When Nissan introduced the curvy Murano midsize crossover as a 2004 model, the world didn’t know what to think. That’s because our “definition” of a crossover hadn’t really yet formed.
The Murano formed it.
Honda and Toyota started the crossover trend with the CR-V and RAV4, but the Murano was sized like popular midsize SUVs, such as the Ford Explorer. The Murano was a shocking departure from the blocky, truck-based SUVs. Instead, Murano delivered nimble, car-like handling in a winning shape.
Since then, nearly every manufacturer has introduced a midsize crossover. But with the total redesign of the Murano for 2009, Nissan still leads the pack. The Murano is so nicely built and so impressive inside you don’t give up much compared with premium-brand crossovers. Except price.
The 2009 Murano is still ostentatiously swoopy, but not in a weird way. And designers retained enough heft to make sure you know it’s not a whiny compact.
Nissan moved this second-generation Murano onto its new upper-midsize “D” platform, which meant noticeable gains in the structure. It delivers a firmer ride than some might find pleasant. The tradeoff is exceptional body control, the sometimes-subtle attribute that makes the driver (and passengers) feel more secure when cornering or maneuvering at higher speeds.
The only engine available is Nissan’s 3.5-liter V-6 that offers superior grunt at just about any speed. Better still, engineers heavily reworked the Murano’s continuously variable automatic transmission — the control software is smarter and the “shifts” (technically there aren’t any) transition more swiftly and inconspicuously. The thing doesn’t hold hills worth a darn, though.
The real marquee feature of the all-new Murano is the interior.
If it weren’t for the absence of flashy trim work, you’d think you were in a luxury-brand. And I’m saying this about the base Murano S with cloth seats, one of the few cars of any kind in which the cloth seating is rich enough to make an upgrade to leather seem unnecessary.
The seats wear a luscious blend of suede-like texture combined with perforated inserts. Every manufacturer could take a lesson from the ultra-plush armrests that coddle the elbow the way every armrest should.
All the buttons and switches are fabulous, too: you don’t realize how good a switch can be until you use a truly good one. The window switches are a model of satisfying precision; same for the climate-control and radio buttons.
Speaking of the window switches, the aluminum-finish panel surrounding them is just plain gorgeous. Inexplicably, this location often is reserved for the nastiest piece of plastic in the manufacturer’s parts bin.
All the Murano’s interior finishes are of an almost embarrassingly high grade — an important point at a time when a lot of automakers have glaringly cut back on interior costs. Murano’s interior fit and finish could stand with any luxury car.
Our 2009 Murano S had everything you need in a crossover, including all-wheel-drive, at a price that, for many, should be examined before buying a smaller, cheaper-feeling compact crossover. It would have been nice if our tester had some extras (satellite radio, moonroof, automatic headlights) that would make its $30,000 as-tested price a screaming value.
The Murano’s performance and outstanding build quality are what you pay for. The Murano is so intelligently designed and so painstakingly assembled nobody will ever regret stretching that budget a bit.
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Next New On Wheels: 2010 Porsche Panamera
2009 NISSAN MURANO S
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD CUV
BASE PRICE___________________ $29,280 (as tested: $30,920)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 24-valve DOHC V-6
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 265 at 6000 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 248 at 4400 rpm
WHEELBASE____________________ 111.2 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 188.5 in.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 4,009 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 21.7 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009