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CROSSOVER WITH AN ITALIAN ACCENT

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jul 19, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

CROSSOVER WITH AN ITALIAN ACCENT By Reed Berry

Nissan refers to it as 'The Future of the Crossover'. I don't want to attempt to predict the future but, for 2009, it appears that Nissan has done an admirable job of improving upon what has already become a popular crossover vehicle. Impressive performance and bold styling have been paired to create the Nissan Murano LE AWD. 2009 is a banner year for automakers. Unfortunately, the banners I'm referring to say 'Closing Sale' or 'Thanks for the Memories'. Yes, car brands are disappearing, as are the dealerships that sell them. Nissan seems to be flying under the radar by producing quality vehicles with features that appeal to car buyers. Such is the case with Murano.

It hasn't changed that drastically since the debut in the 2003 model year, so you would think that people are used to seeing Murano's unique body design. However, plenty of interested looks and pointing fingers as I make my way from Los Angeles to sunny Santa Barbara seem to indicate that consumers continue to be intrigued by Murano's futuristic look. A striking new front-end lighting cluster further enhances the sleek, aerodynamic appearance. Inside, Murano seems a lot less like an SUV and more closely resembles a luxury car. The upscale cabin of the LE features a sculpted dash with an attractive wood tone trim. The double-stitched leather front and rear seats are heated for comfort in colder weather. Sorry, no third row seating in the Murano as you will find on many similar vehicles. Designers wisely decided to maximize cargo space (a generous 64 cubic feet with the rear seat down) rather than adding a small third row seat. Directly in front of me is a seemingly endless array of buttons and other controls that perform every function from starting the vehicle and adjusting the interior comfort (dual-zone temperature, no less) to selecting my favorite form of entertainment. From the more traditional AM/FM receiver to the six-disc CD changer and XM Satellite Radio, everything sounds great on the Murano's Bose nine-speaker audio system. If I decide to listen to an iPod instead, there's a connector for that too.

Nissan has kicked the power up a bit on the new Murano. A 3.5-liter 265 horsepower V6 engine, an increase of 20-hp from the previous model, provides ample power and quick, confident acceleration. The continuously variable transmission and all-wheel-drive (standard on the LE) makes the vehicle quite responsive. The Murano handles quite well, thanks to speed-sensitive power steering, stabilizer bars and four-wheel independent suspension. Just when I thought I was enjoying the comfort and amenities of a luxury vehicle, however, Murano has given me a slight reminder that I am in an SUV. Like many other crossover vehicles and SUVs, the vehicle tends to bounce a bit when encountering bumps in the road. One thing I find quite appealing about this vehicle is that many of the features you may expect to be costly options actually come standard on the Murano LE. A dual-level center console provides plenty of room for organization and storage of personal items. The push of a button on the "Intelligent Key" opens and closes the power liftgate for easy access to the cargo compartment. There's even a 7-inch color monitor and rearview camera for safe backing.

Standard safety equipment on the Murano LE includes an advanced air bag system, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and traction control. A tire pressure monitoring system will keep you rolling safely while a Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer anti-theft device will provide a feeling of security as you leave your Murano. Available optional equipment for this vehicle is, in my opinion, worth the extra cost. A dual-panel moonroof ($1,170) is a welcome addition to a vehicle of this size and type. The Nissan Navigation System ($1,850) features touch screen GPS navigation plus a 9.3 GB hard drive for music storage and a compact flash slot. With an MSRP of $37,260 and fuel economy estimates of 18 city and 23 highway, does the Nissan Murano LE provide enough bang for your buck? There are plenty of crossover vehicles on the market with price tags on either side of the Murano so you'll have to do your homework and pick the one that best fits your lifestyle. For feature-packed driving fun, the Nissan Murano seems to offer a solid value for the price.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT High style, moderate cost, recession-resistant. For more information about Nissan products: www.nissanusa.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Nissan Murano LE AWD Price: MSRP: $37,260 As Tested: $41,305 EPA mileage estimates (city/highway): 18 / 23 Engine type: 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 engine; variable induction system Horsepower: 265 @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 248 @ 4,400 rpm Drive configuration: Intuitive All-Wheel-Drive system Transmission type: Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) Steering: Vehicle-speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering Suspension: Front: Independent strut suspension; stabilizer bar Rear: Multi-link independent suspension; stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: 20" alloy wheels; titanium finish P235/55R20 all-season tires Brakes: Four-wheel vented disc brakes; ABS; Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD); brake assist Overall length: 188.5 inches Overall width: 74.1 inches Overall height: 67.0 inches (without roof rails) 68.1 inches (with roof rails) Curb weight (lbs.): 4,141 lbs.

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