2010 Nissan Murano

    (5 Reviews)




    MSRP
    $32,060
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    2010 Nissan Murano Expert Review:Autoblog

    The following review is for a 2009 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.


    2009 Nissan Murano – Click above for high-res image gallery

    It just so happens that the all-new 2009 Nissan Murano is one of those nondescript mid-size crossover utility vehicles that may blend into the crowd. Its styling is certainly modern, if not overly exciting. The cabin is accommodating, if not excessively spacious. The handling is inspiring, if not unduly sporty. The engine is strong, and even reasonably efficient. How would this perfectly acceptable, yet hardly over-achieving CUV handle five passengers and full luggage on a 1,000-plus mile road trip across the Southwestern desert? Read on to find out.



    All photos Copyright ©2008 Michael C. Harley/ Weblogs, Inc.


    The task at hand was to deliver three adults and two children, with their overstuffed baggage, round-trip between Los Angeles and Phoenix in the middle of summer. It's a trip this writer has been doing for more than a decade, but always in a seven-passenger SUV (Chevrolet Suburban, Dodge Durango, Volvo XC90, etc...). Now, in a CUV with seating for five, we wanted to see how we'd fare (without resorting to strapping Aunt Edna to the roof).


    The first-generation Nissan Murano arrived on the market as a 2003 model, the same model year the Infiniti FX made its debut. While Infiniti's FX offered concept-like styling on a sporty rear-wheel drive platform shared with the Infiniti G35, Nissan's Murano took a mainstream approach with its more conservative sheet metal and front-wheel drive architecture shared with the Nissan Altima. Arguably, the most innovative part of the Murano was its continuously variable transmission, or CVT.


    A solid seller for Nissan, and popular with consumers, the Murano was re-designed for 2009 (there was no 2008 model). With little fanfare, the second-generation arrived looking much like the first (expected, as Nissan didn't want to ruin a winning formula). The significant improvements were found on the interior where the all-new Murano had taken hint and grabbed more than a few components from the Infiniti parts bin. Compared to its predecessor, the 2009 Murano is a major step up in interior quality and ergonomics, although it is down on overall cabin space. We were bound to see if it mattered.

    Under the hood of the Murano is Nissan's very familiar VQ-family 3.5-liter V-6 powerplant. While the first-generation Murano also had a VQ, Nissan has revised it for the 2009 model to provide 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. The engine isn't the smoothest out there, or the most frugal with fuel, but it has proved to be consistently strong and very dependable. Mated to the six-cylinder is Nissan's Xtronic CVT™ (Continuously Variable Transmission) with Adaptive Shift Control (ACS). While the engine/transmission combo is set in stone, consumers are offered the choice between front- and all-wheel drive.

    We are holding the keys to a 2009 Nissan Murano SL 2WD with the Premium Package. With cloth interior and no navigation, the sticker price fell just below $30,000. The Murano is a four-door, five-passenger vehicle with a lifting hatchback over the rear cargo area. The tapered styling in the C-pillar looks great, but it does impede on cargo capacity. Regardless, once we yanked out the cumbersome cargo cover, the mid-sized Nissan happily swallowed three wheeled suitcases, two large duffel bags, an overstuffed camera bag, and the obligatory bags of miscellaneous family debris that are required to keep the kids entertained during an extended drive. With everything strategically loaded, including a pillow or two in the second row, we could just barely see out the back window.


    Behind the wheel, your author's six-foot two-inch frame fit very comfortably. There is plenty of legroom for the left foot even behind the pedals for stretching out (rare these days with the proliferation of transverse-mounted engines keeping firewalls up against the backs of the pedals). The exterior mirrors are generous, yielding a great view outside, even if thick C-pillar restricts a bit of outward visibility from within the cabin. Our Murano had the rear back-up camera, and it was very useful during parking. As expected, the CUV driving position is elevated giving a commanding view of the road.


