2009 Nissan Murano
2009 Nissan Murano. Click image to enlarge

Preview and photos by Paul Williams

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2009 Nissan Murano

Phoenix, Arizona – You always knew that the original Nissan Murano would be a tough act to follow. It debuted as a 2004 model, and its radical design, innovative powertrain and car-based platform arguably set the trend for a whole new class of crossover vehicles.

After a very successful run, Nissan takes a metaphorical breather with the Murano for 2008, jumping straight from the 2007 model to the new 2009. The new version will be available in January of 2008, with pricing to be announced early in that month.

As Nissan’s best-selling light “truck” (only the now-retired X-Trail sold more), the company certainly doesn’t want to stray too far from the original concept. So predictably, changes for the 2009 Murano are evolutionary rather than dramatic.

2009 Nissan Murano
2009 Nissan Murano. Click image to enlarge

For instance, the celebrated Nissan 3.5-litre “VQ” V6 engine is retained, but power is increased to 265 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 242 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 r.p.m. Similarly, the CVT “stepless” transmission returns, but it is optimized for responsiveness and intelligent adaptation to individual driving styles. All-wheel drive is now standard (with a centre-lock) and also features yaw control and torque distribution front-to-rear for better performance and stability.

Continuing the evolutionary theme, the Nissan midsize front-wheel drive “D” platform (also used on the new Altima) is all-new, with an emphasis on ride comfort and handling. And finally, the interior continues to offer a pleasant, attractive and functional environment for occupants, but styling is sharper, lines are crisper, and with the new “Premium” option, luxury is more evident.

Fuel economy is also improved, to 11.8/8.7 L/100 km, city/highway, with premium fuel recommended, but not required.

2009 Nissan Murano
2009 Nissan Murano. Click image to enlarge

Although the 2009 Murano is marginally bigger than the outgoing model, it actually looks more compact. Like the interior, the exterior lines are tauter, and major body panels seem more sharply defined, more athletic. For the first time on the Murano, 20-inch wheels are offered, which enhance its road presence (18-inch wheels are standard).

Muranos for 2009 will be available in S, SL and LE specification, with the SL and LE contributing to most sales. The SL can be selected with a Luxury Package or Moonroof Package, and buyers can select a Tech Package or DVD Package for the LE. The moonroof is notable because it is a double-panel glass roof, with the front panel sliding over the rear panel when opened.

2009 Nissan Murano
2009 Nissan Murano. Click image to enlarge

The rear cargo area is fitted with a clever foldaway cargo organizer (first seen in the Nissan Rogue). You can securely position grocery bags, for instance, in its compartments.

Numerous features comprise the Murano’s option packages, including a power rear liftgate (standard on LE), Bluetooth connectivity, navigation system, heated rear seats, power return for the 60/40 rear seats, leather and aluminum trim, Bose audio with 9.3-gigabyte music box hard drive, XM satellite radio ready, touch-screen navigation with Nav Traffic real-time traffic information (subscription required), and High Intensity Discharge headlamps,

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

The interior of the LE version, or the SL with Premium Package, is all about travelling “business class,” according to Nissan. Gathered leather seating, aluminum accents, illuminated orange instrument surrounds, ambient lighting and precision switches and controls all contribute to the “front-of-the-plane” experience. But the interior without the leather surfaces is more “economy plus.”

Front-seat legroom is notable, and would satisfy the NBA’s big men (well, the smaller big men…). These seats go way back. The steering column tilts and telescopes as well, so people of all heights should find a good driving position.

On the road, the 2009 Murano’s most notable features are its quick steering, quiet stable ride and stylish interior. The Murano uses a new speed-sensitive power steering system (also found on the 350Z and Altima) which definitely pays dividends when maneuvering this vehicle in both city and highway driving. It feels nimble.

2009 Nissan Murano
2009 Nissan Murano. Click image to enlarge

Some additional engine braking would be appreciated, I found, because when you take you foot off the accelerator, the Murano barely slows down at all. Likewise, I’d like some ability to downshift, or select a lower virtual “gear” from the constant velocity transmission. As it is, when going down a long hill, you must continually apply the brakes (the “L” low gear is too low for this particular situration).

Unexpectedly, our time in the Phoenix/Sedona area was greeted with the heaviest one-day rainfall of the year, flooding many highways and contributing to numerous and major accidents. The convoy of Muranos was not challenged by these conditions, providing safe and secure transport through all obstacles and conditions.

2009 Nissan Murano
2009 Nissan Murano. Click image to enlarge

Although the 2009 Nissan Murano is quantifiably better throughout than the original model, it is not, in my opinion, better looking. The outgoing model was and is very appealing, and emphatically defines the Murano look – especially its grille, headlights and tail lights. These have now become more generic on the new model. The Murano is still appealing (although the grille is a bit much), but it’s not as distinctive as the original model.

Of course, this is partly because there are many more contenders in the big crossover segment now, including the Ford Edge, Mazda CX-7, Chevrolet Equinox, Subaru Tribeca, Hyundai Santa Fe (to name only a few). It’s all good for the consumer, who has more choice than ever in this popular class of vehicle.


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