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Coloring Outside the Lines: 2003 Crossover Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Nissan Murano - A Touch of Glass
2003 Nissan Murano

Named after the famous glassware (and strangely not the Italian island after which the glassware is named), the new Nissan Murano is an interesting piece of sculpture, to say the least. It also happens to be a genuine "crossover" vehicle that combines SUV virtues with car-based architecture and driving characteristics.

Is it beautiful? That's up to you to decide -- and honestly, that can depend on the color in which it is rendered (the darker ones being the better ones). Is it eye-catching? Absolutely. Look at that wide chrome grille and those kicked-up vertical headlamps. Flared fenders and huge wheels visually "plant" it on the road. The Murano is one of the most futuristic designs on the road, even if the rear end seems inspired by the oft-scoffed AMC Gremlin from the 1970's.

The Murano's interior is no more conventional than the outside. A long, minivan-like dash top calls attention to just how steep the windshield is. That said, outward visibility is excellent out front and to the side (rear visibility is limited by that thick rear window pillar). As for the instrument panel itself, it's so futuristic that it almost looks fake -- which is is actually kind of cool, because to operate the buttons almost feels like you're playing inside a space ship at NASA.

Fortunately, the mechanicals are sound and strong. The standard 3.5-liter V-6 (mated to a continuously variable transmission) provides effortless power, whether it is equipped with front- or four-wheel drive. Skid control and traction control are the save-your-ass technologies that Nissan makes available on Murano as options, while it provides six air bags standard.