    The dash of the Murano is logically designed, and it works well once your mind is acclimated. The most offending part of the dash has nothing to do with ergonomics – it has to do with the garish back-lighting. The primary instrumentation (speedometer, tachometer, and gauges) are white characters over a dark background with bright orange indicator needles. That's fine. However, someone at Nissan went amok with the lights and added bright rings of orange around the primary gauges. The illumination is overpowering, and it effectively removes the driver's ability to quickly glance at the panel to distinguish the position of the orange needles. We overcame much of the glowing orbs by turning the dashboard illumination down. Way down.

    With the aforementioned luggage already loaded, we ran into a bit of a bind. The two kids in the second row wanted to watch a movie on a portable DVD player, but Nissan didn't supply those seating positions with a 12v outlet. The single front outlet was powering our Garmin GPS (and we didn't have a splitter on hand), so we improvised by threading a long cord from the single 12v outlet in the cargo area through the luggage and into the passenger seat area. It worked, but we'd prefer too many outlets to too few next time.

    What the Murano engineers did right was the powertrain. The matchmaker who hooked up the VQ with the Xtronic VCT deserves a promotion. In fact, after spending countless hours with the pair, we observed that it just may be the perfect mechanical marriage for this vehicle. While we've had our issues with the CVT (often when we find it stuffed under the wrong hood), the Murano doesn't pretend to be a four-door sports car, an off-road explorer, or a luxury liner. It's a family oriented CUV, and in that capacity the CVT operates smoothly, predictably, comfortably, and efficiently. Coming from a traditional slushbox, the Xtronic may seem a bit lethargic at first. But, that sensation quickly wanes when your right foot learns to drive it properly.

    All five of us loaded into the Murano preparing for the six-plus hour drive to Phoenix. The car seat in the middle of the second row split the rear passengers up, but there was plenty of wiggle-room on either side. Nobody complained about space, even the person sitting behind the driver's seat. All Murano models share the same twin-tube strut/shock arrangement with front and rear stabilizer bars. Unlike many cars that wallow and roll when packed to the brim, the Murano handles nearly the same-regardless of load. While it would hardly be considered "enthusiast-tuned," one could easily argue it is much sportier than many of the other CUVs that compete in the segment. It is fun to drive, but it will not satisfy the enthusiast deep within you.

    Across the LA Basin, the Murano easily darted through the light freeway traffic as we headed out of town. The freeways are deeply grooved and scattered with expansion joints (for earthquakes, not freezing temps), but the Nissan ignored the tendency to tramline and soaked up the bumps without drama. The crossover breezed through San Gorgonio Pass and its giant wind farms without flinching in the sporadic crosswinds.

    In the mid-day sun, the ambient temps began to climb into triple-digits. Driving east out of Indio on I-10, the highway climbs more than 1,700 feet to Chiriaco Summit. It's a steep climb (some portions have an 8% grade) that frequently overheats, or just plain overwhelms, many types of vehicles. Loaded with full passengers and luggage, our A/C pumping at maximum, and a heavy tank of gas (having just topped-off minutes earlier), we were the Murano's worst nightmare. Without hesitation, the VCT brought the engine up to speed and the VQ pulled us heroically at 70 mph past the burdened tractor trailers that struggled in the right lanes. Through Blythe, the temperature outside was a blistering 113 F, but we were as cold as Popsicles inside the cabin (in fact, we had slowly cranked the AUTO climate control setting up to 76 F so we wouldn't go numb).


    Over the Colorado River, and into Arizona with its 75 mph speed limit, the traffic lightened and we set the cruise control at an even 84 mph to remain relatively inconspicuous among the flow. We noted how accurate the speedometer was (typical with most Nissan/Infiniti products), and how absolutely serene the cabin felt at this speed. With smooth black asphalt under the all-season tires (keeping tire roar at bay) and cloth interior acting as sound-deadening, all aboard were impressed at how quiet things were considering the Category 1 hurricane winds on the other side of the glass. While we've tested countless cars that lose their composure above 80 mph, from the driver's seat the Murano was completely competent and stable at those high cruising speeds. It was disheartening to approach Phoenix and slow to city speeds, and lane-clogging traffic.

