2012 Nissan Murano

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Short Take Road Test: 2009 Nissan Murano SL AWD

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2014.
By Mark Gillies of Car and Driver

We didn’t have too many gripes with the old Nissan Murano, introduced in 2003 as a 2004 model. Along with the Lexus RX300—now the RX350—the Murano helped to pioneer the hot-selling vehicle du jour, the so-called crossover SUV. Often based on car platforms, crossovers combine the virtues of an SUV—available all-wheel drive, a high seating position, and wagonlike versatility—with more carlike handling and drivability than the traditional truck-based SUVs. The original Murano was based on the underpinnings of the previous-generation Altima, so it drove quite nicely. The interior was versatile and roomy, and the only letdown was the cheesy interior trim, which was as low rent as a trailer park in Alabama.

For 2009, Nissan has introduced the second-gen version of the vehicle, based on the latest Altima. Although Nissan says it rides on the all-new D-platform, both the old and new Murano share a 111.2-inch wheelbase. As before, the Murano has an all-around independent suspension, with struts at the front and a multilink arrangement at the rear. Speed-sensitive power steering is fitted, along with four-wheel vented disc brakes. The Murano is available in front- or all-wheel-drive guise, the latter featuring enhanced electronic control to work seamlessly with the stability-control system, which is now a standard feature.

Much Like the Old Murano
Like the previous vehicle, the Murano uses Nissan’s VQ 3.5-liter V-6 engine. In this iteration, it has been revised with a higher compression ratio and variable intake system to give 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, up from 240 horsepower and 244 pound-feet. The continuously variable automatic transmission remains but has been upgraded to perform more like a conventional automatic. However, the lack of a manumatic controller is a hint that these vehicles are more likely to make school runs than carve mountain roads.

The 2009 Murano looks a bit like the old one, but the sheetmetal is sharper edged and more modern, with a pleasingly butch stance when outfitted with the optional 20-inch wheels and tires (18s are standard equipment). The new model is a touch bigger, too; 0.1 inch wider (74.1 inches), 0.9 inch longer overall (188.5 inches), and 0.4 inch taller (66.9 inches).

The interior is marginally smaller than in the previous model, due to the styling changes above the waistline, with 109 cubic feet of space for passengers and 32 cubic feet for their chattels. Passenger space is better than in the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-7, the Murano’s most closely stacked competitors, and cargo room is almost identical. The newToyota Highlander, which has an available third-row seat, has five more cubic feet of space for occupants, although its cargo hold is 42 cubic feet without the optional third-row seat. Nissan purposely eschewed the current fashion of fitting a third row that only functions as a penalty box for those times when soccer mom A needs soccer mom B to transport her kids to and from the game, school, or whatever.

Refined Manners, Above-Average Performance
The most obvious and welcome improvement to the Murano is the interior décor and styling, which have gone from class lagging to class leading. There are plenty of soft-touch materials on display along with pleasing aluminum accents, as well as a boatload of available luxury features. The base S model is a touch spartan, but the step-up SL gets standard refinements such as a power-operated second-row seatback and availability of a number of features that are standard on the upscale LE: heated front seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a rear parking camera. A rear-seat entertainment system and a hard-drive-based navigation system appear on the options list, even for the LE. Fully loaded—with things such as the touch-screen nav, leather seats, the newly available dual-panel power-sliding glass sunroof with second-row skylight, and the premium stereo system—a Murano will come close to topping $40,000. The base S will cost about $29,000 when it goes on sale in January, with prices rising to an estimated $31,000 for the SL and $33,000 for the LE. All-wheel drive adds $1600 to the S and SE stickers but is standard on the LE.

The new Murano drives much like the old one. The highway ride is nicely controlled and supple (engineers worked to address criticism that the original was too stiff), the steering is light yet accurate, and the Murano can be guided along a country road at respectable speeds. The engine makes a subdued growl under hard acceleration, but the noise goes largely AWOL at part-throttle while cruising down the highway. The car steps off the line smartly enough, recording a 0-to-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds, which is above average for its class and 0.3 second quicker than the previous model. It hardly drives as sportingly as the CX-7, but it feels much lighter on its feet than the Edge. That’s almost moot for its target audience, which will doubtless be more appreciative of the refined cruising ability on the way to the mall.

Performance Data

C/DTEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 7.2 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 19.8 sec
Zero to 110 mph: 28.5 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 8.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.6 sec @ 91 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 116 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 174 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.76 g

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 18/23 mpg

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BB02 - 8/1/2014 3:46:18 PM