• Mar 8, 2011
Boldly Going Where No Crossover Has Gone Before

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet – Click above for high-res image gallery

We should have known better, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to believe the rumors. For over two years now, we've heard whispers of Nissan's plan to introduce a convertible version of its Murano crossover, but the idea seemed so far-fetched that we just couldn't wrap our gray matter around it. We managed to fall asleep at night by dismissing the notion as yet another silly bit of industry rumor-mongering, the sort of fodder serially dished out by British auto weeklies that splash absurd future product predictions on their covers (generally accompanied by fanciful artist's renderings) to sell more paper at the newsstand.

We doubted it, but we should have known better. Nissan has shown real design bravery lately, as well as an unquenchable desire to fill any and all white space in its portfolio. Remember, it was Nissan's product planners who conceived of a car designed exclusively with a T-square, throwing in a bit of asymmetrical glass and a patch of fake grass atop the dashboard – just in case anyone thought the resulting box was too boring. The automaker then announced that it was making a big bet on a brilliant but funny-looking $33,000 five-door only capable of driving 100 miles before having to have its e-umbilical cord reattached. It followed this up with a tiny yet oddly lovable space-age hatchback-crossovery thing wearing a Kabuki mask. In retrospect, we shouldn't be questioning Nissan's wisdom in lopping the top off its mid-size crossover to create a ragtop – we should be wondering what's taken it so long.

As we stand around looking at the CrossCabriolet at its sun-drenched San Diego launch, we can't help but be confounded. By all rights, the CrossCabriolet ought to look like a SEMA refugee. You know the type: four doors, shadetree roofectomy by Sawzall, a frumpy and ill-fitting top and a targa bar straddling the passenger compartment to keep the whole thing from collapsing in on itself. Amazingly, in person, the Murano convertible doesn't look anything like this. Nissan has clearly expended a surprisingly large amount of styling and engineering resources on the project, and the resulting vehicle looks more cohesive than it has any right to.

Continue reading First Drive: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet...



Photos copyright ©2011 Chris Paukert / AOL

Nissan's biggest commitment to the model was lopping off the rear doors and lengthening the front slammers by a whopping 7.9 inches. As the wheelbase between the 20-inch alloys remains the same at 111.2 inches (overall length and width are largely unchanged), the look isn't completely harmonious, but it's surprising how well it comes together. That's largely because Nissan has fitted the Murano with all-new bodywork from the A-pillar rearward. The look is further helped by the re-raked windshield, the angle of which has been adjusted to improve top-down airflow. As an added benefit, the faster angle helps reduce the visual 'beach buggy' quotient. Finally, by instituting an entire network of unseen structural reinforcements, Nissan has avoided adding the dreaded homecoming parade basket handle.

The CrossCabriolet's rear aspect is at once the most unique and troublesome, thanks largely to the top's bizarre split-window design. In theory, the narrow, heavily smoked upper glass pane seems like a valuable idea to aid in rearward visibility, but in reality, it's too horizontal to do much good, and the glass is actually behind the scalps of rear-seat passengers, so they don't really benefit from a skylight, either. In the end, the CrossCabriolet isn't the eyesore one might expect, but we don't see any Red Dot design awards in its future, either.

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet raising top2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet raising top2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet raising top

While we can question the advisability of turning a crossover into a décapotable (this thing is so bizarre it seems only fitting to refer to it in French terms), there's no denying the standard Murano's credentials. With smooth, solid power from its 24-valve, 3.5-liter V6 (tuned for 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque), an incredibly well-behaved CVT and surprisingly luxurious accommodations, the hardtop Murano is one of our very favorite crossovers. Thankfully, many of those strong points have been preserved in the new CrossCabriolet, including the same nicely formed instrument panel, complete with high-quality plastics and legible gauges. We particularly like the available high-grade camel leather – a $500 option. Even without the high-dollar hides, the cabin still plays above its station.

Interestingly, Nissan has also splurged enough to give the CrossCabriolet its own seats. As expected, the rear goes from a three-across bench to more sculpted places for two in order to make space for the top mechanism. They're surprisingly roomy, though, and offer enough head and leg room even for six-footers, but a center armrest would've been nice. What we didn't expect, however, was for Nissan to splash out a few bucks to resculpt the front seatbacks to afford better outward visibility to those sitting in back. Still, we're not quite sure why they didn't pop for an integrated-belt solution – scrambling into the back is a deliberate enough process because of the slow-to-slide power driver's seat – having to unsnap the belt loop each time you get in and out of the back only exacerbates the issue. We also wouldn't mind if Nissan fitted shingle-style headrests to improve rear visibility, but the twin hoops (with pyrotechnic pop-up rollbars) would probably still get in the way.

