On the 2015 Nissan Murano

The 2015 Nissan Murano is being manufactured in Canton, MS. Previously, U.S. market Muranos were produced in Japan.

Not only does the styling make it look advanced, but there is an abundance of technological content in the vehicle. For example, the Murano offers four onboard cameras and three radar systems. These sensors contribute to blind spot warning, forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, cross-traffic alert, and an “Around View” monitor with moving object detection (i.e., a 360° overhead view of the vehicle is shown on the available 8.0-in. multitouch control center display; the moving object detection alerts the driver to things like other cars or shopping carts).

The Murano weighs less than the previous generation by about 130 lb. And this is not a consequence of a reduction in content, but was largely achieved through the use of high-strength steels in the vehicle. In addition, there are improved aerodynamics. The coefficient of drag is 0.31. Contributing factors to aero are a lower grille shutter, front and rear spoilers, rear tire deflectors, and rear suspension fairings. This vehicle is 16% more slippery than the previous model.

This is the Nissan Resonance, a concept that Nissan unveiled at the 2013 North American International Auto Show. Clearly, the design resonated, given the 2015 Murano.

There is something about Nissan in the U.S. that Fred Diaz, Senior Vice President, Nissan Sales & Marketing and Operations U.S., Nissan North America, Inc., thinks ought to be more widely known. He points out that some 85% of the vehicles sold by Nissan in the U.S. are produced in North America. Like in the company’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, the original Nissan plant in the U.S., which, Diaz says, is the largest-volume plant of any OEM in the U.S., going to 650,000 units this year. (They build the Nissan Altima, Maxim, Pathfinder, LEAF, Rogue, and Infiniti QX60 in Smyrna.)

What is important to keep in mind about this is the fact that Nissan is a significant factor in automotive sales in the U.S., with, for example, its passenger car sales outpacing those of Ford. According to Autodata (motorintelligence.com), in 2014 Nissan delivered 789,898 cars in the U.S.; Ford, 762,545.

And the company’s plant in Canton, MS, is rather robust, as well. Diaz says that it is “becoming a global production hub.” The 4.2-million-ft2 facility produces an array of vehicles, eight in all, primarily trucks (Titans, NVs, and Frontiers, for example). The most notable addition to the lineup is the third-generation Murano, which had previously been built in Kyushu, Japan. Which means that the plant will be exporting the crossover utility vehicle to more than 100 markets worldwide. That’s where the “global” comes from. The transfer of the vehicle to the plant has also meant the addition of a non-trivial number of jobs, as well, approximately 1,300 of them, Diaz says.

One of the things that Nissan has been noted for of late is that its vehicles tend to have a design presence that is greater than that typical of the vehicles in the categories within which it competes.

And the Murano—from the very start of the vehicle, back in 2003—is no exception to that rule. Arguably, the Murano could be the proverbial poster child of Nissan’s design emphasis.

At the 2013 North American International Auto Show Nissan unveiled a concept car, a midsized crossover named the “Resonance.” The vehicle was developed by Nissan Design America in San Diego. Although the Resonance was presented as a hybrid vehicle, looked at purely as a styling exercise—the company’s “V-Motion” design that moves from the front grille up through the hood; boomerang-shaped headlights; B-, C- and D-pillars that contribute to a “floating-roof” effect—it is almost a blueprint for the production 2015 Murano.

But this is, in effect, as it has always been for the Murano. One of the people who worked on the vehicle is Ken Lee, senior creative manager at Nissan Design America. Lee, an Art Center graduate, says of the first-generation vehicle, “When it came out, it had a breakthrough design. It looked like a spaceship.” He had been at Ford at that time and joined Nissan shortly thereafter.

Of the 2015 car, he says, “It is the same concept car statement as the original. We pushed the ‘reset’ button.”

While the people on the engineering and marketing side of the business note that the Murano uses the NASA-technology-based “Zero Gravity” seats for both the front and second rows, Lee says that there was an aircraft inspiration that they had when developing the Murano: the early jet age of the 1960s, back when passengers were pampered and traveled in style. This was one of the aspects they were trying to achieve with the car from the V-Motion in the front to the jet-like pillars at the rear.

What is interesting about the forms achieved for the exterior of the car is how they came to be. According to Lee, instead of just sketching, the designers working on the project made quick, rough 1:10 scale models. These small 3D models allowed them to get a better send of the overall form. Yes, the design development proceeded in the conventional manner following the selection of what was to become the design, but Lee says that doing the quick modeling was helpful in getting to the final shape.

And getting back to the engineers on the team: Lee acknowledges that in order to be assured that what came out of the San Diego design studio could be made in the plant in Mississippi, they worked very closely with the engineers.