SUV once meant large, trucklike gas-guzzlers that, despite never being taken off road, seemed better suited to the actual jungle than the urban jungle. Enter the Nissan Murano. Ignoring the SUV's truck roots, Nissan created a vehicle that cast off all rugged pretenses and brought style to the boxy world of the SUV.
The 2009 Nissan Murano has received a styling evolution that is still distinctly "Murano," which is a good thing as the original model was quite a looker. The new model features new body lines that are more pronounced and muscular. The most obvious change is the new grille, which better integrates the headlamps into a single sculpted chrome element.
Test the tech: Backup Challenge
Our test model came equipped with the optional Premium Package, which included the Rearview Monitor backup camera. This afforded us the perfect opportunity to revisit the reverse obstacle course first attempted with the 2007 Audi A6 and try a new test we'd devised, a 90-degree reverse turn. Thus began the Backup Challenge.
The first test consisted of the backup zigzag course. Setting the cones up about a car length apart ensured that accuracy, not speed, would be ideal for success in this test. Drivers were only allowed to use the monitor to guide the vehicle through the cones.
First up was Associate Editor Antuan Goodwin. Activating the backup camera, which displays on the car's 7-inch monitor, was as simple as selecting reverse with the gearshifter. The onscreen guides adjust as the steering wheel is moved. Using these guides, he was able to easily clear the course, with three corrections to avoid hitting cones.
Next up was Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham. With experience gained from the previous test with the A6, surely he would be the obvious victor. Using an unorthodox wide sweeping technique, he managed to clear the first few cones effortlessly. It seemed as though he would taste success when disaster struck. A miscalculated midturn correction caused Cunningham to run over the last cone, disqualifying him (again) from this round of the competition.
The next test was a 90-degree reverse turn. We set up our cone course to simulate a narrow alley with a 90-degree bend at the end. The objective of this test was to navigate the vehicle into a parking spot at the end of the course.
Both competitors were able to complete this round with no cones touched. With a final score of 2 to 1, Goodwin was declared the winner of the Backup Challenge.
We were impressed by how useful the backup camera could be. The overlays were remarkably accurate in their depiction of where the Murano was going and what it would meet when it got there. On a vehicle like the Murano, with its huge rearward blind spots and high vertical clearance, the backup camera is definitely an option we'd recommend getting.
In the cabin
The 2009 Nissan Murano we tested came equipped with the Premium Package, which adds a nine speaker and two subwoofer Bose audio upgrade to the standard six-disc in-dash CD changer (that reads MP3/WMA CDs). The Bose system sounded great in the Murano's exceptionally quiet cabin. Stereo separation was clear and the addition of the dual subwoofers really filled the cabin with a rich, but not too boomy, sound. At higher volumes, some bass distortion and a few rattles could be heard, but with so little road/engine noise, there's really no reason to crank the system to the max.
The Premium package also includes the rearview camera tested earlier, XM satellite radio, and a 7-inch color display to tie everything together. Oddly, Nissan moved the aux-in from the dash to behind the center console and changed from a headphone jack to a composite RCA input, which adds the dual complication of being inaccessible from the driver's seat and requiring a 3.5mm standard plug to RCA adapter for MP3 players.
The LCD isn't touch screen and, as a result, you execute all commands using a rotary selector surrounded by a bank of buttons. Unfortunately, when we wanted to change sources, we had to reach down to yet another bank of buttons to do so. During the course of our test drive, we were constantly confused as to which bank of buttons we were supposed to use to navigate the system. If we wanted to check the fuel economy, we used the rotary selector and the top bank to get to our vehicle status. If we then wanted to change the XM radio station, we had to first hit the AUX button on the bottom bank twice, and then use the rotary selector to choose the station. With so much switching from this bank of buttons to that one, it was difficult to get comfortable using the system.