The Nissan Murano GT-C is a grand tourer for the twenty-first century driver. Powerful, agile, sumptuously-appointed and head-turningly handsome, the Murano GT-C is designed to undertake any journey – be it a relaxed pan-European cruise, an adrenaline-fuelled cross-country chase or a gruelling rush-hour commute – with consummate ease.
As its name indicates, the Grand Tourer-Concept embodies Nissan GB’s vision of a stylish and cosseting long-distance express, a vehicle that fuses time-honoured craftsmanship with ice-cool technology. And with its muscular turbo-charged engine, supple ride quality, engaging handling, and four-season all-wheel drive ability, the GT-C ticks every box.
Based on Nissan’s award-winning Murano 4×4 and developed under the close supervision of Nissan’s Bedfordshire-based European Technical Centre, the GT-C features a heavily revised powertrain, a raft of suspension, brake and steering upgrades, all complemented by bold new styling, inside and out.
"This is the first time that Nissan’s Cranfield-based Technical Centre Europe has produced such a concept, and it speaks volumes for our ability to respond quickly and effectively to customer demand," explains Jerry Hardcastle, the director of Customer Oriented Engineering at Nissan’s Technical Centre Europe.
Central to the Murano GT-C’s dynamic appeal is its muscular new turbo-charged engine. In the GT-C, the Murano’s all-aluminium 3498cc V6 engine is breathed on by a single Garrett turbo-charger. The hybrid turbo is a bespoke unit created for this application, and features a turbine from a Garrett T3 and a compressor from a Garrett T4.
The engine employs an advanced air to water charge cooling system, which both lowers the temperature and increases the density of the air drawn into the combustion chambers to boost combustion efficiency.
The turbo housing itself is isolated with advanced Darchem heat-shielding sandwich material to further regulate temperatures. The engine’s 10.3:1 compression ratio remains unchanged, and volumetric efficiency is also enhanced by the engine’s variable valve timing on both inlet and outlet camshafts.
To facilitate the turbo installation, the battery is now housed in the spare rear well in the boot, and the engine is fitted with an acoustically tuned stainless steel exhaust system with four tailpipes to optimise back pressure. Naturally, the exhaust’s closed loop feedback system with three-way catalyst remains unaffected by these enhancements.
The 24 valve engine now produces a hefty 340PS at 6000rpm, and an equally impressive 265lb ft of torque at a low 3600rpm – enough to rocket the 1885kg Murano GT-C (a mere 20kg over the standard Murano) to 60mph in an estimated 7.0seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph. Impressive as these on-paper figures are, it’s the Murano GT-C’s powerful in-gear acceleration that impresses most – with that deep reservoir of torque, the Murano GT-C delivers instant and effortless overtaking acceleration throughout the rev-range.
To match this performance, the Murano GT-C’s MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension is fitted with uprated Bilstein mono-tube dampers, shorter and 35% stiffer coil springs – which lower the ride height by 25mm – as well as recalibrated front suspension kinematics to enhance cornering turn-in and improve steering feedback.
"The goal behind these upgrades is to enhance the Murano’s nimbleness without losing any of its supple long-distance ride comfort. In other words, it will still get a glint in its eye when it’s hustled down a mountain pass, but won’t loosen your fillings when tackling Britain’s craggy blacktop," explains Hardcastle.
The Murano GT-C is fitted with a bespoke AP Racing brake system that’s more than capable of handling the engine’s performance boost. At the front, large 362mm two-piece rotors are gripped by powerful six-pot callipers, while at the rear four-pot callipers grasp single piece 330mm discs. All four rotors are vented and grooved for improved heat dissipation. The Murano’s advanced ABS anti-lock system and ESP electronic stability programme remain unchanged.
Mated to the Murano’s slick computer-controlled X-Tronic CVT transmission and intuitive ALL-MODE electronic all-wheel drive system, the GT-C delivers effortless acceleration and taut, driver-focused responses, irrespective of the weather or road conditions.
To match this performance hike, the GT-C has undergone a dramatic styling makeover that elevates the Murano’s already distinctive lines onto a higher level.