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet interior2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet gauges2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet steering wheel controls2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet push button start

As you might expect, Nissan has bent over backwards in an attempt to maintain the Murano's structural integrity – no small task considering the size of the opening created through the convertible process. Engineers have reinforced what's left of the B-pillar area, gusseted the sills and floors, and added cross-braces and support everywhere they could. Even still, physics cannot be denied – the CrossCab suffers from a fair bit of cowl and mirror shake, and there's a disconcerting amount of steering column shudder on rough roads – a confidence-sapping condition exacerbated by the Murano's light, feel-free power steering (a problem largely shared with the standard Murano, though not to this degree). To its credit, our Sunset Bronze tester emitted nary a squeak or a rattle, even though our tester was a preproduction example.

All of those reinforcements and an admittedly artfully folding top means that the CrossCab weighs about 230 pounds more than its straight-laced sibling. Even though Nissan's origami artists have managed to get the five-panel roof to stow into a space only 20-percent larger than that of the 370Z Roadster, the mechanism has still taken a toll on cargo space. Top-up, the cargo capacity is 12.3 cubic feet, and with the roof lowered, it drops to 7.6 cubes, still enough for a couple of golf bags. Unfortunately, the lid cannot be raised or lowered unless stationary, and we found interior to be a bit boomy at highway speeds with the roof closed and windows up – particularly for rear-seat passengers.

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet front seats2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet seats2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet rear seats2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet trunk

As in the standard Murano, the drivetrain is smartly done, offering ample power and refinement, but the CrossCab simply isn't as good to drive enthusiastically as its hard-hatted counterpart, something we blame on the body structure and perhaps a bit on the added weight. Simply put, this high-rider makes it immediately clear that it's built for cruising and not canyon carving, so cruise we did. Besides, loping along and enjoying the view is better for preserving the high-octane-drinking CC's 17 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg EPA highway fuel economy estimates.

At the end of the day, while we're all for boldly iconoclastic design, the CrossCabriolet leaves us with far more questions than answers. We're not sure why Carlos Ghosn green-lighted something like this over a less costly and seemingly more salable concept like a convertible version of the Altima Coupe (the CC is understood to be one of the CEO's pet projects). Company officials insist that as the crossover segment continues its rapid expansion, the genre will inevitably morph and grow enough to accept a whole range of bodystyles, and Nissan clearly wants to lead the charge.

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet rear top up

That may be right, but we still think the company's latest model is going to be an awfully tough sell, if for no other reason than its dear asking price – $47,190 delivered. The Murano CC only comes one way – fully loaded – including leather, navigation, HID headlamps, Bose audio, and so on. To be fair, an equivalent hardtop LE model with navigation and AWD rings up at $41,820, so by that yardstick, the price premium to go topless is actually quite reasonable, but the dynamic and spacial tradeoffs are still substantial. The CrossCabriolet may have no clear rivals, but at nearly $50k, Nissan's latest is wading treacherously deep into luxury waters. This is Audi A5 Cabriolet territory, and we'd happily trade the Nissan's lofty driving perch and added rear seat and cargo space for the far superior driving dynamics, fuel economy and more desirable badge on offer from Ingolstadt.

Of course, it probably doesn't matter what we think. Nissan says it already has some 900 pre-orders and thousands more requesting information on its latest creation. At least one thing is clear: Whether you're looking upon the CrossCabriolet's funky flanks with awe, bemusement, longing or contempt, it's going to be fun to chart this pilgrim's progress when it hits showrooms later this month.



Photos copyright ©2011 Chris Paukert / AOL


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 113 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      You all are crazy. It looks brilliant! I was hesitant at first when I heard about it, but wow did it come together nicely. Nissan is on a roll with the Juke and now this.

