For regular readers it will come as no surprise that I am a lifelong fan of the Nissan brand. My initial impressions were not born from the quirky 1960’s econo-boxes that my father associated with the marque, but rather from the performance oriented Z car. For me, Nissan was the company that built a sports car that looked like the love child of a Jaguar E-Type and a Ferrari 250 GTO, but cost a little less than a MG BGT.
Throughout the years owning versions of each generation of Z cars would fuel my passion for the Japanese automaker. The process of restoring the 1971 240z that I often bring to Automotive Addicts Cars & Coffee on the second Saturday of every month from 8-11am, would solidify my undying affection.
Given that context, imagine the joy when Nissan invited my family to drive the 2015 Nissan Murano SL for a weeklong road trip to Franklin, Tennessee to visit Nissan’s North American headquarters. If that was not enough, Nissan had set up a visit to Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum to spend some time with the Nissan Heritage Collection that is housed beneath the facility.
All-new for 2015, the award winning Murano delivers a feature set, driving performance, and ride quality that is held in high regard by reviewers and consumers alike. Nissan’s affordable mid-size SUV recently earned US News and World Report’s distinction for best 2-row SUV for the money and best 2-row SUV for families. Considering that the 260 horsepower V6 and CVT equipped front-wheel-drive SL earns a respectable 21 city and 28 highway mpg, the roomy five passenger SUV made the perfect choice for the 1,500-mile round trip.
While the exterior styling may be a touch aggressive for some, I found Nissan’s bold lines exciting and new. The 2015 Murano almost looks like it was snatched from 10 years in the future. The bold chrome accented grille and floating roofline evoke aeronautical themes. The interior fit and finish are similar to the levels expected from the company’s luxury brand, making the all-new Murano attractive on nearly every level.
Nine hours in any vehicle can be wearisome, but the 2015 Murano did it’s best to keep us comfortable and entertained. The NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats are firm enough to be supportive, but soft enough to lull all of my passengers asleep on more than one occasion. The Murano SL’s standard 9-speaker Bose premium audio system filled the cabin with the saxophone stylings of John Coltrane to my daughter’s recent favorite pop-band “5 Seconds of Summer” and almost everything in-between.
Leaving Atlanta and crossing from the Eastern to Central time zones automatically had all of our cell phone clocks lose an hour (technically we gained an hour, but roll with me here). My youngest daughter joked that the Murano was a time machine and held up her phone as evidence. Turns out her humor was well placed and ironic; driving long stretches in Nissan’s mid-size SUV really does help make the time pass quickly.
We arrived in Franklin just before dinner and checked into the relatively new Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin. The hotel held three great surprises, free hot breakfast, a free buffet dinner, and a lovely room that overlooked the Nissan headquarters – my wife seemed excited about the mountain views too. Rarely do I mention a hotel that I stay at, but the Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin deserves a shout out, the service and facilities are fantastic and offered at a surprisingly affordable price.
My trip to visit Nissan’s Heritage Collection beneath the Lane Motor Museum was something I will never forget. Seeing many of the iconic vehicles from the posters I proudly displayed on my bedroom walls as a teenager was a little overwhelming.
Among the collection is Paul Newman’s 300zx race car, a very original 1972 510 that I was able to drive to the museum, and a silver 1972 240z that Nissan twisted my arm to drive back to headquarters. The 240z, along with a Mr. K owned 260z 2+2, and a Stillen modified 300zx, and the all-new 2016 Titan would be driven to Memphis for display at the 28th Annual ZCCA International Z Car Convention.
Even apart from the Datsun/Nissan vehicles, which are periodically displayed, the Lane Motor Museum is one of the greatest automotive collector’s treasures in the United States. The main floor’s 40,000 square foot display area showcases some of the most eclectic collector vehicles ever assembled in one location. Born in 2002 from Jeff Lane’s extensive personal collection, the museum continually searches out vehicles that are “technically significant or uniquely different.” Jacksonville locals may recall the museum’s wildly futuristic Ford V8 powered 1933 Dymaxion Replica that made it’s award winning world debut at the 2015 Amelia Concours d’Elegance in March.
Our week in Tennessee went by far too quickly. Thankfully, the trip home in the 2015 Nissan Murano SL softened the almost 700-mile return to reality. The SUV is great on the highway. There where a few times when I would have liked a little more passing power, but in most situations the V6 provided enough punch to get the Murano where it needed to be and without drama. The optional Intelligent Cruise Control is a must have while traveling on I-75 through Georgia. I love our neighbor state, but that stretch of highway is long and has the ability to induce drowsiness. Nissan must have been aware of this already, because they equipped the Murano with a dash warning that flashed a cup of coffee at me and told me that it might be time to take a break at one point. A welcomed message, especially since I’m a coffee drinker!
The well-equipped all-new 2015 Nissan Murano SL starts at $36,950. My review vehicle also came with an optional technology package that included an incredible panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control, predictive forward collision warning, and forward emergency braking bringing the sticker price to a surprisingly affordable $40,305.
Special thanks to Steve Parrett, Nissan North America Manager of Corporate Communications for the Central and Southeast regions for arranging my trip to Nashville, and to the curators of the Nissan Heritage Collection, Jonathan Buhler, Matthew Cole, Justin Ponzetti and Steve Yaeger for the wonderful hospitality and excellent work preserving Nissan’s history.