    During our countless highway hours behind the wheel, the most excitement arrived in the middle of the California desert, just outside Desert Center. We'd been watching a wall of thunderclouds on the horizon for the better part of an hour. Temperatures were in the triple-digits, but the sun soon disappeared behind the cumulonimbus clouds as we approached. Minutes later, we drove into a literal waterfall as the skies violently opened up. One second we were dry and doing 80-plus mph, the next second we were fighting for visibility with the wipers on high-speed and our velocity down to 40 mph or so. While the downpour stimulated our pulse, the Murano soldiered forth without concern. The ride height kept us out of the splashing spray from the trucks, and the front and rear wipers (and aerodynamics) keep the windows clear. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

    We burned four tanks of premium gasoline during our travels (including a few days running around the Phoenix basin). Calculated by hand, our worst fuel economy was 19.96 mpg, and our best was 22.31 mpg. When you consider each of those tanks were consumed while lugging five souls around with the air conditioning fighting Sahara-like temps, the numbers aren't bad (for the record, the EPA rated the 2009 Murano at 18/23). We never tried regular-grade gasoline, although rumor has it that the Murano will drink it just as happily.

    With the long week behind us, it was obvious that five passengers (and their luggage) can cohabitate peacefully in the Murano for 1,000-plus miles without any hint of pending bloodshed. Sure, the mid-size Nissan will never transport seven adults legally (Nissan will gladly sell you an Armada for that), but we'd make a good argument that even loaded to the headliner, the 2009 Murano is an agreeable place to pass the time. Interestingly enough, we never missed the extra room that the engineers apparently took from the new model.


    The 2009 Nissan Murano is one of those vehicles that accomplishes everything with very high marks, but aces nil. That's not to be taken as a negative -- it simply means that Nissan has done a fine job engineering a five-place CUV that is a solid B-plus performer across the board. The engine is strong, transmission smooth, and the driving dynamics comfortable and predictable. Pressed into service, it will duly serve as a reliable daily driver, impromptu cargo hauler, sporty canyon cruiser, or an effortless road trip vehicle.



    All photos Copyright ©2008 Michael C. Harley/ Weblogs, Inc.


    click above for more images from our first drive of the 2009 Nissan Murano

    Nissan's original Murano was a successful and difficult act to follow. The elder statesman of crossover utility vehicles saw its sales increase every year since it was introduced in 2003, but with the segment going from crowded to standing room only, Nissan realized changes were needed to compete.

    "Murano-ness" – that's what Jarrad Haslam, Nissan's product planner for crossovers, said the company insisted be preserved in the new version. Nissan invited us to Atlanta to sample this almost-totally-new Murano for 2009. You'll recognize the distinctive rounded nose, sharply-raked windshield, the side glass kicked up over the rear fender, a smallish rear hatch window topped by a sliver of a spoiler, and a lower rear bumper accentuated by dual exhaust outlets. But put the 2007 and 2009 (the Murano sat out the 2008 model year) side by side, and the differences become evident.

    Continue reading about our first drive of the 2009 Nissan Murano after the jump.




    Live Photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.



    click any image to enlarge


    For 2009, the width-spanning chrome grille gets much more aggressive with pronounced vertical slats and headlights that are more FX45 than 350Z. The front fenders rise above the hood and blend smoothly into the A-pillars, while Murano's standard 19-inch and optional 20-inch chrome wheels are also wrapped by more muscular rear fenders that give the vehicle a bit more visual strength.



    Out back, designers took the hatch glass angle even more extreme, and the old vertical taillamps are replaced with horizontal ones that mimic the headlights. The dual exhaust set up remains, as does that aforementioned sliver of a spoiler above the glass.



