2009 Nissan Murano
Resides Between "Lackadaisical" And "Lackluster"

We Like: Beautifully trimmed and roomy interior, smooth V-6, pleasing chassis dynamics.
We Don't Like: Sport-sapping CVT, bouncy off-road ride, peculiar styling.

IF EVERYONE in the Ice-Cream Shoppe is ordering Fudge Peanut Ripple Marshmallow Mango Royale and you're ordering Vanilla, that new Murano parked outside probably belongs to you.

Since making its debut as a 2003 model, Nissan's sporty, midsize crossover has sold well-even into old age. The 2006 edition nudged out three rivals (Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander, and Hyundai Santa Fe) for top spot in an MT comparo. Now comes a brand-new 2009 version-and it's as if someone packed Vanilla into a Mango Royale box.

"Nissan's VQ six continues to impress," writes Kiino. "Delightfully light compared with the LX 570 and the Borrego," logs Markus, adding, "Astute suspension makes for a comfier ride." Notes Lassa: "Does nothing to overly impress, upset, or offend."

Diminishing the Murano's appeal is its standard CVT. "A good transmission for those who don't care about cars," writes Loh. "Uninvolving dynamics punctured by the whiny CVT," comments Lassa. The Murano sabotages its sporty-vehicle pretensions with the CVT's unusual power flow.

Exterior styling takes hits. "Polarizing," is how Kiino describes the nose. "Funky, futuristic shape that I don't really get," adds Loh. "Would be more significant, despite its average dynamics, if the styling were fresher," Lassa concludes. "Nissan got conservative and tried too hard with the grille."

The cabin, in contrast, draws raves. Among the comments: "Impressive back seat with good legroom." "Nice, simple layout." "Interior has gone way upmarket, with a richer look plus better materials and textures." "Good enough to give pause to prospective Infiniti FX35 buyers."

Though the Murano is available with all-wheel drive, our SL tester is front-drive-on our steep off-road climb, reaching the top usually requires a good run-up. Yet even without AWD (or navigation), the Murano carries a steep $35K sticker.

Though the Murano's looks suggest "wacky and out-there," in fact it's a mild and unassuming machine, a fine everyman's crossover. But you don't get to wear a cape when you're playing Everyman.
- Arthur St. Antoine

2009 Nissan Murano
Base price range $27,650-$37,230
Price as tested $34,990 (SL 2WD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.5L/265-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission Continuously variable auto
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4028 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 111.2 in
Length x width x height 188.5 x 74.1 x 67.0 in
0-60 mph 7.2 sec
Quarter mile 15.5 sec @ 92.7 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 131 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.74 g (avg)
MT figure eight 29.2 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 18/23 mpg
MT observed fuel econ 17.3 mpg
CO2 emmisions 0.97 lb/mi
Engineering ***
Design **
Interior/functionality ****
Performance ***
On-road refinement ***
Off-road ability **
Value **
Don't ask for too much, and you get it.