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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet oddly makes sense

Love it or hate it, the new Murano CrossCabriolet draws strong reactions. People went out of their way to comment on it. One thing is for sure: Nissan isn't afraid to push the design envelope, as we've seen in vehicles like the Cube and Juke. Now comes the CrossCab, the first AWD crossover convertible. (Coming to dealerships any day now.)

Appearance: Lyra laughed out loud when she first saw it. Peter's first thought: military staff car. The color, "Caribbean," also drew a lot of comments, and emphasized the car's awkward look. Along with the turquoise shade, there's a tan cloth top and beige interior. Nissan tried too hard to invoke the tropical beach feel — they might as well slap a Florida Edition badge on it. The front is much like the regular Murano. But the side and rear are completely different, as you would expect with the four-door Murano's conversion to two-door convertible. The top tapers low toward the rear, giving the CrossCab a squat look. One thing is for certain: It looks better with the top down. Nissan did give it some nice touches, such as the Z-inspired wraparound LED taillights.

Performance: We may be less than enthralled by the CrossCab's appearance, but not by its performance. We generally aren't fans of CVT transmissions, but the one in the CrossCab is the best we've driven. The second-generation Xtronic CVT has lots of pull, and the car felt more like a V-8 than a V-6. Merging into traffic was no problem. It had a sporty feel, with just-right steering feedback. With its AWD, the CrossCab is well-grounded for what it's classified as: a truck. Peter was impressed with the suspension, which nicely absorbed the seat-jarring jolts of the brick streets around St. Petersburg's Coffee Pot Bayou. Overall, the ride on the 20-inch wheels is smooth and comfortable. Despite the CrossCab's 4,400-pound weight, the braking is strong and precise.

Interior: Nissan considers the CrossCab a luxury vehicle and that's apparent from the four-seat cockpit, which is loaded with features such as push-button start, hard-drive navigation system, backup camera, Bose audio and eight-way power driver's seat with memory. The plush leather seats, blond wood trim and brushed-aluminum accents could easily pass as being from its upscale Infiniti line. It can be a tight squeeze getting in the rear seats, even though the front seat slides forward. The rear passengers will find enough legroom, however. A few nits: Lyra would have liked a height-adjustable passenger seat as well as height-adjustable driver's seat belt. (And the plastic trim for the rear seat belt popped off.) As for the trunk space, there's not a lot (12.3 cubic feet with the top up, 7.6 with it down), although Peter took it grocery shopping and managed to wedge several small bags in it.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Ride height: Unlike most convertibles, you won't be looked down on by fellow motorists.

Attention: Yes, you'll draw looks in the CrossCab.

Suspension: It absorbs harsh roads and delivers a smooth ride.

Lyra Solochek

Transmission: The best CVT we've driven so far. Lots of pull, smooth driving.

Seats: Plush and sofalike.

Nissan's boldness: Got to love a company that's unafraid to try new things.

The bottom line: The CrossCab is an unorthodox luxury cruiser with the price tag to match. But when Peter took it to a waterfront art show on a beautiful spring day with the top down, it all made sense.

2011 Nissan Murano Cross-

Cabriolet

Price: $46,390 start plus delivery fee

Powertrain: 3.5-liter V-6, second-generation Xtronic Continuously

Variable Transmission, AWD

Horsepower: 265 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 248 pound-feet at 4,400 rpm

Seats: 4

Curb weight: 4,438 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 111.2

Length, 190.1

Width, 74.5

Fuel economy:

17 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway

Safety features: Air bags and curtains, dual pop-up roll bars, zone body construction, energy-absorbing steering column, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, crumple zones

Website: www.

nissanusa.com/muranocabriolet

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet oddly makes sense 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 4:30am]
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