Nissan North America Inc. takes the wraps off three new vehicles at the L.A. auto show today: a convertible version of the Murano cross/utility vehicle, next-generation Quest minivan and concept sedan called the Ellure.

“When people think of a (CUV), they think of a combination of the driving sophistication of a sedan with the utility of a sport utility,” Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Div., says in a statement.

“This new Murano CrossCabriolet adds an unexpected third element: the ability to make everyday activities more exciting with open-air driving.”

The CrossCabriolet is a 2-door vehicle with front doors that are 7.9 ins. (20 cm) longer than those on the 4-door Murano. Its 2-door status means Nissan has removed the B-pillar and “reinforced (the structure) from the A-pillar rearward.”

The cloth convertible top is another feature of the all-wheel-drive convertible, Nissan says. The roof has a rear glass skylight to create an open interior feeling when it is up.

The top opens and closes via hydraulics, and there is an automatic power latch/unlatch system. Cargo space with the cloth roof down is enough for two carry-on suitcases, similar to that of a 2-seat roadster, Nissan says.

The Murano CrossCabriolet, which goes on sale in early 2011, comes standard with dual pop-up roll bars, Nissan’s 3.5L 265-hp V-6 engine and a continuously variable transmission. The many creature comforts include leather seating, an 8-way power heated driver’s seat and navigation.

The new Quest minivan, also on sale early next year, “gets parenting better than any other minivan,” Nissan says. The Quest styling includes full surround glass, dual-opening glass moonroofs and “boomerang” taillights.

Functional features aimed at parents include 1-touch power sliding doors, operable even with arms full of groceries; standard quick-release fold-flat second- and third-row seats (power third row available); and a removable second-row center console.

Seating in second and third rows is standard theater-style, and there is an available 11-in. (28-cm) rear color monitor.

As with the Murano CrossCabriolet, the Quest rides on Nissan’s D platform, which underpins the Altima midsize sedan. The minivan is powered by Nissan’s 3.5L V-6, making 253 hp.

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The Ellure sedan concept is not meant to foreshadow a future production vehicle, but rather “confirms the auto maker’s intention to be a strong player in the sedan segment for many years to come,” says Shiro Nakamura, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. senior vice president and chief creative officer.

The Ellure’s design language is new for a sedan, he says, and it honors the form’s “unmatched daytime functionality” but with a “more emotive, almost hidden ambience that comes to life after dark.”

Nakamura calls the Ellure an “ideal fit” for the car’s targeted demographics, 30- and 40-something women who are sophisticated and rebellious.

Designers were able to push the car’s wheel out to the corners, which allows for greater interior passenger and cargo volume, by employing a next-generation compact hybrid powertrain. This includes a 240-hp 2.4L 4-cyl. engine with dual clutches mated to a 25-kW (34- hp)electric motor.

“The exterior projects a sense of strong mass, with a refined contrast between broad planes and strong shoulders,” Nissan says. Traditional Japanese elements – a “Kamishino” Samurai formal outer coat and “Torii” Shinto shrine gate – inspired the Ellure’s grille and rear end.

The concept’s rear doors are rear-hinged, and all doors open out 90 degrees.

While not a full-on “Eco” model, Nissan says the Ellure nevertheless has elements that aid in fuel efficiency, such as a “deeply skirted front fascia and bold hybrid-aero solid-transparent front grille, with small openings that direct the wind over and under the body.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com