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The Nissan Murano is a four-door, five passenger mid-size crossover sport-utility vehicle. Nissan jumped into the crossover market with the Nissan Murano in 2002. Basing the vehicle on the Altima sedan platform, the Murano was able to combine all-wheel drive utility with relatively car-like handling. Whereas Nissan had always had a presence in the pickup market, the Murano was their first attempt to introduce an SUV with no ties to any of their previous trucks. The Murano was sold for 4 years before being completely re-designed in 2009 in an effort to modernize the platform.

The Nissan Murano is in many ways improved from the outgoing generation. While still using the same underpinnings as a mid-size sedan, the Murano is bigger and wider than any car in the Nissan lineup. The exterior of the vehicle has also taken an even sharper styling approach than the first Murano, increasing not only the number of edges and creases in the vehicle but also adding bolder fenders flares and a much bolder front clip.

Under the hood, the Murano sees an increase of 20 horsepower, with its 3.5 liter V6 now producing 265, in addition to 248 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard on all versions of the SUV, but buyers can choose front-wheel drive on the lower trim levels that translates into a reduction of traction in poor weather conditions. What isn’t optional is the choice of transmission – the Murano once again sees a continuously variable unit installed, and with Nissan being one of the world leaders in implementing this technology, it is an excellent fit for the vehicle.

The Murano seats five passengers and makes good use of the room available in the vehicle’s interior, including a generous cargo area. The entry-level Murano S has decent standard features, although it is not brimming with luxury. Cloth seats, dual climate control and power windows and door locks round out the equipment list. Upgrading to the SL improves outward appearance with both fog lights and tinted windows, while inside power folding rear seats make hauling cargo that much easier. The fully-equipped Murano SL adds leather seats and leather interior accents, as well as huge 20-inch wheels and a rear-view monitor system to facilitate backing up. Options across most trim levels include a navigation system, a DVD entertainment system and a moon roof.

On the road, the Murano’s adaptive CVT is responsive to driver inputs and lacks many of the frustrating aspects of other transmissions of this type, specifically the feeling that the vehicle is stuck at one rpm for the entire duration of a trip. Steering is reasonably communicative for a front-wheel drive biased crossover, and those opting for all-wheel drive will see a noticeable improvement in vehicle control and stability over icy or snowy roads. Fuel economy is very good for a vehicle in this class, with 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway being reported.

The Nissan Murano is a capable crossover that makes a good replacement for a minivan. However, if buyers are looking for off-road capabilities or towing capacity above that of a small camping trailer, then a truck-based SUV might be a better solution.

The Nissan Murano was not made during the 2008 model year, but in 2009 it is back in the Nissan lineup with a major redesign. The 2009 Murano has had several upgrades made to the interior as well as an exterior redesign. The overall look of the car is very close to the last time the Murano was made, but the materials are quite different. The sheetmetal on the car’s exterior has been remade into a sportier shape.

The engine in the Murano is the same as it was before- a 3.5 liter, V6, but it has an extra 25 horsepower for a total of 265. The torque has also increased by four to 248 pounds. The transmission has been retuned to be more compatible with the new power that the car produces.

The materials present in the interior have been changed to higher-quality materials that feel better to the touch and look more in line with the new, sportier Murano. In the front, the grille is different and there is a new design for the headlights. In the rear, the back window has been made larger and the taillights have a slightly different shape that gives them a more horizontal look. The 2009 Murano now has a standard iPod interface and a navigation system based in a hard drive.

There are three trim levels available in 2009, the S, the SL and the LE. Both the S and the SL have both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive available. The LE trim level has only all-wheel drive available. All models have a rear seat that folds flat, push-button ignition, automatic climate control for dual zones, electroluminescent gauges, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes and power locks and windows that work with one touch.