2009 Nissan Murano
The Nissan Murano crossover, first released in 2003, was a big hit for Nissan. Practical looks, great powertrain and high level of utility have made it a winner that rivals the Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevy Traverse. In 2007, as sales began to decline, Nissan pulled the Murano from the 2008 lots and began work on an updated model for 2009 without straying too far from the winning Murano formula.
Much of the design has been retained. same thing, but they modernized it a bit. More curves for a muscular appearance, larger wheels, swung-to-the-side taillights, and a redesigned grille and fascia. As long as you look at it from the back, it's still attractive, but flip it over and the odd design of the grille above the headlights makes me gag. If you like this design, great, but it's a deal breaker for me. Despite the odd appearance up front, the 2009 Murano is vastly improved over the last generation.
The most significant difference in the new Murano is the interior. Instead of taking the "put a third row in there" approach like most automakers, Nissan decided to make the existing seats more comfortable. Front and rear passengers have plenty of room to stretch out, and you can always stow enough in the back to take on a family vacation. Our cloth seats were comfortable and the interior is well designed except for a few details.
The LCD screen that would otherwise house the navigation system is horrible. The large, ugly, bright orange screen that only shows audio, time and climate information has a thick black stripe down the middle that doesn't display anything. I first thought the screen was broken until I realized it's just a bad design. The dashboard is attractive. Nissan has strayed from its usual "make everything ugly orange" ethos and added attractive white numbers on a silver background with only the light ring around the gauges and the needles glowing orange, if you don't count the driver information display. The dashboard is also user-friendly; nothing fancy, a nice symmetrical design and easy to learn.
For me, the handling of the 2009 Nissan Murano is its greatest asset. The steering is very similar to that of the 2009 Infiniti EX35 – light and easy at all speeds with excellent control. Makes sense since they both sit on the Altima platform. That same base platform gives the 2009 Murano car-like handling, making it surprisingly quick and nimble in traffic. The suspension is soft and comfortable, and at highway speeds the ride is incredibly smooth. Wind and engine noise have been almost completely eliminated, making the Murano an excellent cruiser.
The only powertrain option for the 2009 Murano is a 265 hp 3.5 liter V6 mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT.) I don't like the CVT on most vehicles, but it works great of course on the Murano. The monotonous engine drone normally associated with the transmission doesn't apply here, making it fun to drive. The benefits of the CVT are evident in the Murano – smooth, quick power delivery and improved fuel economy – without any of the usual downsides. I'm glad Nissan decided not to include the fake "simulated manual shift mode" in the Murano; it's a really useless system. The familiar VQ35-series engine from the 2009 model got a power boost from 240 hp to 265; a welcome change that doesn't negatively affect fuel economy, but provides the Murano with plenty of power when needed. $550 Convenience Package, which includes tinted windows, roof rail, cargo cover and security. No other options or packages were included on this base model, which meant we didn't get much - manual cloth seats, no sunroof, no smart key, no navigation. Our S model is considered the base trim, then comes the SL with fog lights, power seats, rear tinted windows and steering wheel audio controls. Next up is the "SL with 360-Degree Value Package" which adds a moonroof, smart key, Bluetooth and iPod integration. The latest is the top-of-the-line LE which adds bigger wheels, HID headlights, better audio system, rear view camera and power tailgate. Get a base Murano with a few options like ours and you'll get a reasonably priced crossover SUV at around $30,000. Pick it up and you'll be down to around $45,000, which is still reasonable for what you're getting.
As for the complaints, there aren't too many. I've already mentioned the horrible redesign of the front and ugly orange LCD inside. Otherwise, rearward visibility is sacrificed in the name of style by the C-pillar, making it difficult to maneuver around car parks at times. The Murano's handling is good, as I mentioned before, but not as athletic as its Infiniti EX35 sibling, which comes with a higher premium. Always worth checking out if you're looking for luxury.
The 2009 Nissan Murano is small, but worth upgrading from the old Murano (except for the styling). It is an excellent choice for large crosses.