The Nissan Murano has been in production since 2002 with the 2003 model year being its first. Now, in 2020, it's in its third generation. It's a midsize crossover SUV and there's even a convertible model in the third generation called the Cross Cabriolet. It's been a fairly popular model for Nissan overall and has had sales between 60,000 and 90,000 units for about the last five years straight. As with any vehicle though, it's not without its problems. There have been several model years that have had various ups and downs with different components. In 2009, for instance, the transmission did have a few issues for some drivers.
The 2009 Nissan Murano
The Murano had already had a few successful model years before 2009 rolled out. All things being equal the 2009 model year was one of the worst years overall for the Murano, however. In fact, only the 2004 model year has more complaints overall on CarComplaints.com than 2009.
There are a number of less problematic model years available for the Murano if you have an interest in one of these vehicles. It's been fairly reliable for most drivers in model years such as the 2012 and 2013 Nissan Murano. As well the 2019 or 2020 Murano seem to be performing really well for people as well, and many of the other years from the mid 2010s are relatively problem free.
In 2009 there were a couple of big issues with the Nissan Murano. The transmission was definitely a big issue for some drivers. In fact, there were a few different categories of transmission issues that were reported.
Hard Jerk and No Speed from Complete Stop: This was the biggest issue related to transmission that has been reported on CarComplaints.com. Several drivers mentioned this issue starting at around 133,000 miles. Basically, the issue was that when you were stopped at a light or a stop sign, when you were ready to go again and you put your foot on the gas to get the car moving, nothing really happened. It was an extremely difficult process to get the car moving, as the transmission was not getting you into the correct gear to accelerate.
Some drivers mentioned that they merged into the flow of traffic and then were unable to properly accelerate, causing a driver behind them to quickly slam on their gas because the Murano was not able to keep up with the flow. As you can imagine, this would be a huge problem and could potentially lead to serious accidents. Not only are we talking about damage to your vehicle and other vehicles, but the potential for loss of life or injury is extremely high in this kind of situation.
For that reason, this particular transmission issue was very dangerous and one that needed to be repaired right away.
Transmission Failure: Other drivers claim that their transmission failed completely at around an average of 84,000 miles. The cost to repair this was very steep, coming in at around $5,000. Some drivers complained of issues like the car going backwards when they stopped but while still in drive, such as at a stop sign or stop light. This is clearly another instance where a very serious accident could occur.
Others complained that the transmission would Lurch or make noises before giving out entirely. A lot of this seems to stem from the fact that Nissan made use of a CVT transmission. In fact, Nissan was proud to introduce what they called the first CVT transmission for passenger cars back in 2002.
What is CVT Transmission
CVT stands for continuously variable transmission. It's a kind of automatic transmission that is meant to seamlessly move through a continuous range of gears as you're driving. This is different from your standard kind of automatic transmission which has a limited number of gear ratios such as 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Rather than a clear shift from one year to another, the CVT is meant to smoothly transition you from 1st gear up to 9th gear or whatever it might be, with literally slipping into each individual gear. That was the idea anyway.
Since its introduction, CVT transmission has had a lot of issues that people have complained about. Some of the complaints about CVT transmission were unjust. Because of the way CVT transmission works, it often sounds like it's not working, if that makes sense. There was a whine that comes from CVT transmission that actually isn't what people thought it was. Many drivers felt that when they were accelerating, they were experiencing a belt slipping off the gears or something like that, but that's just the way a CVT feels and performs. As a result, many drivers would take their early model CVT vehicles in to get looked at by mechanics because they felt like the transmission was not working correctly even though it was fine. This was all based on their experiences driving other kinds of transmissions like automatic or manual transmission vehicles. And it's true, there is a way the transmission in your vehicle feels when it's working properly.
The thing about CVT transmission is that it's very efficient when it is working properly. Hybrid vehicles are typically outfitted with CVT transmission because they improve fuel economy by upwards of 5% over a traditional automatic. Or at least that's the claim. They're meant to give you the exact amount of power you need at the exact right time. This is supposed to give you seamless acceleration, which leads to that better fuel efficiency. There's no shift from one gear to another that causes a bit of an interruption in the whole system.
Without the shift from one gear to another in either manual or traditional automatic, there's never a chance that you're going to accidentally slip gear when you're using CVT. It should be smooth and fluid at all times.
