.You then control your music from the main LCD screen on the dash. As much as I loved this feature, that’s the hard part. The standard sound system is phenomenal! But if you opt for the Bang & Olufsen premium system, you are in for a special treat. This is one monster sound system. When you hear your favourite songs, it’s like hearing them brand new all over again. Amazing.

The airconditioning is easy to use, once you get used to it. Instead of just pressing one button to change fan speed or temperature, you need to select what you’d like to change, then change with the knob. So there’s 2 steps to doing a simple task – making you take your eyes off the road.

Rear seating is a little cramped, but is sufficient for a vehicle of it’s size. There is a fold down armrest with pop out cup holders which actually work!

Safety

Braking in this car is excellent. It’s stops as quickly as it took to take off. Airbags everywhere, warning lights and chimes to tell you to put your seatbelt on, service the car, and do all the bits and pieces most other cars tell you to do.

Front and rear parking sensors (optional), great internal and external lighting and a strong push button electronic parking brake, this car has the features most of it’s dearer contenders carry.

On and off road

On road it’s smooth and carries itself well. In a straight line.

But in an emergency where you may need to do tricky maneuvering with the steering wheel – goodluck. It lacks response and the “you point it and it will go” feeling. Over steer and unbalanced traction when accelerating heavily makes it feel a little unstable.

Off road, it’s simply not high enough to clear rough terrain. The simple gravel driveways, corrugated dirt roads and paddocks will be tackled easily, but anything more, and it will struggle.

Likes: It’s very pleasing to look at, if you have spent extra to customise it. The heated/cooled cupholders. The sound system. The looks you get once you’ve spent that extra money to make it look amazing – you get that look from people who are puzzled, it looks amazing, but what is it?

It’s very fuel economical. It’s only a 2.0 litre and the tank goes on and on. The sound of the engine when revved.

Great visibility from all angles. Comfortable steering wheel.

Dislikes: To do simple things like change the radio, temperature, fan, choose music – it takes several steps and takes your eyes off the road too much. The over-steer/under-steer and strange under/over traction.

Would I buy it? Of course! I love it. Make sure you get it with the panoramic glass roof, huge wheels and a gorgeous colour combination, and you will have a couple of years looking at it and still appreciating it’s sexiness.

Price: My one was Audi Q5 2.0L TFSI Quattro which was $71,500 after addition of wheels and a few extras.

Final say: I’m an Audi convert. I’m also an SUV convert. Being a convertible guy, I’ve easily slipped into the SUV club and I like it. You get just as many envious looks as you would in a convertible.