Nissan Murano SL

SUV once meant large, trucklike gas-guzzlers that, despite never being taken off road, seemed better suited to the actual jungle than the urban jungle. Enter the Nissan Murano. Ignoring the SUV’s truck roots, Nissan created a vehicle that cast off all rugged pretenses and brought style to the boxy world of the SUV.

The 2009 Nissan Murano has received a styling evolution that is still distinctly “Murano,” which is a good thing as the original model was quite a looker. The new model features new body lines that are more pronounced and muscular. The most obvious change is the new grille, which better integrates the headlamps into a single sculpted chrome element.

The Rearview Monitor backup camera features guidelines showing where the Murano is headed.

The first test consisted of the backup zigzag course. Setting the cones up about a car length apart ensured that accuracy, not speed, would be ideal for success in this test. Drivers were only allowed to use the monitor to guide the vehicle through the cones.

First up was Associate Editor Antuan Goodwin. Activating the backup camera, which displays on the car’s 7-inch monitor, was as simple as selecting reverse with the gearshifter. The onscreen guides adjust as the steering wheel is moved. Using these guides, he was able to easily clear the course, with three corrections to avoid hitting cones.

 

The next test was a 90-degree reverse turn. We set up our cone course to simulate a narrow alley with a 90-degree bend at the end. The objective of this test was to navigate the vehicle into a parking spot at the end of the course.

In the cabin
The 2009 Nissan Murano we tested came equipped with the Premium Package, which adds a nine speaker and two subwoofer Bose audio upgrade to the standard six-disc in-dash CD changer (that reads MP3/WMA CDs). The Bose system sounded great in the Murano’s exceptionally quiet cabin. Stereo separation was clear and the addition of the dual subwoofers really filled the cabin with a rich, but not too boomy, sound.

The Premium package also includes the rearview camera tested earlier, XM satellite radio, and a 7-inch color display to tie everything together. Oddly, Nissan moved the aux-in from the dash to behind the center console and changed from a headphone jack to a composite RCA input, which adds the dual complication of being inaccessible from the driver’s seat and requiring a 3.5mm standard plug to RCA adapter for MP3 players.

The interface is fairly button-heavy and seems better suited for the navigation system.

If this sight is familiar, it’s because the 3.5-liter V-6 is the heart of Nissan‘s lineup.

The 3.5-liter power plant is the same V-6 that also motivates about half of Nissan‘s model lineup in some form or other, so the company has had plenty of time to refine its performance. Tipping into the gas pedal produces decent, but certainly not neck snapping, acceleration that’s good enough to make confident freeway merges.

The Murano won’t win any stoplight contests, but that’s not really the point. According to Nissan, in this configuration the Murano nets an EPA-rated 18 mpg city and 23 mpg highway and an ULEV rating by the state of California. Our test model hovered about 18.5 mpg during our testing, according to the trip computer.

Available all-wheel drive or not, the Murano is no off-roader. Although its suspension is tuned to soak up bumps, the Murano is better adapted for dodging potholes and smoothing out highway expansion joints than fording rivers and blazing trails. Through the tight turns of urban San Francisco, the Nissan handled surprisingly well for a vehicle of its size.

In sum
The Murano’s suggested price of $29,480 quickly balloons to $37,000 when you add all of the packages required to get the tech options we actually wanted. The sporty Mazda CX-7 could be similarly equipped for about $3,000 less (although it still doesn’t have an available Bluetooth option).

Dymee.com delivers news, pictures and information regarding latest Nissan cars.

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