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2009 Nissan Murano LE AWD – Amazing?

There are amazing automobiles and then there are amazing appliances. For example the Nissan GT-R is an amazing automobile. It’s 0-60 times, braking distances, and lateral G capabilities rival the new Porsche 911 Turbo. The Nissan Murano on the other hand is an amazing appliance. No, wait… don’t hit the back button… not yet. Let me explain…

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Personally, I think there is a place for both. The GT-R would be perfect for weekend getaways up coast highway and the Murano, well, for everything else. You see – I’ve come to appreciate vehicles that do a lot of routine things really well, but nothing perfectly. In my youth a stripped down Porsche 911 without any sound deadening material, without back seats, or even a stereo – but extremely taut suspension would be the perfect vehicle – it did one thing perfectly. Today, I know there’s a difference between a perfect vehicle and one that you can live with. I also appreciate things like my kidneys, teeth, and ability to hear passengers… although that may change when I have children.


An appliance is a machine that accomplishes routine tasks and the Murano does just that – superbly. It does an excellent job of transporting a few people routinely to and from various points of interest quite comfortably. Everything was sufficient… it was so good it was almost boring. I was going to call it a miracle in mediocre motoring but that just isn’t true. The truth is the Nissan Murano is a remarkably wonderful vehicle and after driving it over the weekend I came to understand why it has been such a success.

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First of all, it’s a ‘Crossover’ (XSUV), so it has the perks of an SUV (e.g. Sitting up high/visibility, easy ingress/egress, perceived safety) with the sensibilities of a sedan (e.g. handling, (better) fuel economy, softer ride). It would be Goldilock’s choice in the automotive universe… not too big, not too small, not too little horsepower but not too much… you get the idea…
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Evolutionary Changes
The Murano went through a somewhat evolutionary update for 2009. I’m not really ready to call it a 2nd generation but maybe a serious facelift (both inside and out) which keeps basic drivetrain components, wheelbase, and basic dimensions with it’s prior model years. The 3.5L V6 is bumped up to 265HP and the CVT transmission is now in its second generation. The CVT didn’t seem to bother me as much as the first generation. Either I’m getting used to CVTs or the improvements they’ve made are really working. Its exterior image is noticeably more aggressive with a menacing ‘Venus fly trap’ like grille, pods of lights protruding from the headlamp assembly, new hood and muscular wheel well arches. This restyling exercise may be subtle given dimensions are about the same but overall it seems to give the Murano a more aggressive look. Although, if you step inside you’ll notice the Murano has a soft underbelly. The interior really is more elegant than the last generation and the redesign helps dimensionally hide the 3 feet of dash (Note: it’s really only 20 inches before it begins to slope downward – slight embellishment; sorry).
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Bring on the Good Stuff
Well, if you like the exterior styling there is a lot more good news with the ’09 Murano. It’s based on the ’07 Altima platform, has four-wheel independent suspension, refined interior, really good available NAV system and much improved instrumentation.
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Our evaluation vehicle came with AWD, which around southern California doesn’t mean all that much. But in other regions of the U.S. that could mean the difference between getting home or not. The AWD system in the Murano is good. It’s nothing to write a full page about (read: not setting the industry on fire) but for an around town, commuter/grocery-getter it works just fine in neutralizing torque-steer and balancing out the vehicle around corners. You Subaru or Audi fans will probably turn your noses up at the Murano AWD… so keep doing what you’re doing… this isn’t for you.
The Murano felt ‘floaty’ at times with some body roll around corners. We’re pretty sure engineering a suspension that gives off these side-effects overall helps insulate occupants from the road but it did nothing for me. I didn’t feel a connection with the road. With speed sensitive steering, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, and, on our AWD version, ‘Yaw moment control’ it’s a wonder the thing didn’t drive itself. The suspension and ride is something like being carried in a comfortable harness across a zip line. Although, going over a pothole may remind you of suspension limitations but overall the ride was really understanding of passenger comfort. Lexus RX 350 owners should enjoy the ride in the Murano; it’s very similar.
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Finally Someone to Talk To
Unfortunately, one of the options I would have to opt for would be the NISSAN NAVIGATION SYSTEM. At an ‘optional’ $1850 it is more money, bringing our Murano LE AWD up to $39,675, but it’s probably worth it. Alright, that’s almost another $2K and it’s not the new Cadillac CTS system, but it’s pretty nifty. With this option you get Bose Audio, a 9.3 GB hard drive, and Compact Flash slot. I started to use the Navigation on Saturday evening and really ended up liking it… and using it… a lot.
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The NAV system is really intuitive. I never cracked the manual and the touch screen was nice but I must say the coolest feature had to be the ‘voice controls’. There’s a little button on the steering wheel that you push. A girl came on the speakers and asked me what State, then what City, Street Number, and before you knew it I was off and running without taking my hands off the steering wheel. It was very straightforward and the NAV screen really helped direct me (split screen at times) to my destination without much lag time. Also, there is real-time traffic, which can help you choose routes with less congestion.
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iPod Integration
I must note the iPod integration. Our evaluation vehicle came with ‘cable’/’jack’ in the center console which allowed us to plug in our iPod close the center console and forget about it – using controls on the steering wheel to navigate through our ‘playlists’ which showed up on the screen in the center stack. It was nice, convenient, and clean (we didn’t have an iPod floating around the vehicle or sitting in a cup holder)… but the input where you plug in the ‘cable’/’jack’ is at the very bottom (read: floor) of the center console… so if it’s full of stuff- good luck. We have also heard that procuring that ‘cable’/’jack’ isn’t always easy.
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Sacrifices that come with Styling
A few issues I had with the ’09 Murano concerned visibility. The Murano has a ‘fast’ A-pillar, which probably reduces the coefficient of drag and makes the styling department happy but while driving I can’t tell where the front of the vehicle ends; so I had to be extra careful when parking. Also, the DLO in the rear was so small (back glass and rear side windows) I’m really glad it had a back-up camera – I think it’s a necessity in this vehicle. The windows between the C and D pillars were so tiny and positioned so high on the vehicle it created a blind spot in the rear right hand side.
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Other Notes:
Average Fuel Economy (City + Highway) = 19.5 MPG
Cargo Organizer was a nice feature
Huge glove compartment was a nice surprise (Special thanks to the engineers and designers for negotiating that space)
Power lift gate that was operable either by key fob or rear hatch (Nice – not even the Audi Q7 has a key fob with the ability to both open and close)
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Editor’s Note:
The 1st Generation Murano always scored very, very well in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and Ideal Vehicle Awards. The conclusion was that Murano was extremely easy to live with. Ingress/egress was great, interior roominess was acceptable, cargo room was good, and performance was what was expected. Wrapped in an aggressively styled package, the 1st Generation Murano was a pleasant surprise. It appears that Nissan has maintained the goodness of the 1st Gen Murano with the 2nd Generation for 2009.

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