Odd though it may sound, midsize crossovers like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano are enthusiasts’ vehicles. They certainly do not sell only for their utility; they have only five seats, too few for carpool duty, and they offer only a marginal increase in cargo space over their compact brethren. And, riding on car platforms, they can’t venture very far off road. It’s hard to reason why practical-minded SUV shoppers would choose to spend their cash on these vehicles when a Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue offer nearly the same package for tens of thousands less.
And yet, these two car-based midsize utility vehicles are still around after more than a decade of strong sales. People don’t need them, but they want them. These midsize crossovers appeal to influential, emotional considerations like style, comfort, high feature content, and quietness.
Standing out from the crowd
Both crossovers have plenty of style. The 2015 Ford Edge has sharp lighting elements, an imposing grille, and handsome 19-inch wheels. The 2015 Nissan Murano is more of a Hail Mary, with angular, exaggerated, distinctly Japanese styling. Not everyone will like it. “It’s certainly not beautiful,” opines our expert on the matter, design editor Robert Cumberford. “But the way the outer surface of the A-pillar flows into both top of hood and sides of the car is interesting and at least a bit different from common practice.” We credit Nissan for taking a real risk. The Edge’s detailing says not all crossovers need to look the same, but the Murano’s sculptural styling really means it.
The Ford Edge’s measured approach carries on into the interior. “Yes, the Edge has some high-grade materials inside like the chocolate-brown leather, but this is still a cabin you’d recognize if you were magically transported from a Ford dealer lot in 1999,” says senior editor David Zenlea. The Edge feels like the spiritual successor to the midsize Explorer that sold so well for Ford throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Ford’s utility vehicle know-how shows through in the multitude of storage spaces, a chair-like seating position that affords good visibility front and rear, and the logical controls of the updated MyFord Touch system (now with buttons and knobs).
The Nissan Murano is as highly styled within as it is on the outside, and the elegant dashboard design is more convincing than the Ford as a near-luxury vehicle. Nice touches like the sweeping piece of aluminum trim across the top of the dashboard and the clear, attractive gauge cluster pod make for a plush, pleasing environment. Importantly, this style does not come at a huge cost to utility. The Nissan remains user-friendly, with a quick-responding touchscreen and logically laid out controls. The Edge’s boxier shape affords more cargo area with the rear seats folded, but the Murano has slightly more with the seats up. It’s also easier to configure, as the rear seats both fold and rise at the press of a button. (The Edge’s seats fold but do not rise automatically.)
The Murano’s more luxurious trimmings don’t come with a luxury price, though. Our fully loaded 2015 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD came in at $43,745, or $1,770 less than the Edge Titanium. The Nissan also had a few features that our Ford did without, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and LED headlights. Adding this kind of kit can push the Edge close to $50,000 and into true premium SUV territory.
Old dog knows new tricks
Under the hood, the Edge seems more sophisticated: It has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired to a six-speed auto versus the Murano’s old-as-dirt combination of a 3.5-liter V-6 and a continuously variable automatic. (Ford also offers a 3.5-liter V-6 and a 2.7-liter turbo V-6). Ford’s four-banger even makes 35 lb-ft more torque than the Murano’s six.
But Nissan’s years of experience fine-tuning this powertrain yields a clear advantage. The well-balanced CVT is able to keep revs low when cruising for better fuel economy without sacrificing responsiveness when you get into the throttle. The Edge’s slow-shifting six-speed automatic makes for lazy power delivery, and, as senior editor David Zenlea puts it, “It’s asking a whole lot of a little four-cylinder to lug around more than 4,000 pounds.” The Nissan’s V-6 also provides a much nicer, more resonant sound than the strained roar of the EcoBoost four-cylinder.
At the same time, the Murano manages to beat out the Ford in EPA fuel economy ratings, by 1 mpg combined. Our results from a combined drive route were more dramatic: the Nissan achieved an indicated 20.6 mpg to the Ford’s indicated 17.1 mpg. You can get a V-6 in an Edge, too, but you’ll pay more up front and sacrifice even more fuel economy.
Pleasing the senses
When pushed on back roads, the midsize crossovers feel very much like what they are: tall, fat, midsize sedans. We did find the Murano to be a bit more engaging when pushed. Its steering is more accurate, and its damping feels a bit stiffer. The Edge has a more fluid ride—it doesn’t pitch side to side as much as the Murano—but it feels heavier and more isolated. But really, both would rather cosset you on a smooth cruise down the highway. Did you think all enthusiasts’ vehicles needed to drive like sports cars?
In fact, we call the 2015 Nissan Murano and 2015 Ford Edge enthusiast vehicles because they aim to please the senses, rather than just shuffle passengers and their stuff. Both do this well, but the Murano does it better. The 2015 Nissan Murano is a nicely trimmed, comfortable crossover that dares to be different, while the 2015 Ford Edge simply feels like just another Ford crossover, size medium, that’s fitted with all the bells and whistles. The fact that the Nissan achieves this near-luxury aesthetic while matching or beating the Edge on practical fronts like cargo space, fuel economy, and price makes the Murano the clear winner. As Zenlea put it, “The Nissan Murano is still a sensible utility vehicle. It’s just one that expresses itself.”
2015 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD Specifications
|Price:||$41,485/$43,745 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6/ 260 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 240 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||21/28 mpg (city/hwy)|
|Suspension F/R:||Strut-type, coil springs/multi-link|
|Brakes F/R:||Vented disc/vented disc|
|Tires F/R:||235/55R-20 Bridgestone all-season|
|L x W x H:||192.8 x 75.4 x 66.6 in|
|Headroom F/R:||38.1/37.8 in|
|Legroom F/R:||43.6/38.7 in|
|Shoulder Room F/R:||59.6/58.8 in|
|Cargo Room:||39.6/69.9 cu ft (rear seats up/folded)|
|Weight Dist. F/R:||59/41%|
|0-60 MPH:||7.4 sec|
2015 Ford Edge Titanium AWD Specifications
|Price:||$38,490/$45,515 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||2.0-liter turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/ 245 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 275 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||20/28 mpg (city/hwy)|
|Suspension F/R:||MacPherson strut/integral-link, coil springs, antiroll bar|
|Tires F/R:||245/50R-20 Pirelli all-season|
|L x W x H:||188.1 x 75.9 x 68.6 in|
|Headroom F/R:||40.2/40.3 in|
|Legroom F/R:||42.6/40.6 in|
|Shoulder Room F/R:||60.3/60.5 in|
|Cargo Room:||39.2/73.4 cu ft (rear seats up/folded)|
|Weight:||4,078 lb (2.0L AWD)|
|Weight Dist. F/R:||N/A|