Second Opinion: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2009 Nissan Murano

Ottawa, Ontario – During my time with this Murano, I had a nice chat with a middle-aged couple who had been giving this recently-redesigned model a once-over in a grocery store parking lot. Turns out they were former Murano owners who would soon be looking to replace the Santa Fe they chose after the Nissan’s lease was up.

What do you think of the new one? I asked.

It’s not as distinctive as our old one, they said. It looks too much like other SUVs now. (One of their favourite things about their Murano was the coppery-orange paint colour Nissan offered it in. That one’s gone; now, the most “original” colour offered is an admittedly nice deep red called “Merlot.”)

Second Opinion: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

I too think that the new Murano’s looks lack the character that the original possessed. The old one looked good from any angle, but the new one, well, it looks derivative from the rear (parked next to that couple’s Santa Fe, it was hard to ignore the resemblance) and goofy from the front.

But the stylistic changes aren’t a total dealbreaker. The Murano still has the same slick profile as its predecessor, and the not-too-big wheels and bulky tires still help to pass this car-based vehicle off as something that at least looks like it could go off-road.

If I’m thankful for anything, though, it’s that Nissan didn’t mess too much with what’s under the Murano’s sheet metal.

The old interior was nice; this one’s nicer, with better materials and a dash that looks more like something out of an Infiniti than a Nissan. The gauges are large and legible, and my SL tester’s standard ambient interior lighting was much appreciated.

Second Opinion: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD car test drives nissan
Second Opinion: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD car test drives nissan
Second Opinion: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

The old Murano was no penalty box size-wise, and so it is in the new model. If there’s any aspect of the new interior that let me down, it was front seat headroom, which was only fine; blame the optional SkyView moonroof for that. I was more impressed by the space in the rear seat, where both leg- and headroom are particularly generous, and the backrest angle is adjustable (standard in all models).

Another niggle is the fact that a portable music player could only be connected using a pair of RCA jacks on the rear of the centre console. An auxiliary jack in the dash or even in the covered console bin would be nice.

The cargo area is spacious, and the fold-up grocery bag organizer is a great touch. The 60/40 folding rear seatbacks are expected; the buttons to the left of the steering that power them back to upright are a surprising standard feature across the line. The seats are lowered via buttons just inside the tailgate, eliminating the need to reach in or walk around to the rear doors to flip them forward.

The 3.5-litre engine is powerful and quiet, and it’s well matched to the Murano’s standard continuously variable transmission. The CVT tends to keep engine speeds low, and uses the motor’s torque to move the vehicle in normal driving, which makes the Murano a smooth driver.

All Muranos are all-wheel drive now, and while it’s clear that Nissan intends this as an upscale mid-size crossover, the lack of a more fuel efficient front-drive model seems an oversight all the same, given that many of the Muranos competitors are offered in two-wheel drive form.

Murano prices start at $37,648 for the entry-level S AWD model and top out at $47,498 for the LE DVD version. My SL AWD tester rang in at $42,483, including $1,500 each for the moonroof and luxury option packages (note that you can’t have the luxury package without the moonroof, however) and $135 for this one’s metallic finish paint. Don’t forget to add $1,500 for freight, too.

So, I asked that couple I spoke to what crossover they might buy next, and they said it would most likely be something that stands out like the original Murano did. One specific model that came up was the Ford Edge, a direct Murano competitor and a vehicle whose looks are as polarizing as the original Murano’s were.

Car companies are always trying to get the biggest piece of the pie they can with any model, and if the new Murano turns off a few of the more adventurous shoppers out there, it will certainly gain more from the crowd who just wants a nice truck to get around in. At the very least, this new Murano will still handle that job just fine.