Special Coverage

Greater LA Auto Show

Nissan North America Inc. calls its second-generation Nissan Murano cross/utility vehicle, debuting today at the 2007 Los Angeles auto show, a “super evolution” of the original.

The ’09 model, which goes on sale in early January at Nissan’s U.S. dealerships, gets a new 3.5L V-6 engine, the second generation of Nissan’s continuously variable transmission and a fresh look inside and out.

“With its unique combination of modern design, dynamic performance and new ‘business-class’ interior and overall refinement, Murano continues to stand out as the most distinctive, refined vehicle in (its) class,” Bill Bosley, Nissan Div. vice president and general manager says.

Sharing Nissan’s D platform, which underpins the new Altima midsize sedan and coupe, the ’09 Murano is powered by Nissan’s upgraded VQ series 3.5L V-6 engine, also in the Altima and now making 265 hp and 248 lb.-ft. (336 Nm) of torque.

The outgoing Murano features an earlier version of the same engine that made 240 hp and 244 lb.-ft. (325 Nm) of torque.

Nissan’s second-generation Xtronic CVT with adaptive shift control is mated to the new V-6.

The switch to the D platform from Nissan’s FF-L chassis provides weight-savings thanks to lighter aluminum suspension parts. At the same time, torsional rigidity is increased 1.5 times over that of the current Murano, Nissan says, which results in less vibration and noise for passengers.

Available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations once again, the Murano comes standard with electronic stability control and traction control on all versions. The AWD system is connected to the ESC sensors to provide the appropriate level of engine torque, depending on the intended and actual vehicle paths.

The power-steering system is a new, twin-orifice, speed-sensitive type borrowed from the Altima and 350Z sports car to give a direct feel, Nissan says.

Nissan has revised the Murano’s distinctive front fascia for ’09, with headlights now integrated into the front grille. Quad-cylinder high-intensity discharge bi-functional projector headlights are an option.

Nissan now offers 20-in. wheels in addition to 18-in. wheels, both set off by pronounced wheel arches, it says.

Features of the ’09 Murano’s rear include a new glass shape, air deflector, light-emitting diode taillights and dual exhausts tipped with chrome.

Inside, Murano’s interior follows a “mobile suite” theme, and features ambient “welcome” lighting, a newly designed instrument panel, steering wheel and front seats, and optional wood and aluminum accents.

Optional interior features include a foldaway cargo organizer, which appears from the rear cargo floor via the touch of a button and has vertical partitions to hold grocery bags, for instance.

Also optional is voice recognition that controls the navigation, audio, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and Bluetooth functions, Nissan says.

Optional exterior features are rain-sensing wipers, power liftgate and top-load power sliding glass roof and second-row skylight.

Five trim levels are available with an LE grade replacing SE for ’09. The S and SL versions still are available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive while the LE trim, like SE, is AWD only.

The Murano first debuted in 2002 as an ’03 model and has been a consistent top performer for Nissan, even in the first-generation’s final year.

Sales are down just slightly, 1.1%, to 68,183 units through October, Ward’s data shows.

As with the outgoing model, the new Murano will be assembled at Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s plant in Kyushu, Japan.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com