2009 Nissan Murano Review

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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 8, 2008

The 2009 Nissan Murano combines good handling and a recognizable style with a much more sophisticated interior.

TheCarConnection.com’s team of car experts read all the competitive reviews on the new 2009 Nissan Murano to produce this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com also drove the car to be able to give you an expert opinion on the vehicle, and to help you figure out the truth where other car reviews might differ.

Nissan’s Murano is a mid-size crossover vehicle derived from the company’s Altima sedan. It’s sold with a powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The S and SL versions come with front-wheel drive and an optional all-wheel-drive system, while the top LE version has standard all-wheel drive.

TheCarConnection.com researched Web reviews of the new Murano to compile this conclusive review. In the opinion of reviewers around the Internet and at TheCarConnection.com, we think the 2009 Nissan Murano is so relentlessly refined that the airy PR comparisons to Lexus's RX crossover actually hold water. The Murano is just as smooth as the Lexus RX 350, definitely sharper in profile, and very nearly the Lexus's equal in interior refinement. It also scores highly on the government’s crash tests.

The Murano can rightly be criticized for a slightly snug interior and an oddly tiered nose, but not much else. There's none of the wet-diaper dynamics of the Toyota Highlander or the egregious heft of the Ford Edge--just quick, natural responses, coupled to a right-sized crossover body with jazzy, urbane styling.

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2009 Nissan Murano

Styling

You’ll recognize the 2009 Nissan Murano’s improved styling inside and out, but you’ll have to get past its toothy grin first.

The 2009 Nissan Murano wears all-new sheetmetal, but it shares the same general shape of the first version that went on sale in 2003. Reviewers generally liked the style of the new Murano, but some of its details were more controversial.

MyRide dissected the Murano’s styling and compared it to the 2007 version (Nissan skipped the 2008 model year as it prepared the new version). MyRide notes the headlights form a horizontal line with the grille now, while the fenders have "a strong-shouldered appearance.” They also note the climbing line down the side of the Murano, and its “clean new tail design,” with standard LED taillamps.

Automobile lobbed catcalls at the Murano’s “crooked chrome teeth,” its “bulbous bumpers,” and “the ridiculously oversize badging.” But the majority of opinions thought the Murano’s new shape was an improvement on the original. AutoWeek liked the “cleaner look,” while Cars.com thought “the Murano's nose looks like a cross between the previous generation and the smaller Rogue crossover,” and countered that the “rear end isn’t as bulbous.”

AutoWeek approved of the 2009 Nissan Murano’s interior, calling it “warm and modern, with simple, easy-to-navigate controls, abundant storage and good build quality.” MyRide says the new interior is “along the lines of what buyers might expect behind an Infiniti badge,” and notes the integration of the gauges and the more upscale materials. Autoblog says, “Softer plastics are found everywhere one might reasonably be expected to put a hand.” They also complimented the Murano’s dash, saying, “the new orange-lighted instrument cluster is a welcome improvement, as is the more ergonomic and eye-pleasing center stack.”

TheCarConnection.com’s editors think the Murano’s new shape breathes fresh air into the general theme. The oddly stacked front end isn’t as smooth and suave as before, but it’s not without appeal. The style gets more sophisticated at the rear end and especially in the cabin, where Nissan clearly has spent time and money improving the Murano’s biggest weakness.

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2009 Nissan Murano

Performance

As Car and Driver puts it, “It hardly drives as sportingly as the CX-7, but it feels much lighter on its feet than the Edge.”

The 2009 Nissan Murano delivers better performance than it did in its last generation. It’s a sportier vehicle than Ford’s Edge, but not as darty and gutsy as Mazda’s CX-7.

The Murano’s engine is a familiar piece. It’s shared across Nissan’s big-car lineup. Edmunds.com says, “the 3.5-liter V6 provides plenty of power for almost all situations.” Car and Driver says, “The engine makes a subdued growl under hard acceleration, but the noise goes largely AWOL at part-throttle while cruising down the highway.”

CVTs use belts and pulleys to keep the engine operating in its optimum range, but are prone to a “rubberband” feeling and more engine noise. AutoWeek says the Murano’s CVT is a surprise. “Normally we bemoan CVTs, but Nissan's unit impresses with its fluid operation and adaptive shift control that does a good job of simulating stepped gears.” Automobile says, “power delivery is smooth, consistent, and very strong.” MyRide feels, though, that “even so, we longed for more deliberate response when the throttle was pinned to the floor, and would welcome a sport or manual-shift mode.”

Car and Driver recorded a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds for the Murano--“above average for its class.”

Autoblog noted that it was “disappointed with the car's preliminary EPA numbers. Surely more than 18 mpg can be squeezed out of a CVT,” while MyRide observed fuel economy of “about 19 mpg.” The Murano is rated at 18/23 mpg, while Ford’s front-drive Edge gets 16/24 mpg and the Mazda CX-7, 17/23 mpg.

Automobile says the Murano “has decent body control, but it can feel a bit floaty.” But the brakes are “strong” and ride quality is “fine.” AutoWeek says, “Expressway runs are stable and quiet, while in-town motoring is comfortable and well dampened over rough goings,” and praises its braking and steering feel. Cars.com notes an improved ride in the backseat. ConsumerGuide says, “the ride is well controlled and is abrupt only on sharp potholes and badly broken pavement.”