Painted in Nissan’s Kuro Black paint, the Murano GT-C features front grille, wing mirrors, door handles, headlamp interiors and badging covered in a clear and deep black/bronze Dupont lacquer. The front air intakes are faced in stainless woven steel mesh and the redesigned rear bumper houses those four chamfered exhaust pipes.
Unique 22inch five-spoke two-piece lightweight alloy wheels, shod with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx ZR 265/35 profile tyres fill the Murano GT-C’s bold wheel arches, and that aerodynamically tuned rear wing further underscores the Nissan’s sporting credentials.
The GT-C takes the Murano’s stylish, spacious and luxuriously appointed cabin and enhances it further with the addition of hand-stitched leather, bespoke luggage and hand-blown glass.
The central sections of the Murano’s low-slung and electrically adjustable front seats have been trimmed in perforated Strathspey leather, from Andrew Muirhead in Scotland, Europe’s oldest and most distinguished tannery. This hand-stitched honey-coloured waxed matt leather is also used on the rear seats, the centre of the seat headrests, the elbow pads in the door, the top and bottom quadrants of the steering wheel and the recesses of the footwells.
The organic Strathspey leather is offset by the tan Glove material that’s used above the belt-line to cover the headlining and pillars. Like the leather, this advanced man-made fibre is hand-stitched.
That striking exterior black/bronze lacquer is carried through to the cabin, where it’s used to coat the door’s step sills and the lids of the central stowage console. The black/bronze hue is further accented by the GT-C’s grab handles, coat hooks and interior light surrounds that are all coated in a soft-touch tan finish.
The Murano GT-C comes with its own bespoke occasional leather bag. Hand-crafted from the same Strathspey leather and Glove material used in the cabin, the case – ideal for a lap-top computer or travel documents – fits perfectly into the Murano’s deep centre console stowage compartment.
And in tribute to its name – Murano is an island off the Venetian coast in Italy famed for its hand-crafted blue glass – the GT-C features a gearlever and centre console trinket tray fashioned from hand-blown Murano blue and clear glass. These two striking features are further enhanced by the ambient blue lighting from light-emitting diodes secreted at the apex of the B-pillar and beneath the seats.
And the extravagant specification of the standard road-going Murano – automatic climate control, bi-xenon headlamps, colour reversing camera, a seven-speaker, 225W Bose audio system, six airbags, advanced electronic traction and braking aids and ‘Birdview’ DVD satellite navigation – means the Murano GT-C driver will want for nothing.
"Although the GT-C is a concept," says Hardcastle, "we wanted to make it as production feasible as possible. So bar a few minor trim changes, what you see is what you would get – if the GT-C gets production approval."
The Murano GT-C is a modern and driver-oriented interpretation of the classic grand tourer. As luxurious, spacious and muscular transportation, it redefines the concept of inter-continental travel. It has the power, the poise and the presence to lay open any road and turn any journey into a driving event.
It’s clear fr
om first sight that the new Murano GT-C is no ordinary SUV. Sure, with its fear-enducing stature and lock-on all-wheel drive transmission, it is as capable outside the urban war zone as it is in it. But while most SUVs are biffabout behemoths, the GT-C is sporty, sleek and compact.
With its swoopy sculptural curves, kerb-grinding 22-inch five-spoke alloys, dark-tinted lights and snarky black grille, it looks like it has escaped straight from a designer’s sketch pad on to the road. The cheeky new rear spoiler says: ‘Catch me if you can.’
You get the same SUV-but-sporty impression sitting behind the wheel. The dashboard delivers the visual boxiness to trigger subconscious vibes of utility and adventure but the sat nav screen, tinted glass, hi-tech reversing camera and Bose stereo would not look out of place in a Wallpaper* photoshoot.
But the real magic is under the bonnet. Prod the accelerator and head for the curves and you feel like you are in a roadster. Engineers at Nissan Technology Centre Europe in Cranfied, Bedfordshire, have boosted the Murano’s motor with the addition of twin turbochargers. The powerplant now has 340PS, compared with the standard model’s 234PS.
