Second-hand: 2009-2012 Nissan Murano
The trouble with ground-breaking design is that it’s hard to break that ground twice.
Daring curves, a steeply raked windshield and upswept D-pillars coalesced to give the 2003 Nissan Murano great curbside appeal, distinguishing it instantly from the Maytag-inspired Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.
When it came time to restyle the Murano for 2009, product planners decided the second-generation crossover should be evolutionary in its design progress, not revolutionary, so as not to jinx the Murano’s sales success.
Casual observers may be excused for failing to distinguish the new Murano from the outgoing model. All the good stuff was hidden under the familiar skin.
“Quick and smooth, (it) really does give the luxe SUVs a run for less money,” reads one owner’s thumbs-up assessment online.
Rather than use the heavy truck frame anchoring the Pathfinder and Xterra, engineers again turned to the automobile platform underpinning the Altima mid-size sedan, which had been freshly renewed for 2007.
A re-engineered independent suspension with lightweight aluminum pieces, front and rear, and a new speed-sensitive steering system made the Murano a surprisingly adept means of driving.
The cabin was finished markedly better than it was in the previous model. It had plenty of soft-touch materials along with cool aluminum accents and a cornucopia of luxury features
While negligibly smaller, the passenger space, for five only, was better allotted than in the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-7, two closely shopped competitors. Cargo space was not quite class-leading, however.
“Exterior design sacrifices size for a sleek look, making it more difficult to park and manoeuvre,” advised one owner. “Get the back-up camera!”
As before, Nissan’s VQ 3.5-L V6 remained the lone engine, but fortified with a higher compression ratio and variable intake system to yield 265 hp. and 248 lbs.-ft. of torque. Jatco, Nissan’s transmission division, supplied the continuously variable transmission (CVT) updated to emulate a conventional automatic better with its adaptive-shift-control software and quicker ratio changes.
A new “predictive” all-wheel-drive system that proportioned power to the rear axle in anticipation of slip (such as occurs when the vehicle is accelerating from a standstill) contributed to the Murano’s secure handling and surprising agility. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake-assist[ance], stability-control, active front head restraints and curtain airbags were standard across the range.
The Murano earned a minor renovation for 2011; it had a revised front fascia and grille, LED taillights, redesigned 18-inch wheels and a new instrument cluster. Engine output was downgraded slightly to 260 hp. (and 240 lbs.-ft. of torque), but did not result in a hoped-for boost in fuel economy.
That year, also marked the debut of the bizarre Murano CrossCabriolet, a defiant attempt to marry a sport-utility with a convertible. It eschewed four doors for two longer portals, and a soft top with an overhead glass panel. From the Juke people, naturally.
On the road
Thanks to its muscular, all-aluminum V6 and seamless-shifting CVT transmission, the Murano is no slacker on the road. Zero to 96 km/h comes up in a relatively swift 6.9 seconds.
The steering is also quick and accurate in its response; it doesn’t drive as the weighty SUV it purports to be. The newer Murano might not be quite as athletic in its reflexes as the original, but it provides a more mature ride, and delivers quiet refinement in spades.
Some owners expressed disappointment with their gas mileage, which is considerably less than the EnerGuide numbers suggest it will be. Nissan recommends premium fuel, too.
What owners say
The second-gen. Murano won over customers with its decadent cabin, ample seating, high-tech features and spirited, all-weather drive-train. As the related Infiniti crossovers do, it emphasizes the sport in sport-utility.
Mechanically, the made-in-Japan Murano has performed more reliably than the original, which was plagued by some CVT transmission failures. With a vested interest in growing its Jatco subsidiary, Nissan instituted improvements in its belt-driven transmission design.
Unfortunately, late-model owners have reported problems with leaking transfer cases and head gaskets, although not in large numbers. Leaky coolant hoses were also identified.
The servo motor for the tilt steering wheel is known to malfunction, which can mean the wheel droops out of position. A worn plastic gear is said to be the culprit.
Other complaints: some faulty door and window mechanisms, short-lived batteries, bad oxygen and fuel sensors, and a few errant dash rattles.
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2009-12 Nissan Murano
WHAT’S BEST: Capable engine, smart all-wheel drive, thumbs its nose at convention.
WHAT’S WORST: Poor visibility out back, no third-row perches, leaky transfer cases.
TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2009: $18,000, 2011: $27,000