It's no coincidence the most popular color choice among Nissan Murano buyers is Glacier Pearl. The Murano, introduced eight years ago as a curvaceous alternative to the boxy SUVs of the day, has been a pearl in the Nissan product lineup. It's a tribute to Nissan designers that the Murano, which was freshened considerably for the 2009 model year, remains one of the best-looking five-passenger rides on the road. And its beauty is more than skin deep. The upscale interior has Infinity-quality materials, and fit and finish. Hunt Nissan sales consultant Jason Newsome said the Murano appeals to "one- and twochild families, although you can easily fi t three people in the back (seat)."
STYLING: I thought the old Murano looked like a pretty girl in braces. There was something about that blingy, wrap-around grille that needed tweaking. That's been solved with a more aggressive fascia that features a new, cat's-eye headlamp treatment. Our tester was a Murano in top-of-the-line LE trim, which includes heated leather seats (front and rear), a panoramic moon roof and gorgeous 20-inch alloys. The interior is furnished with high-quality plastics and generously padded seats. Nice touches, such as rear heat and air vents in the B-pillars, give the Murano a near-luxury panache. An uncluttered center stack with faux-wood accents adds to the classy cockpit look.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: Driving refinement is astrength of the Murano. Nissan's silky-smooth 3.5 liter V-6 is one of the best powerplants in its class. Mated to a new, continuously variable transmission, the Murano accelerates effortlessly. The ride is subtle, with none of the bounciness common in other vehicles of this height. Steering is well-weighted and responsive.
BOTTOM LINE: The up-trim Murano LE is now available in front-wheel drive, which should provide plenty of traction for most sunbelt drivers. The cost savings of foregoing all-wheel-drive puts the Murano LE at a price point - $37,110 base - that belies its superior bumper-to-bumper refinement.
TESTED MODEL: 2010 Nissan Murano LE 2WD.
ENGINE: 3.5 liter V-6, 265 horsepower.
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable.
FUEL ECONOMY: 23 mpg highway, 18 mpg city.
BASE PRICE: $37,110.
PRICE AS TESTED: $40,305.