    Inside, fans of the old Murano will find some welcome improvements. Upgraded materials cover every surface, and are especially appreciated on the instrument panel and center console. Softer plastics are found everywhere one might reasonably be expected to put a hand, and good-looking, double-stitched leather is also available. The new orange-lighted instrument cluster is a welcome improvement, as is the more ergonomic and eye-pleasing center stack.

    If you like the people in your Murano's backseat, opt for the heated rear seats and the LCD screen with remote-controlled DVD player and wireless headphones. Those back seats (heated or not) do a very nice impression of a recliner, as well.



    Behind the second row of seats is just less than 32 cubic feet of cargo space, which is 1 cubic foot less than the 2007 model. But fold the back seat flat and the 2009's cargo space doubles to 64 cu. feet. That sounds great until you realize that the 2007 model had a relatively cavernous 82 cubic feet with the back seat folded down. So where did all those cubes go? Haslam tells us the extra cargo space was sacrificed on the altar of attractive exterior design. That dramatically-sloping rear hatch severely cut into the vertical space of the rear and took 18 cubic feet with it. There are two reasons this may not matter to potential buyers. First, it's vertical space, and how often do you stack things floor to ceiling in your SUV? Second, Nissan is targeting young couples without kids who won't usually do things like stack plywood or baby strollers in their Murano.

    Some of the Murano's updates don't translate well in words and must be experienced. The 2009 model sits atop the new D-platform, which is shared with the 2007 Altima Sedan and 2008 Altima Coupe. Nissan brags that the new underpinnings bring greatly-improved stiffness and noise isolation. Without an old Murano handy for back-to-back comparisons, it's hard to say how different the two crossovers are, but we can say that the 2009 handled itself quietly and confidently over Atlanta's decaying streets, traffic-congested highways and through the twists and turns of Georgia's countryside.

    Nissan mates its Xtronic S-CVT to the Altima's VQ-Series 3.5 liter V6 in the '09 Murano, which gives the crossover 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Despite my personal dislike for CVTs, the Murano's works pretty well. You'll still experience that initial lag when starting from a dead stop, but the intolerable wait before engine step-down is greatly improved and disappears entirely by taking advantage of the overdrive cutoff on the shifter. A firm press on the gas while moving will almost instantly invoke the engine's horses and, with a hearty growl from the dual pipes, you and your Murano will be breaking traffic laws left and right.

    We were also able to test the vehicle's speed sensing steering when one of Atlanta's, um, less-than-courteous drivers decided his Jaguar would better catch the sunlight in our lane rather than his own. A potentially nasty accident was avoided with nothing more dramatic than a barely audible string of profanities from this Autoblog staffer. Some credit for the maneuver also goes to our sample vehicle's all-wheel-drive system with vehicle dynamics control as well as yaw rate control. The AWD system's computer can transfer as much as 50% of engine power to the rear wheels, which in this case proved quite handy.



    In normal driving situations, 100% of the car's motivation comes from the front wheels alone, essentially making the Murano a front-wheel-drive vehicle until the rears are needed in slippery situations. Nissan says this allows the AWD and FWD models to get the exact same fuel-economy numbers of 18 city/23 highway. Though premium fuel is suggested if you want all those 265 horses, we're told the performance difference on regular is all but imperceptible. We'll be the judge of that when we get one in the Autoblog Garage later this year.

    We only had a few hours in two different Muranos, so unfortunately we can't give it a full review, but we liked the new dual-panel glass roof (even at $1,170), the heated and reclining rear seats, the optional iPod connection that worked with our iPhone, the car's confidence-inspiring handling, quiet interior, and the grocery bag holder cribbed from the Rogue. The Murano's glove box was also refreshingly huge. A Nissan rep said a 15-inch laptop could even be stowed inside its gaping maw.

