Nissan Murano’s beauty is on the inside – USATODAY.com

15 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Nissan Murano’s beauty is on the inside – USATODAY.com
Nissan Diesel

In the preschool parking lot, cheek-by-jowl with a typical parental array #8212; CX-9, XC70, CR-V, various minivans #8212; one thing stands out about the new Nissan Murano SUV.

It is ugggg-lee. The tugged-back grille resembles the skeletal smile of a dead dog many days gone. Or something discarded as too weird for the Mad Max movies.

And the rump. Nissan seems to have adopted some of the worst elements from other brands. Mainly, the needlessly oval rear window and the too-large, reverse-slant rear roof pillar, both of which pinch rear vision.

Nissan brags about the new body as modern art that maintains the vehicle’s Murano-ness.

To avoid gagging, quick, jump inside. Here, it’s a lovely machine. Classy presentation, nothing tries too hard. Might mistakenly think you’re in a lux-mobile.

Seats are unusually comfortable. Controls have a smooth, premium feel. Gauges are fetchingly illuminated.

Nissan has moved away from the weak, cheap-looking orange color of the past to something closer to red.

And here’s a bonus. The ’09 Murano was rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earlier this week, one of nine midsize SUVs so designated. The Murano scored well in front, side and rear crash tests by IIHS, and stability control now is standard, not optional.

You don’t know what kind of crash you’re going to get into, so you want a vehicle that affords the best protection in the most common kinds of crashes, says Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president. Test results are at www.iihs.org.

Two weeks in a high-end, $37,000 all-wheel-drive version was pleasant because:

#8226;Murano’s based on the redesigned Altima sedan, new for ’07, and that’s a nifty foundation. Delivers good handling and a confident ride, among other advantages.

#8226;Nissan’s 3.5-liter V-6 is a champ. Though tuned for smoothness in the Murano, rather than the squealing delight it provokes in some other models, it slings and zings the two-ton SUV as your right foot requests. Of course, the more requests from your right foot the more you’ll wear out your wallet reaching for gas money.

You’ll be lucky to hit 16 mpg in the burbs if you’re an enthusiastic driver.

#8226;The CVT #8212; continuously variable automatic transmission #8212; is upgraded for the ’09 Murano and upholds Nissan’s reputation as among the best. Such transmissions, done wrong, make you feel as if you’re piloting a machine with a slipping clutch.

Nissan’s voodoo doctors have breathed on the system so the vehicle does, in fact, snap ahead more or less on par with the engine speed. And there’s a distinct kick-down feel. The CVT jumps from a cruising ratio to a sprinting ratio without going through everything in between.

There is no manual-shift mode with a few preselected ratios for your frisky days, though. Nobody bought it when it was offered, and the revised CVT gives you about as much control, Nissan says. For instance, tap the brakes on a steep slope, and the transmission shifts into a ratio that’ll use engine braking to keep the Murano in control without requiring riding the brakes.

What might bug you about the new Murano, assuming you get by the styling:

#8226;Hidden switches. The ones that operate the optional power up/down tailgate and the fuel-flap latch are tucked under the dashboard by the driver’s left knee. Can’t see ’em.

They operate by feel, meaning you unlatch the gas flap when you meant to open the tailgate.

Toggles for the heated seats are more visible, on the center console, but are an awkward reach.

#8226;Instrument lighting wouldn’t dim enough on the test machine to avoid eroding your night vision. Murano’s dimmer goes from almost low enough to off.

#8226;The rear seat won’t slide back and forth, as many now do. Nissan says the Murano has plenty of room for cargo (agreed) and back-seat passengers (uh, well #8230;) and doesn’t need the feature. Sounds a little like whistling past the graveyard.

Wanna bet the next Murano’ll have sliders?

#8226;The tire pressure warning is the general kind. The light illuminates on the instrument panel, and you have to hop out (perhaps in windy, 20-degree weather, as in the test) to examine the tires to see if any looks flat enough that you have to call for help. If all are more or less round, and you chance the miles to a fuel station with an air pump, you have to check each tire to find which is low.

That’s not the right way to do it. It’s the cheap and, therefore, common way to meet federal regulations requiring a tire warning. Best is one type that tells you the pressure in each tire so you can make informed decisions.

But it can cost $100 more per vehicle.

The test vehicle emitted a whine when cold and being turned sharply while accelerating slightly, the combo typical when you leave a parking space. The whine vanished as the vehicle warmed. Nissan says it was unable to duplicate the noise.

Murano’s combination of distinctive appearance, comfortable yet sporty road manners and high-class interior probably will be enough to outweigh the gripes for those considering such a vehicle.

2009 Nissan Murano

#8226;What is it? Updates four-door, midsize crossover SUV introduced as a 2004 model and due for refreshing. Front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), made at Kyushu, Japan.

#8226;How soon? Out since Jan. 15.

#8226;How much? S FWD starts at $27,075 ($745 destination fee). Loaded LE AWD is about $42,000.

#8226;How many? Old one averaged 6,363 a month last year, off 6.2% from the year before.

#8226;What’s the competition? Ford Edge, Dodge Journey, Subaru Tribeca.

#8226;What’s the drivetrain? 3.5-liter V-6 rated 265 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 248 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm, continuously variable automatic transmission, traction control.

Optional AWD operates as FWD, sends up to 50% of power to rear when fronts slip or for stability.

#8226;What’s the safety gear? Belts, side bags in front, head-curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, stability system.

#8226;What’s the rest? Standard are climate control; AM/FM/six-CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input; power steering, brakes, windows, locks, mirrors; cruise control; tilt and telescoping steering column; trip computer; remote locks.

#8226;How big? Almost dead-on Ford Edge #8212; 188.5 inches long, 74.1 inches wide, 67 inches tall on a 111.2-inch wheelbase. Weight: 3,855 lbs. to 4,134 lbs. Passenger space: 108.6 cubic feet.

Cubic feet cargo space: 31.8 behind rear seat, 64.5 with second row down. Rated to tow 3,500 lbs. Carries 1,091 lbs. (LE AWD) to 1,246 lbs. (S AWD) of people, cargo.

Curb-to-curb turning circle diameter 38.1 feet with 18-inch wheels, 39.4 feet with 20-inch wheels.

#8226;How thirsty? Rated 18 miles per gallon in town, 23 on the highway, 20 combined. Test vehicle trip computer read 16.4 mpg in 300 miles of suburban driving.

Premium fuel (91 octane or higher) recommended, regular OK if you’ll accept a 3% drop in power.

#8226;Overall: #160;Nightmare styling, sweet-dream performance.

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