Structurally, the new Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is far more than a Murano crossover SUV with the top chopped off, but basically it's not. Introduced at the LA Auto Show November 2010, it was met with skepticism and kidding, for solving a problem nobody knew they had. The story goes that the CrossCabriolet was the brainchild of Nissan's dynamic president, Carlos Ghosn; the idea was met with disbelief, but what the president wants, the president gets.
So here it is, and only time will tell if it's too far out there, or if it's the reinvention of versatility, as Nissan marketing now calls it.
It can't be denied that some people actually do need an SUV convertible. The market for the CrossCabriolet is mostly the Northeast, for those who need four-wheel-drive traction in cold winters, and want open-air enjoyment in hot summers. Call it the first climate change car, built for our new weather extremes. All-wheel drive is standard on the Murano CrossCabriolet.
The CrossCabriolet maintains the silhouette of a Murano, but about four-fifths of the sheetmetal is new, everything except the A-pillars, hood and front fenders. Edgy fender flares front and rear and a gap for off-road ground clearance over the tires make the CrossCabriolet statement: Take me to the boonies, I'm ready. The look is especially striking when the top is down. The Nissan design team wanted to express a feeling of sky and earth, and they have.
Two of the Murano doors have been sacrificed in order to keep the roofless chassis structure strong. The remaining two doors have been widened nearly 8 inches to allow easier entry and exit to the rear seat. The CrossCabriolet is a four-seater, instead of the Murano's five.
The quality cloth top with fabric liner comes in black or beige, and looks sleek with its low profile. Using aluminum and magnesium rails, it goes up or down in 25 seconds. There's a unique narrow skylight that runs the width of the top, and is located just over the rear glass, filtering light onto the heads of the rear passengers and making the interior feel more open.
When the top is down, the tall windscreen and the car's high beltline make passengers feel confined and protected. Even with the windows lowered at 75 mph, there isn't much buffeting. Raise the windows and it's whisper quiet with nothing but the sky above.
The overall lines of the interior, including wonderfully comfortable seats, are sculpted and curved, subtly, so it works. However legroom in the rear has been lost, as space had to be made for the top when it's down. It's a pretty slim 32.7 inches now. Cargo space is slim, as well.
The CrossCabriolet uses the exceptional Nissan 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine, with all-wheel drive and a second-generation CVT transmission with good logic control, but no manual mode. The ride is very smooth. Handling isn't nimble but neither is it heavy.
The CrossCabriolet feels like it's pulling a lot of weight when you accelerate uphill to maybe 40 mph. But when you get out on the freeway and boot it, all 265 horses behind the wonderful engine pull you smoothly and effortlessly up to 80 miles per hour. We love this engine. Fuel economy is 17/22 mpg City/Highway.
The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet ($46,390) comes as one model, fully loaded, no options, except for camel-colored leather.
Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, 7-inch display screen, rearview camera, navigation system with XM traffic, 9.3GB MusicBox hard drive, Bose 8-speaker audio, heated seats and steering wheel, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with controls, remote entry, bi-xenon projector beam headlamps, foglamps, heated mirrors, 20-inch alloy wheels.
Safety equipment includes dual-stage frontal airbags, side-impact airbags in front, door-mounted airbag curtains with rollover sensor, active headrests in front, popup rollbars for rear passengers, tire pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control with traction control, and all-wheel drive.