    On the other hand, we disappointed with the car's preliminary EPA numbers. Surely more than 18 mpg can be squeezed out of a CVT. We asked if a hybrid or even a diesel Murano was in the works, but only got a smile and "We don't talk about future product" response. The pushbutton start is a neat gimmick, but it's just that. Same goes for the power open and close lift gate. They're great on minivans and larger SUVS for moms loaded with baby and stuff, but Nissan doesn't expect baby mommas to be buying the Murano. I can lift my own rear hatch, thanks. We were told that Muranos ordered with the optional navigation system get touch screens in their dashes, but both vehicles we drove were nav-free. We were forced to plod through screen after screen of data using numerous buttons just to change radio stations.

    One more negative is that despite the fact that RCA audio and video input jacks are located behind the center console, there's no corresponding power plug back there. In fact, we only found two power plugs in the whole car: one beneath the center stack up front and another beneath the center armrest. One more power plug for rear passengers' accessories would've been nice.

    So the 2009 Nissan Murano has gotten a little bigger on the outside, a little smaller on the inside, gained some weight and power, and has upgraded its wardrobe to better stand out in the crowd. And, lucky you, Nissan has dropped the price on all 2009 models. The cheapest you'll be able to get a Murano will be $26,330 for a 2WD S model. Add $1,600 for a 4WD S. A top-of-the-line Murano LE AWD will run on up near $35,910.

    Before I added a kid to the family, the new Murano's driving dynamics, super quiet ride and upgraded interior would have put it on my shopping list. As a family man, however, the Murano's entry price, cargo space and fuel economy are enough to have me looking elsewhere.

    Live Photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.

    Nissan provided the vehicles for testing. Autoblog does not accept travel or lodging from automakers when attending media events.

    Stylish, roomy, refined midsize crossover SUV.

    Introduction

    An all-new Nissan Murano debuted for the 2009 model year and it carries into 2010 unchanged. This second-generation Murano is several steps more radically styled than the original. There are many more curves in the body sheetmetal, a much bigger, shinier grille with a less-busy air intake under it, very large, bold, seven-element headlamps, and a completely new rear-end design, more horizontal than vertical, with dual exhaust ports under the bumper. 

    Most Muranos come with 18-inch wheels, with 20-inch wheels standard on the top LE model. But once you get beyond the grille and the headlamps, the only chrome on the curvy body shell is the door handles. This design strategy lets the body and the paint do all the talking. The new body is almost two points better in aerodynamic performance than the previous version, improved from a Cd of 0.39 to 0.37. The more slippery design should mean better highway mileage and less wind noise. 

    Meanwhile, the flexible, stretchable platform underneath the Murano has been reinforced from front to rear, and fitted with several additional bumper beams and crossmembers, for the heavier duty cycles a crossover sport ute encounters. It's roughly 150 percent stiffer than the previous version. This is meaningful not only in terms of crash safety and survival, but also in terms of long-term durability and reliability for those buyers who aren't going to be back in the market for six or eight years. Things like doors and hoods and hinges will stay where they are put because the frame is strong to start with. 

    Changes for 2010 are relatively minor. The LE is now available with front-drive only as well as all-wheel-drive, and standard equipment has been added at all trim levels. 

    Murano is named after two different luxury items from two very different parts of the world, Murano art glass from Italy and Murano pearls from Japan, which is a good thing, considering it's sold in more than 130 countries. 

    Lineup

    The 2010 Nissan Murano lineup comes in three trim levels: S, SL, and LE. All three are now offered with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). 

    Murano S FWD ($28,050) and AWD ($29,650) come with fabric upholstery; six-way manually adjustable driver's seat; 60/40 split folding rear seat; dual-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; the usual power windows, locks and mirrors; six-speaker audio with six-CD changer, MP3/WMA playback and auxiliary input; and three 12-volt power outlets. Added for 2010 are Intelligent Key and privacy glass. Factory options are limited to splash guards ($125), but dealers can install a rear bumper protector ($100), carpeted floor and cargo mats ($185), a retractable cargo cover ($230), and an aero body kit ($1,865). 

