For the first time since it debuted for 2004 as one of the earlier car-based SUVs, typically called crossovers, the midsize Murano five-seater has been redesigned and reengineered for the new model year. The 2009 Muranos hit dealerships early in January 2008. There is no 2008 model. In price and size, the Murano competes with the Ford Edge, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.
There are no dramatic changes, but the model has been refined in virtually every respect — inside, outside and under the skin. There are three trim levels: S, SL and LE. The lower two come with front- or all-wheel drive. The LE comes only with AWD.
The front end gets a bolder appearance in the form of new headlight clusters and a new grille, with optional bi-xenon headlights. Fog lights are standard on SL and LE versions, but the greater change is to the rear end. It's not as bulbous, but it still has some distinctive shapes, including a rear window styled to improve rear visibility. LED taillights and dual chrome tailpipes are standard, and a roof rack is optional. A power liftgate is optional on the SL and standard on the LE.
Alloy wheels come in 18- or 20-inch sizes, depending on the trim level chosen. New paint colors include Deep Sapphire, Tinted Bronze and Saharan Stone.
Nissan has upped the quality of the Murano's interior, which comes in one of two colors — Cafe Latte and Charcoal — and can incorporate double-stitched leather, aluminum or wood trim. There are new front seats and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, including a powered version on the Murano LE.
A 7-inch dashboard display is available for controlling features, and it supports RearView Monitor and navigation system options. Other options include heated front and rear seats, power return for the folding backseat, a power liftgate, a pop-up cargo organizer and rain-sensing wipers.
The standard stereo has AM/FM radio, a six-CD changer and an auxiliary input jack for connecting an MP3 player. (The Murano LE offers an Apple iPod connector for controlling playback through the stereo.) Optional entertainment systems include Bose premium audio, a 9.3GB hard drive for storing digital music, XM Satellite Radio and a DVD video system for the backseat that features a power-folding 9-inch screen.
Nissan's familiar 3.5-liter V-6 powers the Murano, here producing 265 horsepower and 248 pounds-feet of torque. As before, the transmission is a continuously variable one, called Xtronic, which is one of the most time-proven ones on the market.
A pushbutton start system is now standard, as is an electronic stability system with traction control. According to Nissan, the all-wheel drive communicates with the stability system for coordinated control in low-traction situations.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution are standard. In addition to the required front airbags, the Murano has side-impact airbags for the front occupants and side curtains to protect both rows of seats. The curtains are designed to deploy in the event of a rollover, too. The front seats also get active head restraints that move forward to cushion the occupant's head in a rear collision.