The Good: The 2006 Nissan Murano's navigation system calculates routes quickly, and voice guidance speaks street names. Electronic systems keep the car on the road, while the continuously variable transmission lends to a smooth ride. The Bad: The joystick interface for the 2006 Nissan Murano's vehicle systems is touchy, and it can be annoying to input destinations for the navigation system. There is no Bluetooth compatibility. The Bottom Line: Even though pricey when fully loaded, the 2006 Nissan Murano offers a lot of nice and useful gadgets in an overall solid platform, although the lack of cell phone integration is a strange oversight. 2006 Nissan Murano SEThe new 2006 Nissan Murano includes a few welcome upgrades to its optional navigation system's route-finding ability and speed over the previous model year. The LCD and joystick control, unfortunately, are still less than optimum. On-road adventurers will appreciate the Murano's usefully sized and comfortable interior, as well as its convenient configurability. Murano models are offered in both front- and all-wheel-drive trim. All use Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6 in 245 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of trim, with that power transmitted to the wheels through the Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Our test vehicle was the top-of-the-line SE, which comes with sporty and upscale standard features, including all-wheel drive, a sport-tuned suspension, fancy trim, and a useful backup video camera.The 2006 Nissan Murano SE's $31,550 base price is very reasonable. But add options--which on this one were the $4,650 SE Touring package with Sirius Satellite Radio, along with a 225-watt Bose audio system with MP3 CD capability and a subwoofer; the $1,720 Nissan Mobile DVD entertainment package; $90 carpeted floor mats; a useful $80 rubber cargo-area protector; the $750 Dynamic Control Package with VDC stability control, traction control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system; the $1,800 DVD navigation system; $1,200 chrome wheels; and a $605 destination charge--and it's $42,445. At that price point, it has to compete with the lower end of the luxury SUV segment, which it does quite well.The optional intelligent key makes entering the 2006 Nissan Murano easy. Hit the Unlock button on the fob, or with key in pocket, just walk up to either front door and press the small, black rubberized button on the door handle. Locking is the reverse--you press the button after exiting. The Murano starts with a twist of a rotary switch on the dash next to the steering column. Inside, the 2006 Nissan Murano fits the contemporary Nissan mold perfectly. Much like its exterior, its interior is busily styled but cohesive, with many interesting shapes and a variety of materials and textures, including real aluminum-veneer trim. On the highway, the Murano is quiet but not overly so, more comparable to an upper-middle-class sedan such as a Nissan Maxima than a luxury car. The 2006 Nissan Murano's front seats provide good support, and in our test car, they were both power adjustable. Along with the front seats, the manually tilt-adjustable steering column, and the power-adjustable pedals, the perfect driving position is easily available and can be stored in memory, as is the outside mirror position. Rear passengers get good headroom and shoulder room, as well as a flat floor. The rear seat is split 60\/40, with each seat back adjustable for angle. The seat backs also fold flat to make a usefully large and easily accessible cargo area. The 2006 Nissan Murano's interior works well from an ergonomic standpoint. The main instrument pod looks to be out of a video game console, but the orange-backlit gauges are easy on the eyes and readily visible in all lighting. The steering wheel has a comfortably thick leather-covered rim, as well as cruise and auxiliary-audio controls. The center of the dash and the hanging stack below it are home to the LCD and its associated controls. The screen remains the same as last year's; it could have had higher resolution and better definition.Pressing the joystick for the Enter function frequently makes it slip off to the side, creating unintended selections.The 2006 Nissan Murano's GPS navigation system has some major software upgrades that make it among the best for speed, accuracy, and route finding. Many navigation systems insistently nag the driver to turn around at every opportunity if the driver decides to follow a different route than prescribed. Not this one--it merely recalculates a new route, quickly and quietly. GPS-position acquisition is noticeably quicker than last year's Nissan system too. Route choices can be for shortest time, shortest distance, or no freeways.With the exception of an overly sensitive joystick toggle switch that functions as the cursor control and data-entry device, the 2006 Nissan Murano's system controls are very good. And they are about as intuitive as is possible for this type of system, with recourse to the manual only a last resort, not required reading before driving. You can control system functions by marked hard buttons below the screen, as well as vehicle electronics through the Settings button. The climate-control system is handled directly by regular rotary controls at the bottom of the stack, not nested deep in the menu structure.Typical of Nissan's navigation-system implementations, the map may be viewed in plan or bird's-eye view--or in a split screen with both. The apparent height of the bird's-eye view is also adjustable. Destinations may be chosen by one character at a time via the joystick--with software guessing how to fill in names (tedious and not necessarily convenient), a previous destination list, and a database of points of interest--or by cursor movement on the map. The