TheCarConnection.com’s editors have driven the Murano, and its performance is more than competitive. The Murano responds with free revs and loads of power. The CVT doesn't feel more like a rubber band than a gearbox, though it lacks the paddle shifters and preset gear ratios found on Nissan’s smaller Rogue.

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2009 Nissan Murano

Comfort & Quality

Form overtakes function in the 2009 Nissan Murano’s second-row seats, but at least it’s a pretty form.

Reviewers were pleasantly surprised that the Murano’s interior felt much more richly appointed than before, but backseat room and cargo-carrying capacity still were a step behind the bigger crossovers on the market.

ConsumerGuide praised the 2009 Nissan Murano’s “large-adult room and comfort,” but felt “the wide seatbacks could use more side bolstering.” They also noted “six-footers have good headroom, even with the optional sunroof.” Visibility is good to the front, but to the rear, the Murano’s sloping roofline cuts into sight lines. MyRide also found the Murano’s leather-clad front buckets “immensely comfy.”

MyRide also thought the rear bench had “plenty of room for our five-foot-eight-inch editor,” but many of the reviews of the 2009 Nissan Murano complained about the space and visibility from the back seat. Car and Driver noted the interior is “marginally smaller than in the previous model,” but said the “passenger space is better than in the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-7,” with nearly identical cargo room. Cars.com noted that the rear-seat floor is “almost perfectly flat,” which is good for foot room.

Autoblog was among the many reviewers that discovered the Murano’s sexy shape took a big chunk out of the cargo area, that space was “sacrificed on the altar of attractive exterior design.” The cargo area has one cubic foot less space than the previous Murano, they noted, but folding down the backseat frees up 64 cubic feet of room. Cars.com pointed out that the cargo area was easily accessed, with flip-fold second-row seats that are power-operated in ritzier models. A power liftgate is an option, and the Murano can tow 3,500 pounds.

The 2009 Nissan Murano doesn’t offer a third-row seat, like some larger crossovers.

But it’s the improvement in quality that all reviewers picked up on. Automobile compliments “the Infiniti trickle-down effect in the Murano's cabin, where the handsome center stack looks as if it's straight out of an Infiniti M45.” But they did want to throw the “poorly designed cargo cover into a dumpster.” ConsumerGuide says, “road noise is fairly well controlled,” and adds, “most controls are easy to reach and use.” Car and Driver sums it up by saying the Murano’s interior has “gone from class lagging to class leading.”

TheCarConnection.com’s editors appreciated the Murano’s seats, which are wonderfully simple and comfortable too, in a Volvo way. We found the rear seat a little more objectionable for adults; the optional moonroof cuts deeply into headroom, and larger backseat passengers won’t have much extra legroom.

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2009 Nissan Murano

Safety

The 2009 Nissan Murano’s safety performance is among the best in its class.

The 2009 Nissan Murano scores well in federal and insurance-industry crash tests, and sports an impressive array of standard safety equipment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the 2009 Nissan Murano earns a four-star rating for front crash protection, and a five-star rating for side-impact protection. The agency also gives the Murano a four-star rollover rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ranked the 2009 Nissan Murano a “top safety pick” as it scored a “good” rating in all crash tests and offers standard stability control.

MyRide notes the Murano’s impressive list of standard safety features, such as anti-lock brakes and its available all-wheel-drive system. The Murano also has curtain airbags and standard tire pressure monitors, and Edmunds.com adds that active front head restraints are also standard features.

Cars.com adds that the Murano’s curtain airbags protect the front- and second-row passengers, and “are designed to deploy in the event of a rollover, too.”

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2009 Nissan Murano

Features

The 2009 Nissan Murano has all the equipment a family could want, but having it all means parting with nearly $40,000.

All the reviews researched by TheCarConnection.com’s car experts talked about the 2009 Nissan Murano’s extensive list of standard and optional gear.

Edmunds.com said the list of standard features on even the base model includes full power accessories, automatic climate control, “a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, split/folding rear seat, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer and auxiliary audio jack.” The upmarket SL version adds a power driver seat, a power rear seat, and steering-wheel audio controls, Edmunds adds. And the LE version gets the most standard stuff; it has a power liftgate, heated side mirrors, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a power passenger seat, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and a Bose audio system. Cars.com adds that the base model’s cloth seats “are manual, with six-way driver and four-way passenger adjustments.”

As far as the options go, Autoblog recommends the rear-seat DVD player, but thinks the standard “pushbutton start is a neat gimmick, but it's just that. Same goes for the power open and close liftgate.” They disliked the touchscreen on base models that controls the radio: “We were forced to plod through screen after screen of data using numerous buttons just to change radio stations.” Popular Mechanics noted that with the navigation system, you also get an “audio system with 9.3GB of music storage.”

Car and Driver cautions ordering all the options. “Fully loaded...a Murano will come close to topping $40,000.” They also note all-wheel drive can be ordered on base models for just $1,600.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors also drove the Murano, and liked the available aluminum trim (there’s also wood trim in some Muranos). And for our money, the rearview camera’s an unnecessary option, even for paranoiac parents.

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8.6
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Styling 8
Performance 8
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Safety 9
Features 9
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