2009 Nissan Murano

The Good:
– Very good ride comfort
– Spacious cabin
– Upscale interior feel
The Bad:
– No low range gearing
– Limited cargo room for its size
– Not quick at all

Nissan, maker of conservative blenders such as the Sunny and the X-Trail, shocked suburban housewives and girly men everywhere when they launched the bulbously-creative Murano many years ago. So unique was the design that it was hard to imagine it being replaced successfully. Indeed, the 2009 replacement is only partially successful in emulating the original’s originality.

The new Murano crossover 4×4 ups the funk factor up front with completely alien grille-work, while actually making the rear more traditional. The overall exterior profile remains familiar though, with dual exhausts tips and 18-inch wheels that look small nestled within the thick tyres and beefy wheel arches.

However, the interior is a massive improvement over the previous model, with a stylish new dashboard design and various luxury features. Most prominent among these is the LCD computer lifted straight out of Nissan’s Infiniti basket. Also appreciated are the copious amounts of soft-touch materials on the dash and upper door panels, enough to match the feel of a Lexus RX, relegating hard plastics to out-of-reach areas only. The beige leather upholstery and minimal chrome bits just add to the upscale effect in our tester. Indeed, competitors like the Ford Edge feel positively cheap in comparison.

While the front seats are wide, spacious and moderately-bolstered, the rear seats offer ample legroom and headroom. The cargo floor out back is sizeable, but overall volume is cut down by the sloping rear window. The split-folding rear seatbacks can fall flat at the pull of a lever, and can be brought up again automatically by pressing a button. Our tester even had a power-operated rear tailgate. And it had four cup-holders too, all covered when not in use.

Our Murano LE came with a full assortment of gadgetry, including cruise control, booming CD/MP3 stereo with CD-changer, Bluetooth phone, panoramic sunroof, power front seats, and full keyless entry with starter button. The excessively-buttoned LCD computer hosts the navigation system, as well as some of the entertainment and climate-control features, and can be used via the touchscreen, a rotary dial or the shortcut buttons, which takes a while to get used to. As with all Nissan models, the digital a/c is a strong performer, while rear passengers get some vents mounted on the middle B-pillar. It also comes with front and side airbags, although it did score only four stars in U.S. NHTSA crash tests in an era when five stars are the norm in this segment.

The GCC-spec Nissan Murano comes with a 3.5-litre V6 that makes the GCC-spec model has 256 hp at 6000 rpm and 334 Nm of torque at 4400 rpm, mated to a CVT automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. Therefore we expected respectable performance figures from this 1752 kg crossover. Instead we got an unremarkable 9.8 seconds in our 0-100 kph testing during a July morning. The four wheels offer up no wheelspin and the CVT offers clean power delivery with no gears to shift. It also comes with a tiptronic feature, although the manual “gear-shifting” doesn’t mean much. But driving it as it was meant to be driven, we managed to bring the average fuel consumption down to an outstanding 12.5 litres per 100 km, even with occasionally-hard acceleration runs.

On the road, the Murano meets expectations easily. It rides comfortably, without any SUV-like floatiness, and with minimal amounts of wind and road noise under 120 kph. Its cornering limits are limited, with moderate body roll, but it reaches those limits very safely and proceeds to understeer mildly before the stability control even catches on. It can be driven just like a regular family car around curves, without having to compensate for its height like one would with a Pathfinder. There is respectable grip from the 235/65 tyres, and the ABS-assisted disc brakes perform very decently.

The soft steering offers no feedback, but it makes one-fingered parking possible. A rear-view camera with guiding lines on the screen, sensors on the bumper and oversized mirrors alleviate the Murano’s severely-limited rearward visibility, although those same mirrors as well as thick front A-pillars hinder frontward visibility during turns.

As for off-road ability, there is none. The all-wheel-drive system actually does handle loose surfaces rather well without bogging down, but with moderate ground clearance and no low-range gearing, it can never go too far into the wild. Of course, it would seem some previous scribe did test our car off-road and managed to shake loose a plastic underbelly panel. That panel proceeded to vibrate unpleasantly throughout our entire drive.

The Nissan Murano continues in the same vein that made its predecessor popular, while injecting a sense of luxury to the entire package. Of course, there has been a jump in price, even if it was launched in the middle of a recession, and consumers aren’t taking too kindly to paying somewhat-premium prices for a non-premium badge. However, we wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the Murano somehow wound up with an Infiniti badge.

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