joystick must be pressed in carefully; it's all too easy to move the cursor when trying to mark a location on the map or choose a letter in alphanumeric-entry mode. Unusually, a new destination may be chosen while the Murano is underway but only at low speeds and from the address book or list of previous destinations. The voice guidance includes text to speech, letting the system read out the names of streets.The rearview monitor aids maneuvering with animated lines that indicate the vehicle's path.The 2006 Nissan Murano's LCD shows the view from the rearview monitor (standard in SL and SE models) in reverse. Since the wide-angle view is different from a human eye's perspective, colored lines indicating projected path and distance are overlaid on the display. This turns a novelty into a useful tool, although a wiper for the camera lens could improve the view in wet weather. The system is just plain wonderful at night.The optional Bose audio system sounds good and is versatile, with AM, FM, and Sirius Satellite Radio; XM is also available. The in-dash six-CD changer can play MP3 CDs and display ID3 tagging information, but there is no direct MP3 player jack. There is, however, a cassette deck.The 2006 Nissan Murano's available rear-seat DVD system claims most of the front console, with the player in the console box. The screen folds up from the top of the console, conveniently below the driver's rear vision but readily visible to rear passengers. Bluetooth cell phone integration is not offered in the Murano.The 2006 Nissan Murano is a distinctive take on the two-box SUV plan. The high roofline, short overhangs, large wheels and tires, and metallic faux front-skid plate (new this year) say truck, but its busy but cohesive styling, full-width chrome grille, faired-in HID headlamps, highly raked windshield, and distinctive LED taillights say car. And underneath, it is a car. The 2006 Nissan Murano shares Nissan's FF-L platform with the Altima and Maxima sedans, and it's not much of a stretch of the imagination to see it as an Altima or a Maxima wagon made tall. It was not designed with serious off-road use in mind. Since the Murano is not a sports car, and its tall stance improves the driver's visibility and interior space, the height is more a plus than a minus. Power for all Murano models is from Nissan's 3.5-liter, twin-cam aluminum-alloy engine, mounted transversely. It makes 245 horsepower at 5,800rpm, with 246 pound-feet of torque at 4,400rpm. Continuously variable-valve timing and a variable-length intake manifold help improve power delivery and reduce emissions to an LEV-2 level. Other models are available with front- or all-wheel drive, but the SE is AWD only, all the better to get that power to the pavement.Although the Murano has a CVT transmission, it can be manually shifted to virtual gears.Also helping power delivery is CVT, here called Xtronic by Nissan for its electronic controls. No transmission shifts more smoothly than one that doesn't shift at all, and the CVT adds refinement to the Murano. In the SE, it's also manually shiftable. Virtual gears are programmed into the transmission-control software. Rarely does manual shifting improve acceleration, a tribute to the transmission's design and engineering.The 2006 Nissan Murano's weight, frontal area, and rather unaerodynamic shape (coefficient of drag of 0.39) negatively affect fuel economy. It's listed by the EPA at 19mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway; in mostly city driving with some highway time, we averaged 19, several miles per gallon less than that of a sedan but better than that of a truck-based SUV. The maximum trailer weight is 3,500 pounds.The 2006 Nissan Murano sits on a rigid platform with a fully independent suspension that uses struts in front and a multilink setup at the rear. As with other Nissans, SE means sporty, and here, that means firmer springs and matched shocks. The ride is firm but not too much so, and the Murano stays flat and controlled in corners. The SUV-size P235\/65 R18 tires on alloy wheels do add unsprung weight and hence a little thumpiness to the ride, but it's not objectionable. The speed-sensitive power steering allows easy parking and low-speed maneuverability without being overly sensitive at highway speeds.The skid plate in the front bumper won't fool your typical off-road obstruction, but 7 inches of ground clearance can come in handy in the urban\/suburban jungle, as can the AWD. During our week with the 2006 Nissan Murano SE, we were treated to an early-season rainstorm. Several inches of standing water on the roadway didn't faze the Murano at all, even at speeds of up to 40mph. When it comes time to stop, the 2006 Nissan Murano's standard antilock brakes do the job, aided by electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. The zone-body construction of the Murano's FF-L platform, as well as its front and rear crumple zones, side reinforcement, and energy-absorbing steering column, helps protect occupants in a crash, as do standard front, front-side, and side curtain air bags with rollover sensors. Optional for $750 and highly recommended is the Dynamic Control Package, consisting of the TCS traction-control system; a VDC (vehicle dynamic control) system that reduces engine torque and\/or applies one or more individual brakes to reduce understeer or oversteer; and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Like all 2006 Nissans, the Murano is covered by a 36-month\/36,000-mile limited warranty, with five years\/60,000 miles of limited power train coverage and a five-year\/unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty. Emissions-system coverage varies by location, 24 months\/24,000 miles for federal requirements and 36 months\/50,000 miles for California-spec states. A factory extended warranty is available.