That means the GT-C’s 0-60mph time drops to just seven seconds – two seconds faster than the standard model – and it will have a top speed of around 140mph. To make sure that the GT-C corners like a roadster, the technicians have stiffened the car’s suspension to reduce body roll and generate sharper responses.
Jerry Hardcastle, Director of Customer Oriented Engineering at Nissan Technology Centre Europe says the GT-C is a breakthrough in the race to produce an SUV with sporty performance. ‘There is no longer a need to compromise when you want both a sports car and a 4×4. The GT-C brings together the functionality and go-anywhere versatility of an off-roader and the dynamism and agility of a sports car. You get the best of both cars in one package.’
So far, so flexible. But the GT-C offers something even more valuable. You can’t touch it or quantify it but you can feel it and enjoy it. The GT-C generates priceless street credibility.
Because it is so modern, so sporty and is a currently unique model, the GT-C creates instant kerbside cachet. Anyone choosing this less obvious 4×4 will come across, like the car itself, as quietly confident.
As Sean Pillot de Chenecey, head of trends analyst Captain Crikey, puts it: "The Murano is rugged on the one hand and sophisticated on the other. It talks – and walks – a fine line. It marks the point where the sports car and SUV cross over at a price we will all like. This is the kind of 4×4 that a twenty-something will be able to park outside a club and not get laughed at."
The Nissan Murano GT-C is a crossover without compromise: a car for every region, for every reason, for every season. Stepping over the sills and driving off in it is the road-going equivalent of stepping out in a pair of box-fresh, limited edition sneakers.
These are not qualities any of the old grand 4×4 marques can claim. However hard they try to recast themselves as modern and sporty, they will always come with a faint whiff of wet dogs and wellies.
As Crawford Hollingworth, Executive Chairman of consumer trend analysts, Henley Centre HeadlightVision, puts it: "Cars like the GT-C are in tune with modern desires because they are as adaptable as the people who will buy it. Like them, they do it all."
"For modern drivers, the balance of stylish design and dynamic performance is very important," says Tai Satoru, Vice President of Nissan Design Europe. "The Murano GT-C achieves that ideal of authenticity and reliable performance with advanced styling very well. It’s big but it moves in tight corners and small spaces. It’s powerful but it is not a brutal type of power. It is a friendly, intelligent type of car. It says the person who is driving the Murano has more advanced thinking."
The Murano might be the most eye-catching SUV on the road but it delivers its statement by stealth as well. Less aggressive and rugged looking than a traditional 4×4, the Murano’s streamlined curves make it appear softer, warmer, friendlier – a look which is in perfect synthesis with contemporary design’s emphasis on the emotional and the human when it comes to navigating modern life.
"Consumers demand not only performance and safety from their cars but a design aesthetic which subconsciously says something about them and their environment," says Global Trend Analyst, Paul Louis of Vandal. "Today’s consumers demand a totality of design now where functionality and performance are a given and a strong, stylistic vision is a prerequisite and this awareness carries over to cars."
And a strong stylistic vision is indeed what the Murano offers. But that’s not to say the Murano is all style and no substance. Far from it. Boasting one of the highest power outputs of any SUV, the Nissan Murano GT-C is the real deal. Behind the sleek design whirrs a twin turbo 3.5 litre engine capable of 0 to 60 in seven seconds, while its top speed is a storming 140 miles per hour. It is even faster than Nissan’s Paris-Dakar competitor and has been refined by engineers to handle as well as it performs.
"Nissan is famous for off-road performance," agrees Tai Satoru. "The Murano is created by the same people behind the Patrol and the X-TRAIL. Its performance is reliable and authentic. It has a high driving position so it’s easier and safer to drive in crowded city areas. It’s a big car but it’s successful because it doesn’t look too big. It’s a genuine 4×4 but its design makes it special and different."
As Jonathan Ive, the design revolutionary behind Apple has often pointed out, the balance of design and functionality in hip contemporary design is now 50/50. Neither one is more or less important than the other. In everything from our homes, to our computers to our cars, smart, modern consumers demand excellence in both. Cue the Murano GT-C. Style and substance.