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I know others have posted similar things, but I just wanted to share a bit about my initial impressions of the new 2006 MO.

I went to the local stealer... er... dealer last week and test drove a 2006 SL with the Touring (+ XM satellite) package in sunset red w/ Charcoal leather interior.

For comparison, I'm currently in a 2004 SE w/ charcoal cloth interior and premium package ( I didn't want leather ).

My first impressions were great. I love the sunset red color. I like the rear bumper protector, and the LED taillights are sharp. The grill is still not my favorite thing but it is better than my 04. Say... where are the body side moldings? Still not standard. Hmph.

Upon getting inside I was pleasantly surprised. I like most of the subtle changes to the interior. I must say I'm a little luke-warm on the new center console, kinda weird looking. I really like the updated climate control knobs and the chrome accents throughout. I do very much like the new instrument cluster... when the MO is off. I was not happy when I found that the extremely bright backlight cannot be dimmed or turned off when the headlights are off (daytime driving). The color screen is a great addition, it really jazzes up the display. The amber LCD kind of said "we tried to be high-tech, but we're still kinda behind the times". The color LCD really makes the entire display look 1000% better. The integrated back-up camera is cool... I could actually see myself using that. Even after driving my MO for over a year now, I still have a hard time judging exactly where the back of the vehicle is sometimes when parking in tight spots.

The reason I got cloth in my current MO is that I typically find myself to be disappointed by leather interiors unless I'm in a Mercedes, BMW, or Audi (etc.) "Mid-level" leather interiors never live up to my expectations for comfort or longevity. I was disappointed that I could not get memory seats without getting leather, but I sacrificed. I was actually not entirely turned off by the leather interior on the 2006 MO. It's not spectacular, and I'd still rate it far below and Audi or BMW, but it's not that bad. The memory seat feature would actually be worth having leather in my household, as my other half is significantly smaller than I am.

Some other touches I noticed that were nice were the subtly updated buttons on the steering wheel for audio/cruise control. They're just a little nicer in my opinion. The overhead roof trim, which is faux carpeted (or whatever it is...) in my 04 MO has been replaced with a slightly more.... um.... industrial-looking material? Not sure how I feel about that.

Now for the drive... the salesman actually just sent me on my way -- something that I haven't experienced at any dealership in many years. The sales person always wants to accompany you. This guy was very down to earth, said to come back when I was ready. I appreciated that more than most probably realize. Note, this was my first time actually driving an SL. On the test drive I took it around on all the bad streets that I knew of in the area, gave it quick workout on the freeway on-ramp, and took it up onto a tight road with lots of very tight corners. I was very pleased with the ride quality of the SL, definitely more refined feeling than my SE which I feel is a shade rough. I didn't feel as though I would be giving up much in terms of handling by moving out of the SE. Most of the rattles, squeaks, etc., that my 04 suffers from seem to have been addressed. In all, the SL rode very well and pretty quietly. It still surprises me though, that even the 06 SL does not ride nearly as quietly as a friends 2001 Toyota Camry which cost less than half of what the MO costs. No, they're not the same vehicle. But the Lexus RX (which is a more appropriate comparison to the MO than is a Camry) rides much quieter than the MO as well.

The steering in the 06 felt significantly better than my 04. This is probably due to the revised power steering pump? Or perhaps they made a few adjustments for the 06. The steering actually felt more like I believe the steering should feel in a vehicle of this caliber and price. Oddly, though, it still does not feel nearly as advanced or refined as many cars of much lower price points with the variations of speed-sensitive power steering that just about every new vehicle uses now.

I was happy to discover that the ride computer has been updated as well. While this might be a tad dangerous, the gas mileage readout stayed up until I pressed the radio display button to get the radio display back. The gas mileage screen now shows the running average along with the cute graphical representation of your "current" mileage, which I am pretty confident is just more of a very rough estimate based on throttle position and speed rather than an actual measurement of fuel consumption. In either case, it's still kind of cool. Based on the mileage reported by the computer during my test drive, for some reason this MO seemed to have gotten SIGNIFICANTLY better mileage than my 2004 did when it was brand new. For the first 7000 or 8000 miles my 04 SE wasn't getting better than 14 mpg or so in the city driving, while the 06 SL reported anywhere from 16 to 19.5 during my test drive. When I parked it at the dealership I had driven 22.6 miles and the computer showed an average of 18.7MPG. I reset the computer before my test drive started, by the way.

I must say that I did not miss having "manual shift mode" in the SL. Ds performed better than I thought it would... pretty much to the point of making me think I wouldn't miss manual shift mode at all.

Small details... the XM radio performed flawlessly and seamlessly, which I liked. I don't care for most of the XM stations, though, so I would probably opt for Sirius. It's good to see the head unit now supports MP3 discs... but come on, who doesn't these days? Kias and Saturns can support MP3 and WMA CDs, why did it take Nissan so long, and why is it still only half-assed? The mute button will be missed, I actually use it.
As far as sound quality, I actually felt that the bass response was less than in my 04. I went through all the adjustments on the system, and set it exactly as I keep mine set, so I know exactly how it should sound. Bass seemed quite absent. Maybe somebody unplugged the Bose woofer, I did not check. I am still disappointed at what Murano owners are being thrown as a "premium audio" system. So many vehicles of similar or lower price points and features have vastly superior factory sound systems, including other Nissan models.

All in all I was quite pleased with the 06 revision of the Murano. My biggest peeves were:

- Leather quality not top-notch, but we're forced to get leather if we want certain options like memory seats and heated seats
- Annoyingly BRIGHT backlight during daytime driving on the otherwise much-better-looking instrument cluster
- Bose sound system. Was "meh" in 2004, is still "meh" in 2006.
- Sunroof controls are a little... cheap feeling for my taste.
- luke-warm on the new overhead trim covering

Now if only one could choose the SE's wheels and aluminum roof rails for the SL as factory options. The new SL wheels are pretty nice, but the new SE wheels are much sharper. I'm not much for "bling" on my cars, so 20" chrome rims that spin and shred cabbage for coleslaw are not on my radar. I prefer the much cleaner and classier (in my opinion) look of the polished aluminum simple-design SE wheels. I think the aluminum roof rails are a nice accent that tie everything together better than the black.

C'est la vie. Maybe I'll trade for an 06 if the price is right, maybe not. I'm not overly excited ENOUGH to run right out and grab one.

The biggest factor that kept me from trading up to the 2006? Financing. Come on, Nissan! Other manufacturers are still offering great financing incentives, many still offer 0% for 60 months on certain models. I have excellent credit and the finance manager said he probably couldn't do much better than 5.5% because Nissan wasn't offering any incentives. I did not let him run my credit because there's no point in having an inquiry if I'm not going to buy. I got 2% for 60 months on my 04 SE. I didn't feel like losing that and paying more than I feel I should have to for the new 06.
 
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