The downside of using CVT is that it takes a lot of the fun out of the driving. You don't have that moment where you can click for one gear into the next and then feel the car really take off underneath you. It's all very efficient and formal in the way it works. For some drivers that's not a problem, but if you grew up on manual transmission especially, a CVT will take the life out of your car driving experience.
The cost of repairing a CVT is also a big mark against it as well. They tend to suffer problems less often than traditional automatic or manual transmissions do, but when things do go wrong, they're going to cost you more to fix than a traditional automatic or manual transmission. Part of that is because fewer mechanics were trained on CVT to know how to repair them properly.
Nissan CVT Issues
Despite how a CVT is supposed to work, with that smooth acceleration and a nice efficient ride, it's not always the case. Many drivers of Nissans outfitted with CVT have complained of acceleration being extremely slow, and even stuttering.
Shaking: Vehicles with a CVT that isn't functioning the way it's supposed to will shake when they get up to speed. This led to vehicles dying in traffic and stalling out. And occasionally having to have the transmission repaired more than once.
Technical Service Bulletins: As far back as 2006 Nissan was releasing technical service bulletins regarding hesitation with acceleration related to their CVT. The 2003 to 2007 Murano models had a technical service bulletin issued just for this reason. Mechanics were told to check for service engine soon lights that were not illuminated that should be and for a certain code in the transmission control module.
Overheating: Another issue with the transmission in Nissan has been that they have been accused of having improper cooling. The CVT can run a little hot sometimes. If it gets too hot, you end up putting the car into limp mode or failsafe mode which limits your RPMs and drastically decreases the power of the vehicle. This is meant to save the vehicle so that it can make its way to a mechanic before it shuts down completely.
Slow Response: As we mentioned earlier, some drivers experienced problems when trying to accelerate and the transmission just took too much time to properly respond. So, when you put your foot on the gas, it's going to be several moments before the car responds by getting up to speed. That might be fine and good for a Sunday drive on a lonely highway by yourself, but when you're in traffic this could be a serious danger. If you need to react with immediate timing to avoid some kind of incident when you're on the road, you need your vehicle to respond right away.
Noise: The sound of a CVT transmission is something that, if you're not used to it, can be a little jarring. Word is that the sound of a Nissan CVT is actually a little more intense than standard CVTs and other vehicles. That means you'll get kind of an annoying whine when your transmission is running even when there's nothing wrong with it. The faster you go, the worse it seems to get. For a number of drivers this was even more annoying because, when they took it in to get it looked at, the shop was not able to reproduce the issue so they were told it wasn't a problem at all.
Low Mileage Fails: The biggest problem that can be attributed to CVT issues is how quickly they happen. It's not unheard of for any system on a car to fail eventually, but you expect to be able to get a few good years of life out of any vehicle before you need to service something or have it looked at. Your transmission should last you a long time. But some drivers were having issues at 60,000 miles or less with their transmission. There's no reason for that to happen in a new vehicle.
The Bottom Line
The Nissan Murano has been a very reliable vehicle during the course of its production. It was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year back in the year 2003. In 2007 it was the Motor Choice for Best Premium Midsize SUV by Auto Pacific.
In 2010 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the highest ratings possible for front side and rear impact performance during its crash test evaluation. If nothing else, you can say that the Murano was an incredibly safe vehicle. That same year, the National Highway Traffic and Safety administration also gave it the highest side-impact safety rating it could give out.
The Murano even managed to get an interior award in 2015 from Ward's for having one of the best vehicle Interiors of the year. So, it's not just a well-performing vehicle, it's a safe vehicle, and one that even looks good inside and out. All things being equal, you can't ask for much more in your SUV.
Unfortunately, because of a history of problematic transmission with some Nissan vehicles, the 2009 Nissan Murano was really settled with some issues that shouldn't have played it. As we said, only the 2004 Murano seems to have more problems overall. And, on top of the transmission issues, the 2009 Nissan Murano also had a number of problems that were related to its braking system.
One of the biggest complaints related to the 2009 Nissan Murano that was filed with the National Highway Traffic safety administration related to issues with the brakes needing to be serviced. Either the brake pedal was soft or there was an issue with how the ABS brakes worked. Some drivers reported having to put the pedal right to the floor before they could get the vehicle to slow down and stop. That could also be a seriously dangerous issue leaving two accidents that could damage not just your vehicle, but other vehicles and especially lead to injury or loss of life.
All things being equal, if you're interested in a Nissan Murano the 2009 model year is just not one of the best ones to look at. It's over 10 years old at this point, and with both transmission and brake problems, it's just not worth it.