Built on Nissan's "D" platform (the same as the Altima sedan and coupe), the Murano got a revamp in 2009 – a bit of body tweaking here and there, some drivetrain upgrades, a new interior design and a new front grille, among other things.
The new grille treatment replaced the original, which had received mixed reviews since the Murano debuted in 2003, and the former Cheshire cat grin was mitigated to make it less idiosyncratic. Nissan stylists overhauled the wheel arches, and cleaned up the back end while they were at it, and described the '09 Murano as "curvaceous."
Either way, the result was a more mainstream-look ing SUV that bore some resemblance to its chief rival, the Acura RDX, and maybe even the Mazda CX-7.
Power was still supplied by Nissan's tried-and-true VQ-series V-6 that, in this configuration, developed 265 horsepower (up 25 hp over the 2008 model) and the only transmission choice was Nissan's Xtronic constantly variable transmission (CVT).
The Murano's engine was also repositioned a little lower in the platform for improved torque transfer and the CVT featured an Adaptive Shift Control system. In a nutshell, this arrangement incorporated various driving scenarios – at least 700, according to Nissan – that represent different situations, and the built-in memory system applied them to the current driving conditions. Nissan says the revised CVT had 20 per cent less friction than the previous version.
As of 2009, all Muranos sold in Canada also had Nissan's ATTESA AWD system as standard equipment. With a front-drive bias, this setup starts the vehicle off in 4WD and then transfers power to the appropriate driving wheel(s) as conditions warrant. In straight-ahead normal highway cruising, for example, you're basically in front-wheel-drive, but when the front wheels turn, torque is transferred to the rear wheels – up to a maximum of 50 per cent. Traction control and vehicle dynamic control systems were also standard issue.
There were interior changes as well. The centre stack was restyled, as were the steering wheel, seats and rear cargo area. One interesting little highlight was a pop-up rear cargo organizer located beneath the rear deck that is partitioned off into three removable sections for carrying groceries and such.
Three trim levels were offered in 2009: S, SL and LE, and standard equipment included push-button start, power windows, climate control, automatic locking doors, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and an audio system with CD player and MP3 capability.
Depending on the model, you could also order a power fold-up/flip-down rear seat, heated front seats, leather interior, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power rear liftgate, back-up monitor with camera, navigation system, "top-loading" power glass moon roof and high-intensity headlights.
Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have four safety recall notices on file for the 2009 Murano. These include daytime running lights that can burn out prematurely, issues with the tire-pressure monitoring system and problems with the passenger-side front airbag. This latter item can malfunction if the vehicle's battery is allowed to "significantly" discharge itself – from being left too long with the ignition switch on, for example.
To this, we can add a hefty 32 technical service bulletins from NHTSA. These run the gamut, from doors that won't lock/unlock properly, to a "grinding and knocking" noise emanating from the back of the vehicle during low-speed turns on gravel, to an advisory that "strongly discourages" aftermarket chroming of the stock alloy wheels, to head and taillight lenses fogging up. This last problem is not a defect as such, according to NHTSA, but a common issue with all vehicles, regardless of manufacturer, and is caused by atmospheric and climate changes.
Despite good marks in just about every area, Consumer Reports gives this vintage of the Murano an average used-car prediction rating, mainly because of issues with the electrical system. Some comments from owners: "The back seat is poorly designed and very uncomfortable," "Windshield wipers do NOT work well in bad weather" and "Poor vision out back on drivers' side."
From a base price of $37,600 in 2009, the Murano has dropped in value by $10,000 to $12,000, depending upon the model and equipment level. Base S versions are in the low-$20,000 neighbourhood, while you can spend close to $30,000 for a loaded LE.
Tech specs: 2009 Nissan Murano
Original Base Price: $37,648; Black Book: $24,175-$28,425; Red Book: $22,125-$27,500
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 265 hp/248 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.8 city/8.7 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Mazda CX-7, Acura RDX, Lexus RX350, Subaru Tribeca, Hyundai Veracruz, BMW X3, Volvo XC70