2010 Nissan Murano review

You might think the second-generation Nissan Murano is not much different from the first because it has a strong visual connection, but once you're behind the wheel it's clear that the 2010 is more refined and sophisticated.

When the company redesigned the Murano for the 2009 model year, it chose what it called "evolution on a grand scale." The new model was to be "curvaceous modern art" that had a "premium driving feel" and an interior that was as inviting as a "premium suite" without forgoing a strong visual connection to the previous model. Mission accomplished.

The 2010 rides on a stiff Nissan Altima chassis platform that delivers more responsive handling and a quieter cabin. Both are crucial to providing the driving feel that Nissan was so intent on achieving.

The Murano comes in S, SL and LE trim levels, with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $28,050 and top out at $38,180.

The Murano's cabin feels like that of a luxury vehicle. The gauges, ringed by bright orange lights, are large and easy to read. The center stack contains an LCD screen that is used for the audio and climate control as well as the optional navigation system and backup camera.

Murano's new front seats have been designed for better support, and they deliver a supple feel and excellent comfort. The 60/40 fold-flat rear seat is now available with a power return feature that allows the seat to be brought upright with the touch of a button.

The test vehicle, an LE, had woodgrain trim, dual-zone climate control, rearview monitor and a navigation system. The interior also had a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat with power return, heated front and rear seats, power liftgate and rain-sensing front wipers.

Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6 cranks out 265 horsepower. The Xtronic CVT continuously variable automatic transmission has been refined to provide a more linear feel. CVTs provide fuel economy on par with a manual transmission. New drivers might find the lack of distinct gear shifts unsettling, but Nissan has programmed the CVT to feel a lot like a normal automatic.

On the highway, the Murano cruised so quietly, and so smoothly, that it was easy to creep past the posted speeds. The softer ride gives the vehicle a luxury feel, yet it is not so plush as to be mushy.

Utility has not been overlooked. The Murano is strictly a five-passenger vehicle, and no third seat is available. That gives a nice-sized cargo compartment. Available options include a Bose stereo, a 9.3-gigabyte music box hard drive, rear DVD player with 9-inch screen, power liftgate, power-folding rear seat and a cargo organizer with bins for grocery sacks. The organizer folds out of the load floor.

Safety items include front, side and side-curtain airbags, along with anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control.

The 2010 Murano shows that Nissan was successful in refining the original without changing its basic appeal.

Price

The base price of the test vehicle, a front-wheel-drive LE, was $36,580. Floor mats and destination charges brought the sticker price to $37,565.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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