Since its inception, Nissan has had a winner on its hands in the form of its Murano crossover, which first went on sale in 2003 as a 2004 model and helped popularize the crossover segment. The Japanese automaker is obviously hoping to build on that success with the substantially reworked 2009 Murano making its world bow the 2007 Los Angeles auto show.
The new Murano features a slightly revised version of Nissan's now venerable 3.5-liter V-6 VQ series engine, which is rated at 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque -- up 25 horsepower and four lb-ft over the outgoing model. Nissan's second-generation CVT with the automaker's Adaptive Shift Control system is the only transmission offered.
The front-drive-based Murano is built on Nissan's new D-platform, a version of which is found underneath the 2008 Altima. Nissan claims the new vehicle has one-and-a-half times more torsional rigidity than the outgoing model, along with improved NVH ratings. The suspension reportedly makes "extensive use" of aluminum components to help lighten the Murano's mass, although its final curb-weight ratings have yet to be announced. A refreshing change is that the five-passenger Murano is not significantly larger: At a length of 188.5 inches, width of 74.1 inches, and height of 66.9 inches, it's just 0.9 inch longer, 0.1 inch wider, and 0.4 inch taller than the model it replaces.
Underpinning the Murano's revised suspension geometry is a subframe-mounted independent front strut setup with stabilizer bar in tandem with an independent multilink rear with another stabilizer bar. Other vehicle systems include speed-sensitive power steering, power-assisted vented front and rear disc brakes with ABS, and Nissan's Standard Vehicle Dynamic Control and traction-control systems. Yaw Moment Control is a feature available on higher-end, all-wheel-drive-equipped models.
While the new Murano's exterior shape generally fits the gentle evolution restyles we've seen recently in other Nissan models such as the Altima and Infiniti G35, the most striking differences are a restyled front grille with integrated foglamps, more aggressive wheel arches, and a reworked headlight treatment. The interior has been significantly upgraded and is much more upscale in appearance (Nissan calls it a "mobile suite" look) than the automaker's entry-level Rogue crossover.
With $15K compact-cars boasting Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio, the Murano, which will likely start in the $28K range, offers a host of technological options in the cabin, including a touch-screen navigation system that responds to voice commands and a 9.3 gigabyte hard drive for digital music storage. XM Nav Traffic also is available, as is a DVD Mobile Entertainment System that features wireless headphones, a remote control, and a center-of-gravity nine-inch rising monitor. Between the racket created from the available 11-speaker Bose audio system and the DVD playing in the back, Nissan's RearView Monitor will help you concentrate on safely backing up into that corner parking space.
HID headlights and 20-inch wheels will be available (18-inchers are standard) on higher-end Muranos. All five trim levels -- S 2WD, SL 2WD, S AWD, SL AWD, LE AWD -- get six airbags and front-seat Active Head Restraints as standard equipment.
Expect the 2009 Murano to begin rolling into dealerships in January of next year.