Can the Nissan Murano Really Measure Up to the Lexus RX?

The differences between mainstream vehicles and luxury ones have been shrinking for a while. Sometimes the comparisons between classes are justifiable; other times, they aren’t. Take the Nissan Murano, for example. People constantly measure the Murano against the Lexus RX. How does this Nissan stack up against Lexus’ most popular model?

The 2021 Nissan Murano and the 2021 Lexus RX are both gentle rides with forceful engines 

a bright orange new Nissan Murano
2021 Nissan Murano | Nissan

Nissan’s Murano stands out in the mainstream midsize SUV class thanks to its bold style. Though, the RX does futuristic design better. The comprise with either of these SUVs is that their distinctly curvy shapes can limit a driver’s outward view. 

Along with style, the Murano and the RX exude similar driving dynamics. The 2021 Murano’s sole engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 260-hp. A continuously variable automatic (CVT) is also standard. The Murano has sufficient power, and it feels quick off the line. It’s comfortable too. But as U.S. Notes, notes, the Murano’s CVT can cause the engine to drone unpleasantly. 

A sharp, grey 2021 Lexus RX parked on a sleek driveway.
2021 Lexus RX | Lexus

With the RX 350, you get a 295-hp, 3.5-liter V6 linked to an eight-speed automatic. The RX’s transmission shifts smoothly, and it provides a quieter driving experience than the Murano does. Critics’ main complaint about the RX’s performance isn’t that it’s not very agile. However, the RX consistently earns praise for its level of comfort and refinement. 

Both the Murano and the RX are available with front- or all-wheel drive. Additionally, they are pretty efficient for midsize SUVs and can get up to 23 mpg overall. More impressively, the RX Hybrid can return 29 mpg overall; the Murano doesn’t have a hybrid option. 

In a way, the Murano’s cabin can be as luxurious as the RX’s 

The driver and front passenger seat interior shot of the Black Line trim level of the 2021 Lexus RX
2021 Lexus RX SE Black Line interior | Lexus

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The Murano can seat up to five people comfortably. The standard RX 350 is also a five-seater, but the optional third-row brings seating up to seven. No matter the RX configuration, the Murano provides more cargo space. 

nissan murano interior with  plush tan leather
2021 Nissan Murano with quilted leather | Nissan

The RX comes with amenities, including synthetic leather upholstery and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Optional features include heated and cooled seats, genuine leather, and ambient lighting. The Murano comes with cloth upholstery, but it offers some of the same frills that the RX does. Although as Consumer Reports called out, the Murano’s interior can’t match the luxury-grade hush of the RX. 

A 2020 Murano with beige leather seats.
Front seats of the Murano| Nissan

Both the Murano and the RX come with a suite of active safety features, including blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking. The RX has a few more standard features, such as pedestrian detection. Regarding infotainment, there’s give and take with both.

Close up of the 2021 Lexus RX's cockpit area.
2021 Lexus RX F- Sport interior | Lexus

On the bright side, both SUVs come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Murano comes with a user-friendly 8-inch touchscreen, but its graphics are a little outdated. The RX has a crisper display, but its standard Remote Touch Controller system isn’t as easy to use. 

Is the Murano a worthy alternative to the RX?

2021 Nissan Murano parked in front of an affluent home
2021 Nissan Murano | Nissan

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The 2021 Murano begins at $32,510, and the 2021 RX starts at $45,170. You could get a fully-loaded Murano for about $5K less than the base RX. But even so, the Murano still can’t deliver the same level of refinement and tranquility that a Lex does.