2009 Nissan Murano Review

2009 Nissan Murano - Impressive.


The first-generation Nissan Murano stood out from the crowd thanks to its bold, aggressive design in 2004.  The second-generation, mid-size crossover  makes subtle changes to the exterior while adding improved creature comforts inside.

The second-generation, 2009 Murano debuted in the early 2008 calendar year.  Don't look for a 2008 model year Murano on the used-car lot since Nissan jumped from the 2007 model year (the last of the first-generation) right into 2009 to get a jump on its second-generation buzz.

The five-door Murano hatchback begins on solid footing (or treads). The platform is shared with the mid-size Altima, a sedan with a head-turning design of its own. Available with a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the five-passenger Murano crossover is designed for on-road travel.  Off-roaders need to check out the five-seat Nissan Xterra.

Three Murano trim levels are available: S, SL and up-level LE.  While LE is solely all-wheel drive, the other two sport front- or all-wheel drive. All come standard with a 3.5-liter, double overhead cam, V-6 engine delivering 265 horsepower. This is 25 more horses than the outgoing 2007 model. If four-cylinder power is more to your liking in a Nissan crossover, check out the spunky, slightly smaller, five-door Nissan Rouge.

Nissan supplied a mid-level, SL all-wheel-drive with lots of options for a week's test drive. Starting price was $30,830. The bottom line after adding premium, technology and leather option packages ended at $36,355 including a $780 destination charge. Front-drive SLs start at $29,230.

Option packages are generally limited to SL and LE trims. The S trim ($27,680 starting price for front-drive) is the lower cost, fewer frills edition.  The LE trim (with all-wheel-drive standard) starts at $37,260. Both SL and LE also offer a navigation package ($1,850), Dual panel moon roof ($1,170) and a rear-seat DVD entertainment package ($1,600).

Joined at the hip with the 3.5-liter V-6 is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has been perfecting CVT transmissions longer than just about any other automaker, and has one of the best in the business.  Don't expect to find a conventional automatic transmission with first, second, third and fourth forward gears, as Nissan's CVT smoothly cycles through an infinite range of ratios. This new version is 30 percent faster, for an even smoother ride with no 'clunking' sensations as the vehicle accelerates. Fuel economy is average for a V-6:  18 miles per gallon city and 23 highways in both front-drive and all-wheel-drive editions.  Keep in mind premium unleaded is recommended for the rather large 21.7-gallon tank.

As with the first generation, Nissan smartly decided not to include third-row seating.  Competitors like the mid-size RAV-4 and Mitsubishi Outlander include this option, but only pre-teens can enjoy time (or time outs) spent there. Murano's mid-size platform seats five comfortably.

Push-button starting comes standard in all trims. Just depress the brake pedal, push and the engine purrs to life.  The key fob must be on the person (pocket or purse) for the vehcle to start.

Murano's new mostly-analog instrument panel design includes a large center speedometer circle flanked by half circle gages.  Remote buttons for unlatching the fuel door and hatch are on the dashboard left of the steering column, not on the floor, a nice touch. A redesigned center-stack dashboard is home to dials controlling fan speed and direction while a button monitors fan direction. The large glove box has a wide opening with no inside patricians. Thanks to the roof's arched design, headroom is good in front and back. In back, the six-sided hexagon rear window includes a standard wiper. The parking brake is foot operated. Sunglasses can be stowed in a fold-down ceiling caddy.

Rear seatbacks fold flat onto the seat cushions with a 60/40 split with a simple tug of a looped strap near the bottom of the seatback.  Plenty of fold-down clearance negates removal of the three head rests. Dual cup holders are built into the fold-down arm rest. A pull-out storage bin is on the floor between the back of the forward bucket seats (where cup holders are sometimes found on other competitors); a nice touch. Vents on the inside 'B" pillar direct cool air to riders on hot days.  Cargo room behind the second row is not as spacious as most other mid-size rivals. Cloth seating comes standard in S and SL trims while leather seating adorns LE.  SL shoppers can option up to leather package ($1,600) if they choose to do so.

The tail light design is new.  Instead of a vertically-arranged housing, a shorter, cat's eye design is now in vogue. Dual exhaust is part of the SL trim.  In front, the grille includes angled, vertical bars flanking the honeycomb trapezoid center with circular Nissan logo.  It's flanked by narrow, band-type headlight housing. The glass behind the rear "C" pillar is small and triangular. An optional power lift gate and rain-sensing wipers are new for 2009.

The Japan-built Murano gets high marks for standard safety features including anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, dual front air bags, front seat mounted side air bags, side curtain airbags for both rows and energy absorbing steering column.  The powertrain and basic warranties are not as long in duration as those offered by Korean automakers. Nissan vehicles are covered by a five-year/60,000 mile warranty and a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty.

Whether known as crossovers or SUVs, five-door hatchbacks have captured the minds of shoppers during the first years of the new millennium. Versatility plays a part, but so too does a slightly elevated seating positions which improve road perspectives. Murano has plenty of completion.

Handling is best described as sporty thanks in part to the CVT transmission, upgraded suspension and Altima underpinnings. Smaller back and side windows, however, add to blind spot wows. While many mid-size, crossovers may be priced less, Murano is intended to the enthusiast crowd.

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.