2009 Nissan Murano Ti Review & Road Test
New, shiny and hard wearing – it suits its namesake
– by Karl Peskett
What’s in a name? According to proverbial sources, it’s only after you’ve lived your life that your name has any meaning, but for a car it all starts at the beginning.
You’d have to ask yourself, will it have any relevance? Will the car be worthy of the name? Will we have to change it out of embarrassment, like from Gordon Sumner to Sting? Or like Reginald Dwight to Elton John. Let’s investigate Nissan’s Murano.
Murano is an island (or more correctly, an archipelago of islands) in the Venice Lagoon on the northern Italian coast, and was known as the centre of glass making of Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, Murano glass is still being produced with the emphasis on jewellery, and brightly coloured pieces. What does that have to do with the car?
You could say that the front end of Nissan’s Murano is quite jewel-like with its shiny, divided chrome grille, and multifaceted headlights. Road Test Editor Matt Brogan wasn’t overly impressed with the styling, but I think that as subtle as the changes are, they’ve made a huge improvement over the original. Even the chrome knurled dial for the dash menu is quite beautiful in detail.
You can see, though why the emphasis is now on design. The dynamic lifestyle car is supposedly the X-Trail, so rather than have two products competing in the same sporty SUV category, it was time to give the Murano more luxury. Concentrate on differentiating it from all previous iterations and influences.
According to Nissan Australia’s CEO, Dan Thompson, the shift in emphasis started from the inside out.
“We have changed the ambience of the cabin from sports activity to club lounge comfort”, said Mr Thompson. Isn’t that really an admission of guilt?
In other words, the previous Murano’s 350Z-style dials in the pod didn’t really work all that well, and Nissan’s opted for a more integrated look. Put simply, in this tester’s opinion, the new ones work where the old ones didn’t.
Similar to the redo of the X-Trail interior, the new Murano’s cabin is light-years away from its piecemeal, bitsy predecessor. The plastics are all excellent, the chrome and brushed silver is top notch, and the integration of the satellite navigation is brilliant.
The space is also fantastic. The Murano is a big car, no doubt, and with it, you get a plenty of room for both front and back. The boot is also huge; it would be even better if the angle of the tailgate didn’t cut into the space at the top.
The electric tailgate’s actuator also impinges on the ultimate height, too with its dip on the headlining on the left hand side. The depth, though, is excellent, and with the back row of seats folded, it’s virtually a flat floor.
Which means it’s a pretty versatile car. Loading long lengths is a sinch, and perambulators will be swallowed in a jiffy. Baby seats are also easily fitted with both ISOFIX and Australian standard mounts behind the seats. There’s also enough room for the kid’s feet not to be banging against the front seats.
More than that, complete family safety has to be a priority. The Murano glassmakers were fairly prominent in Venetian society. They enjoyed prosecutorial immunity from the state, and were even allowed to wear swords, which afforded them protection. The Murano keeps its occupants well protected by offering VSC, a swag of airbags, huge crumple zones and all-wheel-drive.
In my opinion its roadholding too is superb, especially in comparison with the old model. Although, what it’s made up in the handling stakes, it’s lost in ride comfort. That said, it’s not overly hard, with little crash, but certainly firmer than the original. Still, the “club lounge” chairs that it uses for front seats go a huge way to dampen the hits from big imperfections in the asphalt.
Increasing its feel, too, is the better steering. There’s now meat all the way through the lock, if lacking in genuine feel. The big chairs also prevent big changes in direction, because you tend to slide around a bit, but as a comfy cruiser, it’s perfect.
For a big V6 with all-wheel-drive, it’s not too bad on fuel, except for the fact that it requires a minimum of 95RON petrol. At an ADR Combined test figure of 10.9L/100km, the claims are all but impossible to match. Our real world testing saw us use 12.5L/100km.
To try and conserve fuel, the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) does its level best to drop the revs at any given opportunity. However from a standstill, it’s very sluggish to respond.
Instead of letting the revs rise instantly and then haul the car along using the elasticity built into the CVT, it simply ambles along at full throttle, lifting the revs ever so slowly until finally they hit the business end of the tacho.
While rolling it’s better, but still nowhere near as quick to respond as you’d like. I’ll take a regular six-speed automatic any day. On small throttle openings, it does keep things very smooth, and very quiet.
In range topping form, the Murano Ti is a very likeable family car. The price is certainly up there, but at a smidge over $60,000, it’s a competitive product in a competitive market. It’s got the space to please, the quality to impress, and the safety to satisfy.
If the jewellery-producing, treasure-troved, sword-wielding Venetian glassmaker were around today, he might even consider one as his family chariot.
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