Test Drive: 2009 Nissan Murano
When looking at the literature about the 2009 Nissan Murano, an old phrase comes to mind: you rarely see yourself as others do.
What a surprise to see that the folks at Nissan consider Toyota's Land Cruiser this vehicle's competition. After test driving both, it's almost a stretch to put these two in the same class. It's almost akin to ranking a professional wrestler, in this case a Land Cruiser, with a professional boxer. Both have brawn, stamina and unique moves and compete in something of the same competition, but the Land Cruiser is all hard-as-nails brawn, size and power while the Murano is rugged but with an ample dose of finesse.
Putting the Murano through the same paces as the Land Cruiser - gravel country roads, winding, steep hills, and clogged urban streets - only adds to that analogy. Although the Murano seemingly can't compete with the way the Land Cruiser muscles over curbs, up hills, and around bends, it's plenty tough for some serious off-roading and equally as ease in a tightly packed urban parking lot.
2009 Nissan Murano Exterior
Some critics gripe that the 2009 exterior, which Nissan likens to a 'modern art'? feel, hasn't added to the car's attractiveness. Although I don't get the 'modern art'? feel, the new grille, wide front headlights, enlarged chrome door handles and other tweaks make the car more stylish to my eye. Personal preference, of course, but to me the 2007 Murano was reminiscent of the boxy three-door Honda Civic, circa 1991. If anything, the newly styled Murano exterior may seem a bit too 'pretty'? to some sports enthusiasts looking for a crossover. It's tough to dislike some of those features, though, including the dual panel power sliding glass moonroof and second-row skylight. Again, this is a crossover that works as well for a camping trip as it does during an elegant night on the town.
Adding to its adaptability are some nifty extras the buyer can add including rain-sending windshield wipers, a power liftgate, and eight color options including three new shades - Deep Sapphire, Tinted Bronze and Saharan Stone.
Again, choose your favorites based on whether you want your Murano to be the suave James Bond-style tough or the no-messing-around UFC fighter.
2009 Nissan Murano Interior
Even if the front seats with extra support and options such as heat, multiple power positions, and a memory system scream Baby Boomer necessity, it's doubtful anyone will balk at the comfort they afford. Likewise, the extra headroom is welcome, allowing the driver and passengers to hit bumps without feeling as if they're human jack-in-the-boxes ready to break through the top.
Plus, there Murano gives you plenty of spaces to stash your gear in the dual-level console, extra large glove compartment, dual seat-back pockets, and other nooks and crannies. It seems 60/40 splits and organizers are as common as horns on this year's crossovers. Nissan actually has gone one better with a foldaway cargo organizer that pops into place when you push a button. Nice to have so sports equipment and even books and files don't scatter all over the back. Apparently Nissan engineers debated adding a third row of seats but opted out over concerns it would seriously impact cargo room. Good call, from my perspective.
The ride's quiet too and just as you'd expect, very safe. Murano offers a full compliment of safety features plus all kinds of extras including dual-stage supplemental front air bags and Zone Body Construction, which basically dissipates energy away from the passengers during a crash.
One negative to the interior is that until you get used to it, some of the spaces and features - as basic as turning headlights from high to low - can take some investigating. Never do I recall pulling an owner's manual out as often as I did with the Murano. The other downside I found was the rear camera. It was plenty large and bright enough, but the warning didn't come on even when I hit a curb. A small rear window also limits visibility.
2009 Nissan Murano Performance and handling
My pet peeve with crossovers is that some are so bulky and stiff it's impossible to pull them into parking spaces, cramped or wide. Not so with the Murano that eases in despite its size.
Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, the ride is firm, steady and smooth. Nissan notes the engine's power, which shares characteristics with its Altima sibling, results in a sporty drive. Although I was impressed by the smoothness, I'd liken it more to a sedan than a sports car. Nothing wrong with that, especially considering the intuitive all-wheel drive system shifts traction to adjust to various weather conditions.
Braking was also firm and secure.
Still, I see this car more as an athlete than a warrior so I wouldn't suggest it taking on Arizona's Red Rock trails, although it'd likely handle well on the bumpy back roads.
2009 Nissan Murano 2009 Trims
The 2009 Murano comes in three models - The S, SL and LE with an MSRP starting at $27,680 with 18 mpg-city, 23 mpg-highway. No word yet how that will differ with the 2010 model, although there are rumblings Nissan may release a Murano convertible.
For now, each model comes with an advanced all-wheel drive system and yaw moment control.
There are also a number of option packages including the Convenience Package (S models which include Privacy Glass and anti-theft alarm), Premium Package (SL Models which include a premium audio system and RearView Monitor), a Leather Package (SL Models which includes heated front seats and lumbar support) and a Moonroof Package (SL and LE models) dual panel power sliding glass moonroof and second row skylight).