The design process of third generation Nissan Murano unveiled at the 2014 New York auto show began with the Resonance concept, the acclaimed show car designed by Nissan Design America’s studio in San Diego, CA. The study was so well received that the decision was made to put it into production virtually unaltered, following an increasing trend amongst automakers.
“The first-generation Murano was a design revolution,” says Nissan North America’s product planning VP Pierre Loing. “The second generation capitalized on perceived quality and was more evolutionary. This third generation now we tried to combine a new design revolution but capitalize on the perceived quality and the quality of materials that the second generation brought to the market.”
Bringing the Resonance to production reality wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem. While exploring ways to give the new Murano an energetic, aero look, the designers wanted to retain the Resonance concept’s strong sculptural qualities. But this created a lot of engineering challenges, as the shapes, especially the rear fender, were complex to stamp.
Their solution was to combine the usual sketching and computer renderings with three-dimensional modeling. The design process became more organic than usual, with miniature clay models helping define the forms early on and throughout the design process.
As the back and forth between computers and clays continued, unique elements began to emerge in the design’s combination of sharp edges and fluid sculpture – in the sense of curved metal being shaped by the wind. Following rigorous wind tunnel testing the resulting design achieved a 0.31 Cd, which is extremely close to the 370Z. It is projected to be among the best in the midsize crossover segment, and a 17 percent improvement over its predecessor.
The iconic Nissan boomerang headlight and taillight designs, originally introduced on the 370Z, were stretched and slimmed even further and integrated into the front fenders and backlight. The D-pillars were shaped to resemble a jet and ‘disconnected’ from the slim roof to lighten the cabin. The panoramic moonroof was lengthened and widened, adding a sense of visual openness and transparency.
As the upper body design was established, the lower body was strengthened through the balancing of aerodynamics and ruggedness. Special attention was paid to the anchoring aspect of the lower body section, the prominent ‘V-motion’ grille, which flows into the hood and fenders, and the rear fender design, which accentuates the car’s stance.
“Starting with this V-motion — and it goes through the body — it is one very dynamic movement from the front,” explains Taro Ueda, Nissan Design America vice president. “This fender line is a very powerful line that goes through the body and really is a strong flow line. The other movement is coming from the door panel, and having a good stance for the rear fender area as well.”
As the Murano shape moved from Resonance concept to production vehicle, the challenge was to retain the fluid sculptural appearance without limiting crossover functionality.
Founded in 2012, Form Trends tirelessly covers the automotive design industry in all corners of the globe to bring you exclusive content about cars, design, and the people behind the products.