Car shoppers who decide they want a stylish, roomy mid-size utility vehicle—one that drives like a car—and they don’t need a third row, or any rugged pretense, have two solid choices in the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. And if they narrow priorities to vehicles that look conceived for adults—not just as rolling cribs and diaper bins—then the Murano and Edge stand atop an even smaller list.
We rate the Murano a 6.2 out of 10, but we’re still waiting for some more details from Ford before we can directly compare the 2017 Edge using our new ratings system. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
MORE: Read our reviews of the 2017 Nissan Murano and 2016 Ford Edge
Both models are indeed stylish, mature, and sophisticated, but in very different ways. The Murano wears an especially bold face, with the new corporate “V-motion” grille, and boomerang headlights and taillights that frame some especially handsome contouring. Inside, the Murano has a swoopy, V-shaped design that’s equally radical, and distinct trims verge away from the woodgrain, piano-black plastic, and excessive brightwork that’s common in premium interiors. The Edge, on the other side, looks sporty and athletic, with its contours and details feeling carefully calculated to fit right in with Ford’s existing lineup. On the inside, the Ford hits all the right cues for sporty and premium, although we think the Murano’s distinct look inside and out gives it a solid advantage in styling.
Performance-wise, these two models are polar opposites as well. While the Ford Edge now relies mostly on turbocharged, so-called EcoBoost engines and 6-speed automatic transmissions—a non-turbo V-6 is there as more of a token offering—the Murano goes a more traditional route underhood, with a naturally aspirated V-6 the sole engine for the lineup. In the Murano, it’s paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that does its job in keeping engine revs under control while all you notice is plenty of acceleration on tap when you need it—with little of the rubber-band responses that plagued former CVTs. On the other hand, you’re much more aware of the powertrain in the Edge, as it has crisp, well-coordinated shifts. And hold on before you think you’re getting a much more fuel-efficient vehicle with the EcoBoost Edge; it’s a virtual tie against the V-6 Murano.
Ride and handling is very different between these two, with the Edge offering a rather firm but muted feel—more in line with German luxury crossovers, really—while the Murano has an equally quiet yet more plush ride that makes it a closer counterpoint to the Lexus RX. The Edge has a serious edge in handling, we think, as its precise steering and well-tuned suspension allow it to feel like a lower vehicle than it is when the road gets twisty. But considering the Murano’s strong, unobtrusive powertrain, we give the Edge only a slight edge here.
One note: The Ford Edge is offered in a performance-oriented Edge Sport model, which adds a twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V-6, making 315 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. With suspension and steering changes that bring a firmer, more communicated, plus serious appearance changes on the outside—most notably, brightwork replaced with a blacked-out look.
Inside is where the Edge and Murano compare most easily in an A-to-B sense. While the two feel (and are) a virtual tie when it comes to cargo space, versatility, and general usability, we have to give the Edge demerits here for its flat, unsupportive seats. The Murano’s back seats especially shame those in the Edge, with their excellent contouring in outboard positions, while in the Ford the frame of the Vista Roof can interfere with headroom for taller occupants.
The Ford Edge managed a five-star overall safety score from the feds, but an “Acceptable” from the IIHS in its small overlap front crash protection test is its true blemish. The Murano hasn’t yet been fully tested by federal regulators, but it scored five stars for side impact and four stars for its rollover crashworthiness. It also earned top marks by the IIHS and a Top Safety Pick+ award. Both of these models save some of their best active-safety technology—like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking on the Murano, or lane-keep assist and inflatable rear seatbelts on the Edge—for option packages on top-of-the-line models.
Feature-wise, both of these models are presented with a sort of two-pronged approach: with tantalizing value-oriented base models that offer an interesting alternative to smaller, more mass-market models, as well as fully-kitted-out top-trim models that match up against luxury-brand models in all but the badge. At the base level, the base Murano S comes with a bit more than the Edge—with dual-zone climate control and a decent apps-compatible infotainment system standard—but at the top end we’ll call the Edge the winner in the features race by a slight bit, as it can be equipped with things like an Active Park Assist system that will let the Edge park itself, even into a perpendicular spot, as you manage the accelerator and brake pedals.
Who’s the winner here? The Edge only has it if you place more weight on handling, and a more European feel (especially with the Edge Sport), or if you really must have the edge on technology features. Otherwise it’s the Murano, as its like-no-other styling, plush ride, confident performance, and very comfortable seating add up to something that’s quite compelling.