For any car shopper waiting around for the unveiling of last year’s Nissan Murano, the wait never ended. Nissan didn’t produce a 2008 model. Although a surprising circumstance for such a popular vehicle, Nissan felt it wasn’t necessary since a full redesign was coming in 2009. Who could really blame them since there was nothing objectionable about the 2007 Murano?
And let’s face it, many auto manufacturers essentially trot out the same vehicles year after year without significant changes.
Following its one-year absence, Nissan came out with its 2009 model as a Christmas present and was delivered to dealerships in early January. It was worth the wait, since Nissan addressed a few problem areas.
At first glance, the 2009 midsize sport utility vehicle looks like its predecessor — attractive, sporty and efficient in most areas. However, several changes in this year’s Murano add to the value add to the car-based SUV that has always enjoyed a solid reputation since its debut in 2004.
The redesign was done smartly by Nissan, which didn’t radically change the Murano’s overall attractive look due to its existing popularity. Yet significant changes did occur to the interior, exterior and under the skin, so the Murano stays competitive with a tough group of rivals.
The Murano is one of many solid options in this crossover segment. Some car shoppers will pick the slightly larger Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9, while similar models like the RAV4 (V-6), Ford Edge, Pontiac Torrent GXP and Mitsubishi Outlander (V-6) match up more favorably.
Outwardly, the Murano has a different face, new grille and modified headlights. Nothing changes with the backside, where the design of the unique back window remains, though slightly larger.
While the exterior changes may slip by some, the interior modifications are so distinct some might think they are viewing an Infiniti product, Nissan’s upscale division. The materials are made of higher quality and make for a very appealing cabin that includes upgraded features like a push button ignition (which I find unnecessary), dual climate control and a dedicated iPod interface.
Performance is another area of improvement for all Muranos, which have a similar engine makeup — a responsive 3.5-liter, V6 that increased its horsepower by 25 to reach 265 hp and now has a towing limit of 3,500 pounds. The added acceleration was immediately in the SL model (one of three trims) test driven for a week. Step on the gas pedal and be prepared for a quick getaway.
Handling remains refined for the Murano, which still utilizes the Nissan Altima underpinnings. A new steering system adds to the Murano’s overall agility in practically every driving scenario. Gas mileage could be better at 18-23 mpg in the all-wheel drive SL model, which lists for $29,480.
Very few vehicles arrive without some problems and the Murano is no exception. While attractive, the unusual configuration of the back window doesn’t help the rear visibility, which continues to be limited. Overall cargo space is lacking as well.
One thing Nissan didn’t try to improve was adding a third seat to keep up with some of its rivals. Good move, too, because an added row would have cut into the cargo area.
FAST FACTS: 2009 Nissan Murano
Power — 3.5-liter, V6, 265 horsepower; Mileage Estimates — 18 mpg (city) 23 mpg (highway); Standard Features — antilock disc brakes, brake assist, traction control, stability control, privacy glass, 8-way power driver seat, center console, fog lights, split-folding rear seat, keyless entry, outside temperature gauge, rear defogger; Warranty — Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles Bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Corrosion 5 years/unlimited limited; Free roadside assistance, 3 yers/36,000 miles.