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30 Dec 2008 | Text and photos by Andy Hum
Mulling over the Murano
Apart from style and more style, it's hard to think of a good reason why people buy crossover SUVs that are more suited for running to Cold Storage than running on cold gravel. But, who the hell cares, as long as they're nice to be in.
Unlike in Europe or Australia, we don't have beautiful scenic landscapes where drivers can freely explore. In fact, get your wheels muddy in our fine city and you'd find yourself conjuring an interesting tale for the officer booking you for soiled tyres.
The truth is there are only a very small number of people willing to take their sporty, rugged cars into the rough, while majority of the others who own such rides have never walked themselves into a forested area, let alone drive in.
Of course, the same phenomenon happened around the world and soon, car-makers were designing large SUV-bodied things which were actually useless once brought off the beaten path. Not exactly the best idea, because what consumers were essentially buying were Diet Cokes - dressed up equally nicely, but without the punch.
What these Diet Cokes do offer, however, is a brilliant, commanding view from behind the wheel and a lot more reassurance that if anyone bumps into you, they would be in a lot more trouble first.
More importantly, being higher up in your seat than most other motorists adds to the higher-therefore-mightier factor, and at the end of the day, effectively turning the sizeable four-wheeler into more of a status symbol.
Just in case, though, one fine day there's a big muddy field that one might have to cross to get to work, the 4WD system would be useful.
So there is some justification for buying vehicles like that. Sort of.
With all that in mind, one might ask, what is the need for another new SUV, like the new Nissan Murano?
Well, first, it fulfills the basic criteria of excellent driver's view and decent marks on crash test score sheets. But on the face of it, it starts to turn one's smile into a frown.
It's dropped the nice set of front teeth in favour of a strange face, resembling a cross between a rhinoceros and Megatron from the Transformers series. The headlamps and front grille are now fused together to form one gigantic feature just south of the bonnet, and its formerly rectangular side mirrors have been given a rounder edge. Not the best looking front.
Fortunately, that's where the Murano stops beings amusing and starts being serious. The fat arches on the side fenders hint of large wheels and the rear ends off neatly, carrying tail lamps from the same design family as the Qashqai.