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Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet convertible lets the good times roll
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The first time I saw pictures of the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, I would have bet that a group of Nissan designers got together for a few beers after work on a Friday and somebody said, "Hey, what if we cut the roof off of a Murano and make a convertible?"

Beer often inspires such ideas but also limits the physical effort required for such gags. But the CrossCabriolet isn't such a bizarre answer to a question nobody asked. Nissan calls the effort "innovation." And it did a thorough job in the transformation.

So before anyone fires off a snarky e-mail to me about the styling, just drive it.

Pricing starts at $47,200, and it is a fully loaded Murano LE package, with such features as a triple-insulated power fabric top with skylight, Intelligent Key lock/lock and push-button starting, leather, heated front seats and steering wheel, Bose audio and navigation system, rearview camera and 20-inch alloy wheels. About the only factory options are quilted, double-stitched leather in camel or cashmere ($500), and when you see it and feel it, you'll want it.

There are beige and black top colors; black, cashmere and camel interior colors; light or dark wood; and six paint choices, including the new Caribbean (teal green).

The styling between the hardtop Murano and the convertible is quite different from the windshield pillars rearward. The CrossCab is something of a sport-coupe two-door with no "B" pillar after the driver door. It is a big car with a tall ride height but accommodating for entry and exit.

It's not exactly pretty with the top up, but from inside there is a vintage Chris Craft cabin- cruiser treatment to the sweep of the window line. With the windows down, it has a balmy feel and airflow is not turbulent for resting an elbow out the door.

The top goes up or down in 25 seconds, and a skylight just above the rear (glass) window has two purposes. It helps the cabin seem spacious, and it provides an outlet for the dual pop-up roll bars to smash through in the event of a rollover.

The interior is luxurious, with high-quality materials and assembly. The front seats were cut down at the shoulders so back-seat passengers would have better views. Those in back sit high and comfortably in wide seats with plenty of foot room. Wind flow may be rough in the back seat at highway speeds, but what a parade ride this will be at other times. And this is likely the roomiest back seat in any convertible today.

Trunk space will fit two smaller golf bags (Nissan says), but there appeared to be plenty of space for weekend getaway luggage: 12.3 cubic feet with the top up, 7.6 down.

The body was reinforced in strategic places, such as wide and deep side sills, and I noticed little shudder or shake. The structural support added about 230 pounds, and fuel economy drops by 1 mpg city/highway from the hardtop to 17/22 on premium fuel.

The only shake I noticed was when closing the doors. The windows drop a bit when the door handle is pulled, but the window drop needs to go another eighth inch or so to avoid the glass flipping against the top fabric.

In my half-day drive, there seemed to be plenty of power from the 265-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, and Nissan's second-generation continuously variable transmission may be the best in the industry. It simulates shift points when you jump hard on the gas for passing power. There is no motor-boating effect of the engine catching up with the transmission.

On the highway with the top up, the cabin is luxury-class quiet. There isn't even much road texture coming through or wind noise at the mirrors. And the ride is appropriately comfy, with a suspension upgrade to handle the weight. There is nothing edgy or aggressive about this car. It's all about letting the good times roll ... again.

After you see it in person, it kind of makes sense.