2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Nissan Murano, by Paul Williams

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2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
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2009 Nissan Murano

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Though it’s been completely redesigned for 2009, the Nissan Murano retains its distinctive “cross between a car and a truck” look that surprised the automotive world in late 2003. The Murano’s toothy grille, rounded shoulders, upswept third side window and slippery profile return for 2009, but the new model has more prominent wheel arches, new headlights that merge with the grille, new all-red LED taillights, and newly available 20-inch tires and wheels. The ’09 Murano is slightly longer, taller and heavier than the previous model (which was last sold here in 2007) but it remains a mid-sized vehicle. Four new exterior colours have been added for ’09: Deep Sapphire, Tinted Bronze, Carbon Silver and Saharan Stone.

2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Under its short, sloping hood is a revised 3.5-litre V6 with 265 horsepower (up by 25 hp) and a more responsive Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that now adapts to individual driving styles. The Murano’s unit body platform and independent suspension are all new (based on the re-done 2007 Altima platform), but front-wheel drive is no longer offered in Canada – all 2009 Muranos now come with all-wheel drive (with a driver-selectable locking centre diff) that now features yaw control and improved front-to-rear torque distribution to enhance stability.

The interior is new too: a new instrument panel, new seats, and more features such as pushbutton ignition, rear backup camera, power liftgate, a new cargo organizer, second row skylight, rear DVD entertainment system, and an improved navigation system and XM satellite radio. Five passenger seating remains standard – a third row seat is not offered, which is probably a good thing because there really isn’t room for it.

2009 Muranos are available in three trim levels, S AWD, SL AWD and the new Murano LE AWD model. This week’s test vehicle is a mid-level SL AWD model with an MSRP of $39,348 – that’s $1,750 less than the previous generation 2007 SL AWD model. According to Nissan Canada, the 2009 SL AWD includes almost $2,000 worth of new features not available on the previous generation model.

Pricing and standard equipment

The 2009 Murano S AWD starts at $37,648 and comes with 18-inch all-season tires and alloy wheels, traction control and stability control, cloth seats, dual-zone climate control, in-dash six-disc CD changer with six speakers and auxiliary audio input jack, push button ignition, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, rear cargo cover, front side airbags and side curtain airbags for both rows.

The mid-level Murano SL AWD, which starts at $39,348, adds eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, power flip-up rear seatbacks, 11-speaker Bose audio system with XM satellite radio, dash-mounted seven-inch LCD colour display screen with backup camera and information display, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel, and front fog lights.

2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Available options on the SL AWD model include the new Moonroof Package with second row skylight ($1,500) and a new Luxury Package which includes xenon headlights, power liftgate, keyless start, and Bluetooth hands-free phone system ($1,500).

The new Murano LE AWD, which starts at $47,498 includes everything in the SL AWD, the Moonroof and Luxury packages, plus 20-inch tires and alloy wheels, leather upholstery, four-way power front passenger seat, rear heated seats, woodgrain trim, iPod connector that integrates into the audio system controls, and driver position memory system.

There are two option packages available on the LE AWD. The Technology Package includes a hard disc drive (HDD) Navigation System complete with voice recognition, touch-screen and a 9.3-GB Music Server capability ($2,950). Also new is a roof-mounted DVD Entertainment Package that includes an extra-wide nine-inch drop down screen, wireless headphones and DVD remote control. However, if you order the DVD you have to delete the moonroof option.

My test vehicle was an SL AWD with the optional Moonroof package ($1,500) and metallic pearl paint ($135). With Freight/PDI ($1,500) and A/C tax ($100), the as-tested price came to $42,583.

Driving impressions

2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Starting the Murano requires slipping an oval-shaped key into a slot in the dash and then pressing a Start/Stop button. This is a trendy feature rather than a useful one and I predict it will be dropped within a few years.

The Murano’s power driver’s seat is wide and comfortable and can be adjusted for height and rake. I liked the high seating position, large footrest for the driver’s left foot and the position of the shift lever closer to the driver. The rear seats are also plush and comfortable with plenty of legroom and headroom. Four or five adults can ride comfortably in the Murano.

The standard 3.5-litre DOHC V6 develops 265 hp at 6,000 r.p.m. and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 r.p.m. Nissan’s “stepless” CVT is very responsive under hard acceleration and doesn’t rev the engine up to a crescendo of piston churning like many CVTs do. The gearless CVT also has an on/off “overdrive” button and a “manual mode” which simulates lower and higher gears. This can be used to increase performance, but I don’t think most Murano drivers will bother with it. Overall, this is a very smooth, effortless powertrain that adds to the Murano’s feeling of comfort and luxury.

Despite weighing over 4,000 pounds, the 265-hp V6-powered Murano will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 8.2 seconds, according to recent acceleration tests by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). It’s also very quick from 80 to 120 km/h (6.5 seconds). Cruising on the freeway, the engine turns over a relaxed 1,900 r.p.m.

