Nissan's in a funny place with the Murano-sales have increased every year since it went on sale, but the model was getting a little stale. Plus, new, fresh entries are overwhelming the segment: There were only a handful of crossovers five years ago-now there are easily 20-25.
The second-gen Murano looks much like the original, with some notable exceptions. There's the new front end, for example, which uses a more angular grille, narrow, sportier headlights, and a much brighter finish. It is more aggressive, yet more refined than the old front fascia. Nissan also upgraded the wheel and tire package, with the same result, and 18-inch alloys are standard, with a 20-inch option. Some differences take a little longer to notice, such as the character line along the sides and the new taillight design. Those are much more obvious when looking at photos of a 2007 (there's no 2008) next to a 2009.
With the next generation comes a new front-drive based platform -- called "D" by Nissan -- which the Murano shares with the current Altima. Also shared are the Altima's 3.5-liter V-6 and continuously variable transmission, which are similar to the first-gen Murano's. The updated VQ now puts out 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque (up from 240 and 244, respectively), and the new Xtronic CVT (also on the Altima) is also greatly improved. Yes, it still sounds like a CVT, but it reacts more quickly than it used to and feels closer to an automatic, thanks in large part to its adaptive shift control (ASC) system that helps to optimize and quicken the CVT's operation. Nissan believes ASC works so well that it decided against using a paddle shift setup found on lower line CVT-equipped vehicles like the Rogue and Sentra. Despite the obvious improvement, we still miss the manual mode the old CVT had.
The Murano comes with a plethora of systems and safety options that are now standard fare on most upscale crossovers, such as VDC with traction control, speed-sensitive power steering, ABS and Brake Assist, EBD, tire-pressure monitoring, and numerous airbags: dual front, seat-mounted side-impact front, and curtain side-impact units for front and rear passengers.
Dimensions stay essentially the same-wheelbase is identical, length and height add less than an inch, the 2009 is 0.1 inch wider than the 2007. But the new platform gives the Murano a tighter, more buttoned-down feel whether the road is straight or twisty, and cabin noise has been dramatically reduced.