Road Test: 2009 Nissan Murano
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.
The new model did well at the track, reaching 60 mph 0.4 second quicker than the 2006 we tested, and finishing the quarter mile at 91.6 mph, compared with 87.2. And there were two interesting discoveries with the new model: while it actually weighed less than the last one we tested (both were similarly equipped), for some reason the 2009 needed 12 more feet to stop from 60 (133 versus 121). Throttle response is noticeably quicker than in the previous crossover, and even though Nissan has successfully made the ride more comfortable, little of its handling prowess was sacrificed in the process. For those who like their crossovers sporty, this one's still a blast on a canyon road, and when based on the same EPA standard, fuel economy has improved slightly to 18 city/23 highway, a one mpg increase to both city and highway ratings.
In addition to the nose job and engine upgrades, Nissan also made dramatic improvements to the cabin, skewing it more toward luxury and refinement without making it look like it came from an old-man's car. Nissan refers to it as its "mobile suite" look -- we simply think it looks sweet. Materials are soft to the touch and are higher quality than before, the center stack is more elegant-and, thankfully, more streamlined. Some cool features are available, like a 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, Bluetooth, 11-speaker Bose system, power-up (manual flip-down) rear seat, rearview monitor, iPod interface, and nav with XM NavTraffic.
Nissan calls this generation an evolution, and that's accurate-the company made a lot of positive changes without straying too far from what buyers know to be a Murano. It focused on refinement and improvement, while staying true to its sporty nature. Pricing will be announced closer to its January on-sale date, but you can expect it will continue to start in the high-$20,000s.
|2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, AWD|
|Engine||3.5L/265-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC V-6|
|Weight to power||15.3 lb/hp|
|Suspension, front; rear||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Tires||235/65R18 104T Goodyear Eagle LS M&S|
|Length x width x height||188.5 x 74.1 x 68.1 in|
|Curb weight||4046 lb|
|Weight dist., f/r||58/42%|
|Acceleration to mph|
|Passing, 45-65 mph||3.5 sec|
|Quarter mile||15.6 sec @ 91.6 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||133|
|Top-gear revs @ 60 mph||1950 rpm|
|Base price||$29,500 (est)|
|Price as tested||$32,000 (est)|
|Airbags||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|EPA city/hwy econ||15/21 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.13 lb/mile|