Half-mill Murano hits 'Gee!' spot
STOP OFF AT ANGIE'S PLACE: If you're taking the scenic route, the R62, between Cape Town and Plett, George or PE, call in and say 'Hi!' to the dogs and the pet pig Tequila. Images: KATHY MALHERBE
Author: KATHY MALHERBE
I can’t think of a better way to have done my virginal road trip via the R62 from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay than in a new Nissan Murano. Especially when it hit the, er, G-spot.
The car was first introduced to South Africa in 2004 and made the SA Car of the Year short-list the following year on the strength of its robust design, sportiness and full SUV practicality.
Nissan has since refined the distinctive shape even further by augmenting the modern-art design with a new grille, refreshed bumpers and an LED tail-light design – all to make the latest Murano overtly more sporting. The shapelier body rides on a more modern 18” alloy titanium-finish wheel design and the cabin has been enhanced by the latest in-car technology.
All the ingredients for a premium and stylish experience.
Despite being a rather titanic 4x4, the Murano is still able to do the 0-100km/h dash in eight seconds thanks to its 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine which has 191kW of power and 336Nm torque. It also has the modernity and technology of a premium sedan and comfort to match.
One can’t help thinking the Murano was made with the Boks front row in mind – the interior is cavernous. Put the rear seats down and there’s room for a small runabout in there…
The cabin is naturally lit through a double-panel moon-roof complete with power retractable sun shades and tinted glass for UV protection. The size of the car, relative to the size of the average parking space, makes the rear-mounted camera and colour facia display a necessity rather than a luxury.
All the bells and whistles were good for a meandering trip that ultimately took us 10 hours – normally long enough to induce cabin fever and a numb bum. But not in the Murano – it was smooth, the suspension just soft enough to be comfortable but firm enough to have a good grip on the road.
Such as luxury package usually translates into “extras” and a deep pocket but Johann Kleynhans, Nissan SA’s director of sales, marketing and after-sales: “We’re very proud that all this luxury equipment comes standard on each new Muranos.”
The acceleration is so smooth and the car so eager to go on the flat that the only way to keep to the speed limit was to invoke cruise mode. Probably as a result of its size, however, the Murano fluctuates annoyingly on hills - one has the feeling it needs a little more oomph…. That said there’s the option to switch the six-speed auto gearbox into manual mode with which the changes are fluid and quick.
Which I did on the undulating route through some of the most beautiful countryside. For a first timer, the R62 is smorgasbord of magnificent mountains and quaint villages dotted with surprisingly pretty roadside restaurants.
Some appear to have been named by the locals after a long evening at the country pub. Apart from the much flaunted and slightly passé Ronnie's Sex Shop and Pompstasie, we stopped at the Road Kill Café and Grill, Country Pumpkin restaurant (which purports to be the most famous on the R62), the Dung Beetle café and beer garden and my favourite Angie's G-Spot.
Angie’s spot is isolated and elusive if you’re not vigilant, a ramshackle group of buildings that comes together to create a Shangri-La alongside the river on Prince Alfred’s Pass. It’s a stopover, restaurant, bar and perfect for a night’s rest but also the home of Harold and Angie who are mellow, interesting and exceptionally hospitable.
NO MEAN FEAT
Together with a trio of hounds and a pig called Tequila, they live an idyllic life in the middle of the Outeniqua Mountains.
Prince Alfred’s Pass was built in the 1800's by Thomas Bain which provided him with his biggest challenge to date. He began his work on the pass in 1860 and completed it in 1867 for a “mere” £11 000. Interestingly the pass, constructed by prisoners, has only been built up from the side of the mountain never cut out of cliff – apparently no mean feat...
From the turn-off just before Uniondale along Bain’s pass is an 88km trip on gravel – more than far enough to put the Murano through its off-road paces… The combination of a flowing coupe roof line and muscular SUV body and exceptional driving comfort may be enough on the tar but it has to prove itself on the gravel, too.
Although Prince Alfred's Pass is in fairly good nick there are some rough spots and very tight corners.
The six-speed “manual” gearshift mode drives the “intelligent” full-time AWD system (ALL MODE 4X4-i) incorporating vehicle dynamic control and an “active brake limited slip differential” maintains traction and stability no matter the surface. The big car took to the pass like a pro, responsive but sure-footed.
Music, of course, is essential on a road trip. New to the standard specification for the Murano is Nissan’s Premium Connect infotainment system with a 40GB hard disk drive, satnav and a 9.3GB hard-disk music server - all controlled through the touch-screen display.
This latest-generation but standard electronic system includes Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity for digital music sources, and DVD playback, all integrated with the premium 11-speaker BOSE audio system (full approval from the two teenagers in the car).
The satnav was perfectly adequate on the R62 but couldn’t find the turn off to Prince Alfred’s Pass so we had to swop to the iPOD for the last stretch.
The Murano is not just a handsome chap and a comfy ride; safety is also on the premium list. The Murano has a full complement of modern safety systems including (anti-lock brakes, dynamic control and emergency braking assistance, as well as front, side and curtain airbags.
Night driving is eased with bi-xenon auto-levelling headlights.
THANK, PLETT PEOPLE
So what’s not nice? It’s a bit of a gas guzzler so not for the light of wallet... Admittedly it was very hot so we did have the aircon on most of the way which could have contributed to the consumption.
The second was trying to get the car started in Plettenberg Bay Main Road after I - admittedly - left the lights on during dinner. They say local is lekker but on top of that Plett people are really, really helpful. We seemed to attract half the town as an infinitely patient local in her very posh German car tried to jump-start the Murano for 20 minutes.
The problem? Your everyday jump leads apparently don’t cut it… after about an hour (during which time the car did a sulky electronic shutdown) we had to rely on the kindness of a taxi driver who brought out industrial-strength cables.
The car started immediately. Perhaps there should be a warning about needing these? One shouldn’t as a matter of course leave the lights on but the warning beep was almost inaudible (to the middle-aged anyway).
Overall? The Murano scores highly – the drive was an absolute pleasure. As I said, it hits the spot...
The new Murano includes all of the advanced features and premium equipment as standard specification as well as a five-year or 90 000km service plan.
PRICE: R562 925.
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