Subtle but effective, a mid-cycle refresh imparts even bolder flair to the 2011 Nissan Murano, which also adds a new value-oriented SV trim level aimed at further broadening the overall market appeal of this five-passenger mid-size crossover. As before, Nissan Murano buyers will be available to choose either a front-drive or all-wheel-drive configuration in the S, SL, LE or new SV variant, which slots in between the S and SL.

Details make the difference

Key changes up front on 2011 Nissan Murano include a more aggressively contoured soft fascia and a restyled grille that gains a new mesh insert but jettisons one bar in its outboard sections. At the rear, revised LED taillamps also add a more contemporary character to the 2011 package. As a final exterior touch, both the standard 18-inch and available 20-inch alloy wheels also have been restyled.

Inside, the 2011 Nissan Murano offers new center-stack trim colors and replaced the red perimeter trim on the main instrument cluster with more upscale with accents. Where the "S" trim brings a solid roster of standards that includes numerous power assists, a manual tilt/telescoping multifunction steering wheel, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, keyless remote entry, a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface and rear privacy glass, the new SV steps up the mix with additional features highlighted by a dual-pane power moonroof, eight-way power driver's seat, Bluetooth connectivity, a RearView Monitor with a 7.0-inch color LCD screen, Vehicle Security System and XM Satellite Radio (subscription required).

On the high end, the 2011 Nissan Murano SL build on SV kit by adding leather, heated front seats and steering wheel, a power liftgate and power return feature on the 60/40 fold-flat rear seat, an 11-speaker Bose premium audio system with 2GB Music Box, HomeLink transceiver, rain-sensing front wipers and more. The range-topping LE takes that up an additional notch with items like a power tilt/telescoping steering column, heated rear seat, wood-grain-look cabin accents, bi-xenon headlamps and 20-inch alloy wheels. The 2011 Nissan Murano's sole option group is the Navigation Package. Available only on SL and LE models, it brings a voice-recognition HDD navigation system with 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive and 7.0-inch touch screen plus and Bluetooth streaming audio capability.

Building on a solid foundation

Anchored on Nissan's well-sorted "D-platform," the 2011 Nissan Murano carries over intact mechanically. All models share the same 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. It's backed by Nissan's Xtronic CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) with Adaptive Shift Control. A full array of dynamic assists, including stability/traction controls and antilock disc brakes, also remain part of the mix.

The 2011 Nissan Murano crossover will go on sale in mid-October. While pricing has not yet been released, it's likely to remain close to current levels, which should keep It in the $29,500-$40,500 range. What Nissan didn't address in its latest statement was the upcoming introduction of a new Murano Convertible variant. Rumored to appear at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, few details are known about this rather daring extension of the line. Likely to be a 2012 model, it reportedly will have a power lid fashioned from fabric and not metal to help cut cost and weight while simplifying packaging issues. Stay tuned.

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