“It’s got a face only a mother would love” a friend said to me while we gazed over Nissan’s second generation Murano. At first I thought he had a good point, but after spending a week with the SUV I realised he was mistaken. There’s more for a mother to love than just the Murano’s face.
When the first generation Murano was released in 2002, it was the styling that received much of the initial attention. It was not just aesthetically daring but also shunned the boxy ruggedness long associated with SUVs. For the new 2009 model the same design principals are maintained making it a clear evolution of its ancestor.
The Murano’s face is its most striking feature with a bold silver front grille highlighting angular lines that push back across the bonnet. Gently rounded wheel arches host large 18-inch alloys and chrome trim around the lower edge of the doors match their handles. The window line swoops upwards at the rear to create a thick triangular D-pillar and give the Murano an advanced stance. Out back, vertical tail lamps have been dropped in favour of horizontal jeweled efforts and dual stainless exhaust tips blend function into the flamboyant form.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the Murano’s looks it has other attributes of note, including what’s living beneath the dipping bonnet. The Murano is motivated by a reworked version of Nissan’s acclaimed VQ-series petrol engine. It’s a 3.5-litre V6 powerplant that pumps out a healthy 191kW of power and 336Nm of torque. It’s a capable unit if worked hard and can offer decent acceleration from stationary considering the Murano’s bulky 1832kg frame. While the engine’s power is impressively usable its smooth, quiet nature is an even greater asset.
The V6 engine is matched to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission and although I’m not a massive fan of CVT technology Nissan has done well here. The transmission offers almost seamless shifts and channels through smooth, linear power delivery. One small gripe with the CVT is that it often looks for the most economic ratio regardless of driver input that may be asking for more from the strong motor. The flip side of the CVT’s mellow nature is improved fuel economy with a quoted figure of 10.9l/100km combined.
All four wheels are powered by Nissan’s 4×4-i all-wheel-drive system which sends most of the drive to the front wheels under normal driving but up to 50% can be routed to the rear if needed. There is also a handy ‘4×4 Lock’ mode that divides torque evenly between both axles for greatest traction.
Head into the bends and the Murano is a competent handler with bodyroll being noticeably minimal for a tallish vehicle. Push hard and oversteer will carry the nose wide but this shouldn’t be an issue for most Murano owners. Speed sensitive power steering functions well particularly when parking, but a bit more feedback at speed would help promote a feeling of driver involvement.
The strut front/multi-link rear suspension helps the Murano stay nimble during B-road duties but is guilty of being a touch firm for optimum passenger comfort. Too often bumps and dips in the road are channeled into the cabin disrupting the general serenity achieved from the powertrain and improved noise reduction.
The Murano’s engine, transmission and 4×4 system are all top notch but the vehicle’s interior provides its strongest sensory attractions. Broad front seats, trimmed in soft leather are very comfortable and offer power adjustment. A broad centre stack houses tactile climate and audio controls and a high-mounted multi-function dial with a colour display screen. Brushed aluminum accents lend a modern feel to the mix of quality soft and hard plastics.
The Murano’s standard equipment list is lengthy and includes; tilt and rake adjust steering column, Bose six stack CD stereo, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, push button start, intelligent key entry and dual-zone air-conditioning. An important standard feature is a reversing camera that negates the poor rear visibility caused by the Murano’s wide D-pillars and small rear windscreen.
Overall interior space is generous for all occupants. Cargo space is practical with a flat-floored boot offering 402-litres with the seats up expanding to 838-litres with the seats pushed forward. The luggage area is conveniently accessed by a power rear tailgate.
In terms of safety the Murano offers six-airbags including curtains, and Vehicle Dynamic Control, ABS braking and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). A full size spare wheel is also standard fare.
Once you look past the Murano’s distinctive face and overall polarizing styling what lays underneath is a competent, practical and comfortable SUV. Limited rear visibility and a hard ride unfortunately occupy the other side of the ledger. Bottom line is that the Murano isn’t perfect but it’s modern, well built, distinctive and has an excellent powertrain. So, if you’re not already tented in either the ‘love it’ or ‘love to hate it’ camp, take a closer look, you might just be charmed.
Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications
Price: From $60,900
What we like:
- Equipment level
- Smooth engine
- luxury interior
What we don’t like:
- Rear visibility
- Stiff ride
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Nissan Murano (2009) – Specifcations
All-aluminium, VQ-series, 3.5L DOHC, 24 valve V6 with continuously
variable timing control system (CVTCS)
Capacity cc 3498
Power kW @ rpm 191 @ 6000
Torque Nm @ rpm 336 @ 4400
Bore and Stroke mm 95.5 x 81.4
Compression Ratio 10.3:1
Induction – Sequential Multi Point Fuel Injection
XTRONIC CVT Automatic Transmission with 6 Speed Manual Mode
CVT Range 2.371 — 0.439
CVT Reverse 1.766
CVT Final Drive 5.173
Intelligent ALL MODE 4×4-i with electronic 4WD lock mode.
Includes Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) and Traction Control System
Overall Length (mm) 4835
Overall Width (mm) 1885
Overall Height (mm) 1730
Wheelbase (mm) 2825
Ground Clearance (mm) 185
Track – Front (mm) 1610
Track – Rear (mm) 1610