Review and road test of the Nissan Murano (2008 - 2011)
By Andy Enright
The Nissan Murano is one of those cars that was never quite right first time for the British market but which, after a bit of fettling, belatedly came good. Unfortunately, by the time Nissan had got the offering right, the damage had been done. The Murano was never a big seller. In fact, it remains a very rare sight on our roads. This means that if you're in the market for a used Murano, you could well pick up a bargain. You'll need to be patient though. Here's what to look for.
5dr crossover (2.5 diesel, 3.5 petrol)
Nissan dropped one heck of a clanger when it first introduced the Murano back in 2005. Okay, so it was probably expecting the big crossover to occupy a modest niche, but perhaps even Nissan were surprised at how very modest the sales were. The problem lay with the engine. There's not a lot wrong with the 3.5-litre V6 VQ35DE engine per se. It even won Ward's 10 Best Engines list from 2002 through to 2007 and powers a 350Z really very well. It's just that there was no appetite for a relatively thirsty petrol engine in a big crossover vehicle.
Somewhat amazingly, it took Nissan fully four years to rectify this glaring shortcoming. In the interim, a 'new' Murano model appeared in autumn 2008. This was a true second generation model, riding on a different chassis to the original car and featuring a far better quality interior. The 2.5-litre diesel engine finally materialised in 2009 and the Murano persisted until 2011 when it was quietly deleted.
What You Get
This Murano's styling will be a key reason why buyers either reach for their credit cards or run a mile. Nissan's designers took the opportunity to combine the need for cooling airflow to the diesel engine and radiators with a styling makeover for the front-end. A revised grille and bumper design reinforced the striking looks. As a result, with a big set of wheels filling its bulbous wheelarches, the Murano is quite a striking sight. Buyers will just have to judge whether or not it's one they want to see outside their houses every morning.
The interior goes after an upmarket feel and is broadly successful. There are a lot of buttons as if to underline the quantity of equipment that has been crammed inside but the finishes and the luminescent instruments stop just the right side of over the top given the Murano's extrovert nature. An enormous dual panel glass sun roof is available in the standard model, but if the original keeper wasn't bothered about that, there was also the option of a roof-mounted DVD player system.
There's also a powered tailgate which opens and shuts in 7 and 9 seconds respectively, plus a kerb camera mounted within the passenger door mirror. At speeds up to 12 mph it displays images of the ground beside the car on the 7 inch colour sat nav screen, showing the proximity of walls, kerbs and otherwise obscured obstacles. If those don't impress, try the rear electric seat system. The rear seats split 60/40 and are lowered simply by pulling a lever in the luggage area, but raising them is even easier; press a button on the dashboard or in the cargo area and the seats automatically move into position in just 8 seconds.
What to Look For
Just about the only thing that can really damage a Murano is if its previous owner took the whole 4x4 thing a bit literally and attempted to subject the car top some serious off roading,. Put it this way - the Murano has more 350Z than Patrol in its DNA and the all-wheel drive system is really only designed to offer a traction advantage on slippery tarmac or grass and gravel. Ground clearance is modest and those alloys will be wrecked within minutes in flinty ruts. Otherwise it offers bomber build quality, the 3.5-litre engine being a tough unit. The 2.5-litre dCi powerplant gained a terrible reputation after early units in Navaras and X-Trails ingested their own big ends, but the later version fitted to the Murano was significantly redesigned.
(approx prices, based on a 2009 Murano) You'll pay around £80 for a set of front brake pads with rears weighing in at £60. A new radiator is around £275 with a starter motor also costing about the same. A windscreen costs nearly £400.
On the Road
The driving experience very much depends on which powerplant you choose - the 2.5-litre dCi four cylinder diesel or the 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit that's significantly quicker, making sixty from rest in 8.0s on the way to a top speed of 130mph. Power for the diesel is rated at 190PS, while the petrol unit puts out 256PS with torque of 334Nm. ALL-MODE 4x4-i technology continues to provide sure-footed handling, no matter how treacherous the conditions. This intelligent permanent 4WD system distributes torque on demand to where it's needed. Under normal driving conditions, that means predominantly to the front wheels, but up to 50 per cent can be sent to the rear if required. The system is closely integrated with the standard ESP stability control. The gearbox is a CVT item called Xtronic which features ASC Adaptive Shift Control and does its bit towards keeping fuel consumption in check.
A key contributor to the Murano's improved driving feel is a stiffer platform that is more resistant to lateral and twisting forces. Together with tweaks to the geometry of the re-developed multi-link rear suspension and revised front strut suspension, owners will enjoy surprisingly responsive handling combined with the kind levels of comfort levels you'd expect from a luxury 4x4. The speed sensitive power steering system is now lighter at low speeds and gives a more direct feel at higher ones.
The Nissan Murano is a car that blew its shot at success. In its first generation guise it just wasn't right for the UK market. This second generation car was a much improved thing and, in diesel form, became a really strong and highly recommendable proposition. It was just a bit too late. The public had become conditioned to seeing Muranos as odd, expensive irrelevances. You might just be able to find a bargain on a diesel, but they are so few and far between that it's far from guaranteed. If you are a genuine low mileage user, then the best value is definitely the petrol model, early examples of which are now supermini money.
Nissan Murano (2008 - 2011) review by Andy Enright