Driven: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Story by Benjamin Greene

Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/NewsCenter/NewsCenterDetails.aspx?mmysid=4089

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabrolet

We have to give it up to Nissan for bucking the trend and offering a convertible SUV. The concept behind the Murano CrossCabriolet isn’t new. The Jeep Wrangler comes with soft-top and so did the Land Rover Defender of the mid-90s. But those cars are undeniably different in a can’t-quite-put-a-finger-on type of way. Nissan calls it the world’s first crossover convertible, and we will agree that it is like no other crossover or SUV on the road.

Unfortunately, to create the CrossCabriolet, Nissan had to re-engineer the Murano to the point that it is nothing like the four-door SUV except in name and face. The transformation meant creating new front doors and eliminating the rear doors and B-pillars. The front doors are 7.9 inches longer and may help ingress/egress, but they swing wide and are heavy, reminding us of the doors on the old GM-produced F-bodies of the 90s. The lack of rear doors is disappointing as well. Part of the practicality of an SUV comes from allowing the rear passengers to enter and exit on their own or the ease of putting a child down in his or her car seat, but the CrossCabriolet takes away those conveniences. The backseat offers decent headroom and houses comfortable chairs although it is a little slim on legroom. We also found storage space in the rear trunk to be rather small, a problem exacerbated by a divider that needs to be in place in order to put the top down.

The hydraulically operated top mechanism includes an automatic power latch/unlatch system with simple switches located on the center console and driver’s door handle. A small back window and large rear headrests inhibit the rear view, but to solve this problem, Nissan added a smaller secondary window a little above the main window. Nissan calls it a rear glass skylight although its only apparent purpose is driver visibility.

While some of us applauded the unique look of the Murano CrossCabriolet, some stooped as low as to call it outright ugly. For better or for worse, some of its standout styling features include Nissan 370Z-inspired taillights, 20-inch rims, chrome door handles, and massive truck-ready outside mirrors.

Once seated inside, all the car's issues quickly fade away. The Murano CrossCabriolet is luxurious. Half the time, we thought we were in an Infiniti. The leather is diagonally quilted with a double-stitched pattern that comes off as elegant. The chintzy chrome bits on the outside are replaced with impeccable brushed aluminum and wood trim inside. You sit high, but the beltline is higher, behind a tall windshield; Nissan says it helps reduce air turbulence for a better conversation between occupants with the top down. Both the front and rear side windows are huge, but it helps give the illusion that it is a normal four-door SUV. The switchgear is intuitive and the chairs are plush. We can see where Nissan spent its money on the CrossCabriolet but you pay for the Infiniti-esque interior with an FX-esque asking price.

2011 Nissan crossCabriolet Interior
The Murano CrossCabriolet’s comes standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. The engine is connected to a CVT. We found a similar setup in the Maxima rewarding, but with nearly 4,500 pounds of heft to move, the CrossCabriolet was less than energetic and the CVT caused a near-constant engine drone. Part of its weight comes from the standard all-wheel drive system, which detects and distributes torque according to driving conditions, but it is not made to go off-road. You are reminded of the car’s weight every time you accelerate, brake, or corner. On the other hand, the ride is glass smooth and Lexus quiet. Combined with the comfortable chairs, premium materials, and ability to open its top, and the Murano CrossCabriolet comes off as perfect for a leisure Sunday cruise.

Other crossovers may offer the demeanor of a sedan with the utility of an SUV, but Nissan thinks it is tapping another subset of buyers also interested in open-top motoring. We don’t think the idea is a bad one, and we commend Nissan for its pursuit of the unconventional, but we think the Murano CrossCabriolet was approached from the wrong direction. A Fiat 500C-like convertible top that only replaces the roof overhead or maybe even removable glass panels like the pre-993 Targas may have worked better. However, once seated and on the move, the plus sides to the CrossCabriolet are apparent. We think one tester summed it up best when he said he liked it most once he wasn't outside of it.

Vehicle Specs

Base Price
$46,390

Engine
3.5-liter V-6

Horsepower
265 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque
248 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Transmission
CVT

0–60
8.0 seconds (estimated)

Top Speed
120 mph (limited)

Weight
4,438 lb

Length
190 inches

Tires
235/55R-20

FOR
Smooth, quiet, and comfortable

AGAINST
SUV that trades half its utility for open-top motoring
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