    Murano SL FWD ($29,600) and AWD ($31,200) add front fog lights, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio switches, eight-way power driver seat, a power return for the rear seatbacks and, new for 2010, roof rails and a security system. Options expand greatly for the SL. The Premium Package ($1,000) consists of an 11-speaker Bose audio with XM Satellite radio and auxiliary audio/video inputs, RearView Monitor, 7-inch QVGA color display, auto-dimming inside mirror with compass and HomeLink, cargo cover, and cargo organizer. The Technology Package ($1,500) combines Bluetooth with a power liftgate, automatic xenon headlights with manual leveling, rain-sensing wipers and heated outside mirrors. Also available are heated leather seats with power passenger seat ($1,600) and a dual-panel power glass sunroof ($1,200). But some packages can only be ordered with other packages, so see your dealer for details

    Murano LE FWD ($36,580) and AWD ($38,180) make the contents of the Premium and Technology packages standard, plus the leather seats (with heat front and rear) and dual-panel sunroof; and add a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; memory function for the seats, mirrors and steering wheel; silver accents on the roof rails; and 20-inch alloy wheels. 

    Both SL and LE can be ordered with Navigation ($1,850), a dual-screen DVD system with screens mounted in the front-seat headrests ($1,510), an integrated DVD system with a single nine-inch overhead screen ($1,600), roof rail cross bars ($100), and illuminated door sills ($280), plus all the accessories offered on the basic S. 

    Standard safety features include dual-stage frontal air bags, seat-mounted side-impact air bags (for torso protection), roof-mounted curtain air bags (for head protection), active head restraints in the front row (for whiplash protection), antilock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), traction control, and electronic stability control. Murano also comes with seatbelts; be sure to use them, because seatbelts are your first line of defense in a crash. 

    Walkaround

    The Nissan Murano made a strong statement with its swoopy lines when it was originally introduced as a 2003 model. The Murano was among the first of a new wave of space-efficient crossover SUVs that were highly styled. Sharing much of its design with the stylish Nissan Rogue launched in late 2007, the latest Murano takes crossover styling another step further. 

    Murano now has a bolder grille and a more aggressive front end design than that of the successful original. The grille is more in-your-face, and the air intakes under the bumper have been simplified. Very complex aero headlamps hang off the front corners of the body and gracefully lead into the fenders. 

    Bumper to bumper, this Murano has much more sculpted sheetmetal than the original, with swoops and sweeps and dips from end to end. Nissan calls it curvaceous modern art. One feature that affects both the exterior and interior is the optional dual-panel moonroof that lets huge amounts of light into the cabin, but looks from the outside like a single pane of glass covering two thirds of the roof area. 

    Interior

    Nissan redesigned the Murano interior for 2009, starting over with a much more inviting, better organized, and much more modern and user-friendly package of instrumentation and controls, including a new center console and new graphics. Like the new exterior styling, those changes have been carried over for 2010. 

    In terms of comfort, we found the new seats more comfortable and supportive than those in the previous version. Every model has a tilt/telescope steering column (manual or power) to accommodate more body types and leg lengths. 

    Everything on the instrument panel is well marked, and easy to use. The instruments are large, graphically clean and clear, and bathed in red-orange lighting day or night. The multi-function steering wheel is beefier, with better function buttons. The multi-controller knob at the top center of the dash has been redesigned for ease of use. The base AM/FM/CD sound system has been modernized, with a total of six speakers and the inclusion of an AUX plug on lower models and full iPod integration on the LE version, with full control and track information displayed on the central screen. The same deeply hooded screen is used for navigation, backup camera, telephone, HVAC, and radio displays. Pushbutton ignition is standard on all models. 

