2009 Nissan Murano Review

2009 Nissan Murano - Crossover star.


When it debuted in 2003, Murano looked like nothing on the street. In fact, I remember thinking it didn't look like anything in the Nissan lineup and how was that going to play out for the Japanese automaker? Well, as most things at Nissan seem to turn out, up until this last fiscal year when they had their first real setbacks (welcome to the club), there was success in trying to be different and taking some chances. Nissan Murano gets a total face lift this year, and the second-generation crossover has style, drivability and utility all in one great-looking vehicle.

Nissan has always done a stellar job of studying the market and seizing an opportunity. They took advantage of a fledgling crossover market in 2003 that was made more vulnerable by a somewhat staid SUV crop. Consumers were ready for something new that looked like it could be an SUV, but didn't necessarily ride like one. Murano filled both voids and was one of the most distinctive vehicles on the road that year.

This new 2009 version easily trumps the first Murano in every category. Even styling is distinctively different enough to make current Murano owners notice and yearn for the new Gen-2 addition. Props should go out the Nissan for taking a less-is-more approach to the cabin.

While several mid-size crossover SUVs were adding the third option to their smallish cabins, Murano decided to stay with what got it there: five passenger seating and good, flexible utility spaces. Squeezing another bench in back was doable, but it would have compromised interior function and no doubt exterior style.

Like the first generation Murano, this 2009 version is unique in many ways. It has a wonderfully "athletic" appearance. There is still so much distinction in the Murano's exterior lines that it is easily identified anywhere it appears with other vehicles. I like the way the sloping nose flows up the A-pillar over the roof to the sporty rear glass configuration.

From a profile, this rear glass behind the second row is probably what sets Murano off from other vehicles. Best way I can describe it is: the opposite of what every other third piece of glass does. Instead of sloping from the top down-and-out to the rear bumper, it slopes up from the bottom to the furthest point at the top.

Outside this new Murano you will find a more aggressive grille and a more staunch athletic stance. The wheel arches and 18-inch or 20-inch wheels accentuate the stance and make it look lower to the ground than it actually is. My Murano tester featured stylish chrome-tipped, dual-exhaust outlets and sleek roof racks on top.

Inside Murano's cabin, you will enjoy comfortable seating with excellent head and leg room in the front and relatively good space for passengers in the second row. Three adults will be tight in the second row, but three kids are a piece of cake. While I found the cabin to be a bit noisy at highway speeds with both engine and road feedback prevalent, this is a wonderfully stylish setup that compliments any size driver. Look for supple leather appointments and heated seat options.

Driving the Murano was pretty easy, though blind spots are noticeable in the rear quarters and those great little upright windows I mentioned earlier actually take away some visibility. Hey, you want style points,? You gotta give it back somewhere else, right?

A 60/40 fold-flat rear seat comes equipped with a new power return feature that glides the seat to the upright position with the touch of a button.

Just as impressive for its thoughtful engineering and convenience was the new fold-away cargo system. As with most Nissan's, the list of standard features usually outdoes the competition. Look for standard push button ignition, dual-zone climate controls, and an AM/FM/CD6/six-speaker audio system with AUX-in jack, VTR jack and MP3/WMA capability. I really appreciated the optional XM satellite radio with Bose speakers. It is hard to believe that Nissan overlooked the essential iPod input for every trim level other than the top-of-the-line LE model.

Under the hood you will find the always-impressive 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Mated to a new Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with Adaptive Shift Control, I found the ride to be flawless in every circumstance.

All 2009 Muranos are either front-wheel models or feature the new all-wheel-drive system that adjusts to road conditions. My AWD model remained sure-footed in some pretty lousy Midwest winter conditions. Look for fuel economy of 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

The 2009 Nissan Murano has several completely new options such as: rain-sensing windshield wipers; a power liftgate; enhanced RearView Monitor with rear view camera; dual-panel power sliding glass moonroof and second-row skylight. Several passengers (not children mind you) commented on how the second-row skylight opened up the cabin and they liked the "open" feel.

Priced from $27,250 to $38,000, the Murano is competitive in ever respect with what is out there in its class. You will like the standout looks, though the compromise is the five-passenger seating. I think this second-generation Murano is a winner and it should sell for many years to come.

2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD

3.5-liter (265 hp) V-6

Transmission: CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic

Drive type: AWD

Fuel economy: 18 city/23 highway

Base price: $29,480

As tested: $32,825 (includes $745 for destination)

Web site: www.nissanusa.com

John Stein

John Stein grew up in an extended family that valued the art of going fast. Spending plenty of weekends at U.S. 30 Drag Strip and Sante Fe Speedway, he fondly remembers the screaming machines and the flying mud that made those long-gone racing havens such special memories. With plenty of late nights spent ‘tinkering’ with cars throughout high school, he never anticipated his interest cars and his love for writing might find a common ground. After graduating from Eastern Illinois University in 1988, John started writing for the weekly Southtown Economist. So, when the Economist went to a daily in 1994, and needed an auto editor, John took the proverbial steering wheel. Featured weekly in the Sun-Times and its 17 suburban publications, as well as ELITE Magazine, John balances being the Automotive Editor for Sun-Time Media with being a husband and dad in Plainfield, Illinois.