It's no surprise that the idea has trickled into almost every consumer good you can think of. Televisions tout their slim design and the near absence of buttons. Cellphones feature glossy finishes and touch screens. And finally, cars have become rolling art forms, just as pleasurable to look at as they are to drive.
One such vehicle is the Nissan Murano, named after the famous glass product of the Venetian islands, off-shore from Venice, Italy. Like its namesake, the vehicle seems blown and sculpted under intense fires. The headlights and grille seem like they were painstakingly placed and polished. The cabin appears as if it were delicately coaxed out from the rest of the body. You'd be forgiven for thinking the entire vehicle came out of the furnace as one piece.
The sculpted exterior does well to hide the vehicle's mass as inside is a cavernous interior. Massive pillar arcs and a wide dashboard combine to provide a spacious feeling. Leather generously lines everything from the sets to the door insets. Silver insets break up what would have been a monotonous interior.
The driver's seat is easily the most pampering of all. Step in and close the door and it all automatically adjusts to the last setting. Open the door and the wheel and seat move back to give the most space possible. Electronic seat and wheel adjustment with memory presets make finding that perfect position again a precise science. The new keyless feature lets you start the car with the key still in your pocket. Orange illumination emanates from the instruments. The brightness can be adjusted while the built in LCDs in the dials will show fuel economy range and odometer read outs.
Towards the center is the console, crowned by an LCD screen framed by air con vents. It displays the entertainment info and climate settings at the same time, or fuel economy, settings or even the view behind when in reverse. Settings can be manipulated by the central iPod style dial, or via the smaller dials in the entertainment or climate areas of the console. At the base of the stack is the stick shift and more compartments cleverly concealed by the smooth finish covers.
Behind, 2nd row passengers can sit back and relax the generous legroom, even recline the seats if they so wish. Up above, the dual sunroofs ensure that they get the same amount of sunshine as those in front.
Simply press the trunk release and rear tailgate opens on its own, accompanied by warning beeps. The cargo area features a retractable and removable toneau cover. The flat floor also hides several compartments that keep the tools and jack out of sight.
Just like its appearance, the vehicle comes to life with little drama and plenty of subtlety. A press of the Engine Start button brings the engine (the same found in the 350Z sports car) under its bonnet to life. It's aggression, however, is hardly felt as it is near silent when idling and silky smooth when accelerating. That's because its power is modulated by an Xtronic CVT transmission (the same found on the Xtrail and Sentra 200). It also greatly quenches the engines thirst, making the car fairly fuel efficient despite its engine's size. This power is then routed to all four wheels, but more biased to on road use.
Like the iPod, the pleasure of owning a Murano is in the drive. The car soaks up bumps and potholes as good, if not better than the leading European SUVs. Even the many rumble strips around Makati are practically almost silenced and flattened by its supple suspension. The vehicle accelerates quickly but gently, hardly throwing your head back and often surprising you with how fast it is going. Despite the luxurious ride, it also handles surprisingly well. It hardly leans in turns and takes on some tight turns with the agility of a smaller car and little complaint from the tires. Even mundane activities like parking are suddenly made delightful. When in reverse, the LCD provides a view behind while an overlay onscreen twists in sync with the wheel to give you an idea of where the car will go.
Operating its many amenities takes no more than three clicks. Remote buttons on the wheel let you adjust the volume without letting go. The lights and wipers come on with just one click (in Auto setting) while the fuel economy or settings with two. The car also ensures you're not too distracted tweaking it by disabling the settings menu while rolling.
Indeed, the Murano can be expected to provide a pleasurable experience whether driven leisurely or with pace, but even when parked, it does that too. The sleek style and tactile experience easily make it the iPod of SUVs. And just like the iPod, it too has a steep price (PhP3,100,000). It's certainly not for all, and some might disappoint those that love to tinker with settings to no end. Yet those that put a premium on style and sophistication, and care less for complex settings and specifications will find this car to be a perfect fit to their lifestyle, right alongside the iPhone and Macbook Air.