2016 Nissan Murano Hybrid slips quietly into lineup, minimal volume expected

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2016 Nissan Murano

2016 Nissan Murano

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What if a car is launched, ever so quietly, and no one notices at first?

Does it exist?

Such existential questions are posed by the recent discovery that Nissan is now selling a hybrid version of its Murano crossover utility vehicle, as of the current 2016 model year.

DON'T MISS: Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid 'No Longer Available,' Infiniti QX60 Twin Vanishes Too  (Jul 2015)

The news was reported by enthusiast publication Car and Driver, which gave the vehicle's specifications and noted that it had quietly appeared on Nissan's website without an official announcement.

The enthusiast publication neglected to note, however, that the Murano Hybrid probably shouldn't be considered in the same category of hybrid as the Lexus RX 450h it cites as a potential competitor.

That's because the Nissan hybrid system is what's known as a "mild hybrid," one whose electric motor isn't powerful enough to propel the vehicle by itself except under very limited circumstances.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

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Like the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid that appeared for one model year and then vanished, the motor in the 2016 Murano Hybrid produces only 15 kilowatts (20 horsepower).

It's paired to a supercharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, and the output of the combined powertrain is 250 hp, or just 10 hp less than the 3.5-liter V-6 used in all other Murano versions.

Mild hybrids may be a technology that has come and gone, in fact. They're being supplanted on the low end by cheaper enhanced start-top systems and pressured from above by "full hybrid" systems that offer some electric-only running.

CHECK OUT: 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid: Gas Mileage Test Disappointing (Feb 2014)

By far the largest proponent of mild hybrids has been Honda, but it has just one such model left, the low-volume CR-Z.

It has now switched its hybrid efforts to stronger two-motor systems, including the one in its 2017 Accord Hybrid sedan.

It will also offer a separate plug-in hybrid version of the Honda Clarity mid-size sedan that will first be sold with a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain late this year.

2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid - Driven, August 2014

2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid - Driven, August 2014

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In response to questions from Green Car Reports, Nissan's Dan Passe confirmed that the 2016 Nissan Murano Hybrid had gone on sale in the U.S. last month.

He confirmed the approximate volume of 600 to 650 vehicles reported by Car and Driver, but declined to speculate on whether the hybrid Murano would be more than a single-year offering.

He added that the company doesn't comment on future product plans, so it couldn't say whether or not there would be a Rogue Hybrid in the future, as had been suggested some years back.

READ THIS: 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid: Is It Hybrid Enough To Matter? (Nov 2013)

The 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid does not appear to have been a notable sales success.

Nissan's Dan Bedore noted that the company doesn't break out its hybrid sales from overall model lines, so could not say how many Pathfinder Hybrids had been sold before it was discontinued.

Infiniti, meanwhile, has also effectively discontinued its QX60 Hybrid, a more luxurious version of the same basic vehicles as the Pathfinder Hybrid that used an identical powertrain.

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