    The interior and exterior dimensions are all within an inch of the previous-generation model, which means Murano is as roomy and comfortable in the front and second seats as any five-seater on the market, and holds about the same volume of cargo. Many of the midsize crossover SUVs that compete with the Murano, such as the Toyota Highlander, were designed to accommodate three rows of seats. The Murano was designed for just two rows, so the second row in the Murano tends to be roomier than the second row of seats in other vehicles in this class. Bottom line: The back seats of a Murano are comfortable and very roomy for two adults. 

    For maximum cargo space, the back seats flip down quickly and easily, and there are two different cargo storage systems available, depending on model. 

    Driving Impression

    We test drove a Nissan Murano SL, the middle model. Ours was equipped with all-wheel drive ($31,200) and loaded with the DVD and Navigation, plus the Moonroof and the Technology Package, both of which require the Leather Package, which in turn requires the Premium Package. So our options added $8,750 to the bottom line (total $39,950, plus destination and delivery) but made for a very nice, fully equipped vehicle for family travel. 

    Nissan's previous V6 earned awards, and its new V6 produces 25 horsepower more than the old engine, up from 240 to 265 hp at 6,000 rpm, a 10-percent hike you can feel every time you accelerate at full throttle. Torque is 248 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm. The engine uses continuous valve timing control and variable induction for maximum flexibility under varying loads, meaning it responds quickly anytime you hit the gas. 

    All Murano models come with an Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission instead of a conventional automatic, and this CVT has been thoroughly tuned to the engine's power and torque curves. The CVT is lighter and has fewer moving parts than a traditional automatic, but also has software that makes it act more like a conventional transmission, shifting 30-percent quicker than its predecessor, which means the engine doesn't drone on at high rpm during full-throttle acceleration away from a stop. Nissan says it's also adaptive to each driver's style and habits. Based on our test drive, we'd have to say it's one of the best CVTs out there. It's controlled by an inline floor shifter that replaces the previous generation's notched-gate shifter for much less wasted motion. 

    We won't go as far as to say there's a night-and-day difference between the first and second-generation Muranos, but almost. The new vehicle is much quieter in terms of mechanical, wind and road noise. The engine is much more willing, and the CVT transmission shifts properly, kicks down quickly, and lets the engine operate just above idle at freeway speeds, which is another way that it saves on fuel costs for the owner in addition to the reduced internal friction. 

    The Murano's front and rear suspension is now made entirely of cast aluminum pieces, lighter and faster to respond to inputs, very well isolated from the cabin, and features a set of premium shock absorbers with built-in rebound springs to handle the big impacts. The new premium shocks help the suspension keep the body flat and straight in the long sweepers and they absorb bumps and potholes very well. The TOPS speed-sensitive steering is relatively quick and has some feel to it, so it's not completely isolated and not completely numb or dead at the steering wheel. 

    All-wheel-drive versions of the Murano now list for $1,600 more than their front-drive counterparts. The AWD is set for 50/50 front-rear torque distribution, but can switch up or down to 0/100 or 100/0 depending on driving conditions. That puts the traction down to the tires with the best grip, improving traction and handling stability in slippery, inconsistent conditions, such as rain, snow and ice. Murano's AWD also connects with the stability control system's sensors for yaw rate, wheel slip, and steering angle for safer control under those conditions as well. 

    Summary

    There is a huge number of competent, comfortable, convenient and roomy crossover SUVs available on the American market, but we think the Nissan Murano ranks right up there with the best of them. We like the Murano very much, inside and out. It's good looking, easy to use, reasonably powerful, and won't use up all your money on gasoline. 

    Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of a Murano SL outside Scottsdale, Arizona. 

    Model Lineup

    Nissan Murano S FWD ($28,050); S AWD ($29,650); SL FWD ($29,600); SL AWD ($31,200); LE FWD ($36,580); LE AWD ($38,180). 

    Assembled In

    Japan. 

    Options As Tested

    Model Tested

    Nissan Murano SL AWD ($31,200). 

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