2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD: Aggressive, fluid and upscale SUV
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
When Nissan introduced the Murano sports utility vehicle-crossover in 2003 for the 2004 model year, the vehicle gained an instant following for its aggressively fluid good looks, upscale interior and stylish demeanor. After sitting out 2008, the Murano is back in 2009 with its second generation, and after tweaking the original design with even greater exterior attractiveness and adding elevated performance and enhanced interior tech and comfort, the Murano emerges as a sporty leader in the car-based ute genre.
On the outside, Murano has redesigned, rather than merely refreshed, with a wide front end, exciting, wide-grilled angled front fascia, large integrated headlights, rounded shoulders and side, wide fender flares, angled belt-line, large rear glass, LED taillights and 18-inch and tires (20-inchers are a package option). The rear, which resembles that of the new Nissan Rogue (small SUV/cross-over), is sporty, rounded and finishes off with a stainless steel exhaust, accompanied by two mufflers underneath.
Sitting on a 111.2-inch wheelbase, this energetic exterior measures 188.5 inches in length, 74.1 inches in width and 67 inches in height with a step-in height of 18.6 inches and ground clearance of 7.4 inches.
Assembled in Los Angeles, the front-drive-based Murano is built on Nissan's new D-platform and is powered by a 265hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine that puts out 248 lbs.-ft. of torque. That’s enough to propel this two-ton SUV from zero to 60mph in 7.9 seconds and down a quarter-mile in 16.3. The Murano’s Xtronic CVT transmission doesn’t react instantaneously when called upon, but the lag is not as pronounced as with some other variations of the theme.
The system is EPA rated at 18mpg in the city and 23mpg in highway driving on unleaded premium. A week of testing throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland on dry pavement as well as through rain and snow flurries achieved an average of 21.4mpg covering about 500 miles, with Interstate travel making up about 65 percent of the miles driven.
On road tests and track examinations I found the Murano’s handling to be confident with its intuitive all-wheel-drive system, 4-wheel power vented sic brakes, 4-wheel independent front suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars and vehicle speed-sensitive power rack and pinion steering. The Murano rides smoothly thanks to its front independent struts with coil springs and stabilizer bar up front and a rear multi-link suspension with twin-tube shocks and a stabilizer bar.
The ride is quiet and elegant, but there was some body roll and front end dip during aggressive turns. However, passengers remarked about the smoothness and comfort they felt during all tests and treks.
Inside, Murano is the poster child for Nissan’s “business class” interior. Adhering to the manufacturer’s “mobile suite” theme, the cabin is adorned with a newly designed instrument panel and center stack design, new seat design with double-stitched leather-appointed seating surfaces and leather-and-aluminum cosmetics accented by a variety of storage compartments and ambient lighting.
The interior is a driving compartment that says luxury despite the non-luxury sticker. With a 5-passenger seating capacity, the ride is roomy and measures headroom of 40.1 inches up front and 38.3 in row two; leg room is 43.6 and 36.3 and shoulder room is a whopping 59.6 and 58.7.
The cabin is accessorized by an 8-way power driver seat with lumbar support, rear privacy glass; integrated front fog lights; steering wheel-mounted audio controls; a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 60/40 fold-flat rear seat back with power return.
The advanced all-wheel-drive system is designed for safety as well as handling, as are standard stability and traction control systems. Antilock disc brakes are supported by electronic brake force distribution and brake assist technology. Front-side and side-curtain airbags are included and work in conjunction with front active head restraints and a rollover sensor to keep occupants protected in the event of an accident. A tire pressure monitor is also standard.
The base price on Murano is $29,480, but my test vehicle was outfitted to the hilt. The dual panel moonroof added $1170; the Premium package – 9-speaker Bose audio system, XM Satellite radio, rear view monitor, 7-inch color video display and various audio, video, electronic and cargo items – added $1000; the Technology package – power liftgate, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, keyless entry, rain sensing wipers and heated outside mirrors – put another $1900 on the price, Nissan Navigation System with 9.3 GB Music Box hard drive and compact flash slot added another $1850 and the Leather package –leather appointed seats, driver power lumbar support, heated front seats and 4-way power front passenger seat added $1600. The final add-on was a $745 destination charge.
The Nav system was accurate, though the toggle-and-push system was not as user-friendly as a touch-screen system, and when driving off course or taking a different turn than instructed to, the system didn’t automatically reconfigure and the driver or passenger has to re-set the course.
With a bottom line of $37,745, this 4030-lb. sports-ute is fully packed, and it is a luxurious, comfortable vehicle that is a sound buy for those in the market for a versatile crossover.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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