      Bravo! Finally a car company with some balls that doesn't make cookie cutter cars. Nice clean design. It just works and I don't know how really. It just does.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't understand why with every review of a convertible, they complain (somewhat) about cargo space when the roof is lowered.
      It's a convertible. Nobody buys a convertible for its cargo capacity, ok?
      • 3 Years Ago
      You guys are crazy not to like this car. This is a winner. And I'm not a Nissan fan.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Still amazingly hard to believe this car made it into production.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I thought this was a joke too. What a combo.... high center of gravity and soft suspension with lots of travel.... and NO ROOF. HellllloooOOOOoo deathrate of crossovers skyrocketing!
        • 3 Years Ago
        Well, if there's one.... positive? thing to say about Nissan in regards to this, it's that they... are really really good at thinking different?

        I'd say thinking outside the box, but... you know.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Couldn't agree more.

        When I first saw the picture, I truthfully believed it was a joke of some sort.

        A very strange idea.
        • 3 Years Ago
        No wonder Renault's investors aren't happy about Renault having spent $20b in Nissan, as reported yesterday. I actually think this Murano CC looks decent, but surely Renault and Nissan have more important segments to invest in, no?
        • 3 Years Ago
        You know what? I can actually imagine Nissan selling a couple and these cars driving around. If people bought the PT Cruiser vert., people will buy this. Betcha the first person you see driving one will be 50+ yo...
        • 3 Years Ago
        The print ads for it are in all of the APRIL issues of the car magazines. At first I thought it was an elaborate April Fool's joke and there was something else in the body of the ad. Nope, it's for real.

        BTW, it has a very European look to it, almost Audi like, especially with the top up. It's not horrible by any means, just kinda round and plump.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I like it inside and out but:

        -Way too expensive.
        -Fat on the outside, tiny on the inside (and trunk).
        -Just overall unpractical for parking and city use.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I thought they were going after a real market, like rental cars in sun-drenched places, CA, HI, AZ. But at 48k, no rental car co is going to buy them. Who will but this, mileage isn’t great (gas in CA is $4.00 a gal), big a@s doors are not going to easy to open in parking/garage spaces, the roll-over potential should scare the crap out of someone giving it to a younger driver. I don’t understand the last few Goshen projects.
        • 3 Years Ago
        No kidding.

        The resources should have been spent developing a Silvia/SX replacement. Sigh..
        • 3 Years Ago
        The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet... answering the question that was never asked.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The thing looks like a girls version of a bodied dune buggy. Verges on the totally impractical side. Spend s ma rter with HTTP://Bit.LY/freebiesdailt and leave things like this in the dust of unusable.
        • 3 Years Ago
        its giving me a creepy PT cruiser vibe and i dont like it one bit.
        • 3 Years Ago
        *PT Cruiser vert. & Honda Crossover
      • 3 Years Ago
      they trollin' we hatin'
        • 3 Years Ago
        Couldn't have said it better myself.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I truly cannot believe my eyes. Is this real?
      dpfgooley
      • 3 Years Ago
      Stupid car....take a 4 door SUV, gut it and turn it into a 2 door convertible. I hope you like squeeks and rattles! Not to mention the fact that it is far less safe than the 4 door SUV. Early test drives have comfirmed this...no suprise. I'm sure the far west and east coast buyers will embrace this rattle trap...enjoy!
        edgaralgrajo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @dpfgooley
        You may as well call it a rollover or even a Nissan Pinto. Most Japanese vehicles are going to be popular then there are those like the Honda Element or the Toyota Echo with the speedometer in the middle that don't last long in production if the model is not selling. In Japan, there are 10 automakers not just Honda, Toyota, and Nissan, the Big 3 of the Land of the Rising Sun, and it is not unusual for impossibly strange(in Western eyes)concept vehicles to be driven. Perhaps this is just a novelty car(COnFIRMED, NO SUrPRIZE{, and there is such a thing as a recall, just ask Toyota and the other auto makers, plus maybe Ralph (UnSafe At Any Speed) Nader can force Nissan to don't make this SUV look like the Corvair that killed his friend.
      • 3 Years Ago
      WTF?
      • 3 Years Ago
      Park it right next to the Pontiac Aztek and you will have the two fugliest looking rides on the planet!
      roger
      • 3 Years Ago
      LOOKS LIKE A$$ AND WILL NEVER SELL! WAY TO GO SLANTY!
      dadt531
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looks like a reworked Yugo ! What the hell do these designers think, appartently they don't.
        edgaralgrajo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @dadt531
        Yes, APPARENTLY they don't!! Damn those California auto designers from LA!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      The answer to a question-nobody asked.
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