2009 Nissan Murano; photo courtesy Nissan
2009 Nissan Murano; photo courtesy Nissan. Click image to enlarge

Energuide fuel economy ratings are 11.8 L/100 km (24 mpg) city and 8.7 L/100 km (33 mpg) highway, but over a week of mostly urban driving, I averaged 13.8 L/100 km (21 mpg Imperial).

The Murano handles well, but because of its weight and its height, it’s not a nimble vehicle. Going down the freeway, it feels more like a large luxury vehicle than a sporty crossover. Its standard all-wheel drive system, which sends up to 50 per cent of the torque to either axle, combined with traction and stability control should go a long way to keeping this tall vehicle under control when things get slippery in the winter. For deep snow or mud, a driver-selectable centre differential lock can apportion a 50/50 torque split to increase traction at slow speeds – it automatically disengages at higher speeds.

Braking performance, as measured by AJAC, is average. Recorded braking distance in the dry from 100 to 0 km/h is 44 metres (144 ft.).

Like most crossovers, the Murano is not quite a car and not quite a truck – it has some advantages of each and some disadvantages of each. In terms of the driving experience, the Murano feels like a very tall, luxurious car with excellent all-weather traction and some off-road ability.

2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge
Interior impressions

Though many crossovers have a step-in height comparable to a car, the Murano’s step-in height is a bit higher – somewhere between a car and an SUV. This is due partly to the Murano’s ground clearance of 178 mm (7.0 in.) which is an inch or two higher than a typical passenger car.

The front and rear doors are large and there are grab handles on the roof to help launch yourself in. The driver and passengers sit up high with a good view of the road ahead and to the sides, but that unusual triangular rear side window obstructs visibility to the rear when changing lanes.

There’s plenty of headroom and legroom in both rows and the seats are covered in a plush velour-like cloth material that feels warmer than leather does during colder weather. Even so, dual-temperature front seat heaters are standard on the SL, and rear seat heaters are standard on the LE.

The optional power moonroof tilts and slides above the front passengers but at the rear, the glass panel is fixed. Power sliding sunshades block out the sunlight when it gets too bright.

An eight-way power driver’s seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel accommodate the ergonomic needs of shorter and taller drivers. On S and SL models, the front passenger seat is manually operated while LE models get a power passenger seat.

2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

The Murano’s attractive but rather imposing instrument panel includes plenty of textured plastic and aluminum accents, large overlapping gauges backlit in bright orange, and a colour information screen at the top of the centre console. The leather-wrapped steering wheel includes audio and cruise control buttons.

A digital information display in the speedometer provides useful information such as average fuel economy, real time fuel consumption, time, driving range, odometer, and outside temperature. The large seven-inch centre screen offers all sorts of information including radio medium, channel, name of song, time, driver and passenger temperature and fan speed settings, and information about fuel economy including current fuel economy and history of previous fuel economy. Though it’s a touch-screen, most functions are operated using the large round dial and buttons located just below the screen. I found this a fairly intuitive process with a short learning curve.

The centre screen is also used as a backup camera when the transmission is put into Reverse. The rear view includes guiding lines that help the driver back into a parking space without running into objects on either side of the vehicle. One problem though: on a rainy day, the wet camera lens just above the license plate creates a blurred screen image.

The Murano SL AWD’s standard 11-speaker Bose audio system provides a powerful, clear sound experience that I thoroughly enjoyed during my week-long test drive. Most of the time, I listened to commercial-free XM satellite radio (standard SL AWD) which has over a hundred channels of music and talk radio.

Storage compartments in the Murano include a small covered bin beside the shift lever, a large bi-level storage bin between the front seats, a bi-level glove-box, a coin tray near the door, front and rear door pockets, pull-out storage box at the rear centre console, and front and rear cupholders.

2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

The split rear seatbacks fold down flush with the rear cargo floor and the cargo area is fully carpeted and has metal scuff guards near the rear bumper. Interestingly, the rear seatbacks can be raised electronically by pressing buttons on the dash near the door. A cargo organizer flips up from the cargo floor to provide individual compartments for grocery bags and smaller items that you don’t want rolling around the trunk. My only complaint with the cargo area is that the lift-over height is a bit high.

Side airbags in the front seats and curtain airbags in the roof for both rows of seats are standard in the ’09 Murano, along with a new stronger body shell with improved crashworthiness. The Murano is rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety who gave it a Good rating in frontal offset, side and rear crash tests. However, the NHTSA gave the ’09 Murano four stars for driver and front passenger in frontal crash tests and five stars for front and rear passengers in side crash tests.

Verdict

A little more luxurious and little less expensive, the 2009 Nissan Murano combines distinctive styling with all-weather capability, a smooth CV transmission, a comfortable interior, and cargo-carrying versatility. But it’s not a sporty vehicle.

Pricing: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD

Base price: $39,348
Options: $1,635 (Power moonroof and dual panel rear skylights, $1,500; metallic pearl paint, $135)

A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,500
Price as tested: $42,583
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Nissan Murano

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