Short Take Road Test: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2013.
By Tony Swan of Car and Driver
In early 2003, the Murano was new and flashy and hot and seemed to be on its way to first place in a five-way winter comparison test until we returned from the snowy wilds of northern Michigan and an afternoon of lapping the five contenders on our rural test loop. It was then that our quality doubts hardened into a test-staff consensus, as the Murano produced a chorus of squeaks and rattles on the nastier stretches, aggravated by jiggles that suggested the sporty suspension tuning was a little too stiff for its Altima-based body shell.
Flash forward to now and the second-generation Murano, redesigned inside and out and offered as a 2009 model. The stylistic environment has obviously evolved since 2003, and among today's less-inhibited designs, the Murano's cautiously updated sheetmetal doesn't have the visual horsepower of the original. On the other hand, there's more real horsepower — 265 versus 245 from the previous generation of Nissan's corporate 3.5-liter V-6 — and it's mated to Nissan's latest CVT.
More important than the extra power, the new Murano's assembly quality, interior materials, and general solidity raise the game for this stylish five-seater.
This is a slightly bigger Murano than the original — almost an inch longer and a half-inch taller on the same 111.2-inch wheelbase, and similar in size to the Ford Edge. It's also significantly quieter than its predecessor at idle, at 70-mph cruise, and particularly at wide open throttle. A little more dimension and sound-suppression measures that deliver a lot more quiet usually add up at the scales, and that's true here. At 4183 pounds, this Murano is 121 pounds heavier than the "Neither-Nor" of 2003. Both vehicles were equipped with all-wheel drive, both were well equipped.
But the small gain in mass doesn't hold back the '09 Murano at the track, where it sprints to 60 in 6.9 seconds and covers the quarter-mile in 15.4 at 92 mph. That's about a half-second quicker than the original Murano and 5 mph faster at the quarter-mile lights. Fuel economy — 18 mpg city, 23 highway — is at the top of this class.
There are a couple areas where the new vehicle's dynamics don't measure up quite as well — braking, for one. Our test car stopped from 70 mph in 178 feet — not bad for this class, but the 2003 Murano did it in 166 feet, significantly better. More tangible, though harder to measure, are responses that aren't as eager and precise as those of the original, the trade for ride quality that's distinctly creamier. Think of it as the price of growing up. Adult comfort versus youthful exuberance. Too bad you can't have both, isn't it?
The as-tested price of our 2003 Murano was $34,717, consistent with the other players in that game. Our 2009 test vehicle tallies in at $37,745. However, the starting point for this Murano SL AWD is $30,225. As always, look both ways before crossing those options boxes.