If SUVs and crossovers effectively have replaced full-size cars in the U.S. marketplace, then the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet is the Chevy Caprice convertible or the Ford LTD droptop of today. Like those big boats of yesteryear, the Murano Cross Cabriolet is a convertible for those who want to take along four people in relative comfort on their al fresco excursions.
And indeed, the chopped-top Murano is plenty comfortable. There is sufficient space in the back for two six-foot tall adults (two, not three, as a plastic cupholder/console thing knocks out the center seating position). Getting back there is an easy process but a slow one. It’s easy because of the huge front doors and because the high stance means you don’t have to duck down to get in; it’s slow because the driver’s seatback powers forward ever-so-slowly to get out of the way. Whether in front or back, this Murano serves up near-Infiniti levels of interior niceness, with richly padded surfaces and oversize chairs covered in soft leather.
Aside from been a roomy place to catch the breeze, the Murano also recalls those XXXL American convertibles with its “What, me worry?” attitude towards structural rigidity. You can feel it when you shut one of those big doors, and there’s plenty of jiggle in this Murano’s step out on the road. Perhaps the likely buyers, who I imagine will be sunbelt retirees, won’t notice. But how many will be able to get past the…um…unconventional styling?
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
The Murano CrossCabriolet has remarkable damping. The ride remains pillowy soft over all types of pavement yet doesn’t feels floaty. It’s never harsh, even when encountering canyon-like potholes, mountainous heaves, and patchwork freeways. But the magic isn’t all in the suspension tuning. A large part of the Murano’s constant calm has to do with the spongy-soft body structure that absorbs any unpleasantness that make it past the springs and shocks.
As a consequence, you’ll feel the chassis jiggle and wiggle through the steering column over every bump. If you’re looking at the windshield header, you’ll notice it constantly shimmying over road imperfections. And with the top up, the whole roof dances when you cross something as jarring as a railroad crossing. These days, every manufacturer of a coupe/convertible duo brags that the body structure was designed from the outset with the intention of cutting the roof off. Based on the flex of this Murano, I’m going to guess that not even Nissan knew that they’d be building the automotive anomaly that is the CrossCabriolet when the Murano was first planned.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
There were rumors of a convertible Nissan Murano making the rounds on Internet forums, blogs, and other less-than-reputable sources for years. I wrote them off as being about as likely as a four-wheel-drive Ferrari wagon. It turns out both these vehicular oddities made it to production in 2011. Is the automotive apocalypse nigh?
I don’t appreciate much about the exterior of the Murano CrossCabriolet. I actually don’t appreciate the exterior of this generation Murano, even with a traditional top and four doors. Much like the previous-generation Nissan Quest, the design is just a bit too Star Trek for my tastes. Converting the Murano to a softtop doesn’t make it any more graceful, and the long doors can make parking in a crowded lot or garage much more difficult. At least with the top down it’s easy to toss a bag into the rear seat.
Thankfully the Murano’s interior is very attractive and well executed. There’s a lot of noise that penetrates the soft top, so much so that I thought a window was down somewhere, but I suppose that’s to be expected with a soft top. The leather seats are very nice to look at and provide enough support, but the heated steering wheel leaves a little to be desired. It seemed to stop pumping out heat after a few minutes of use even though the button remained lit. Maybe that was the Murano’s way of telling me driving with the top down in 39-degree weather wasn’t a good idea.
I really like the way Nissan has configured the human-machine interface in all of its interiors, it’s never a chore to change radio stations, input a destination, or use your iPod through the infotainment system.
I agree with Joe Lorio about the most likely buyers coming from retirement villages in sunbelt states. Oddly enough, this car seems more like a replacement for a Lexus SC430 than an extension of the Nissan Murano line.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
A disconcerting thought occurred to this twenty something, gasoline-veined writer as the top lowered on this powder-blue, 4438-pound freak of automotive design: I uh, kinda like it.
In theory, adding the impracticality and added weight of a convertible to a high riding and already bulky crossover isn’t a formula for success. Indeed, that’s the reality as well. The Murano’s butch styling hardly helps matters.
And yet, I can hardly claim not to have enjoyed tooling around in this creation. Like the Cube and Juke before it, the CrossCab somehow doesn’t look quite as bad as it should. If the Cube looks like a bulldog wearing sunglasses, the CrossCab might be a walrus wearing a toupee. It also drives pretty well, at least when viewed purely as a cruiser. It goes down the road quite comfortably, the Jello in its body structure filtering out the few bumps and potholes that get through the softly sprung suspension. The ubiquitous VQ V-6 has its work cut out here, and gets little help from the CVT automatic, but its 265 hp is enough to keep acceleration respectable around town. Credit goes to Nissan engineers and designers — remember, this wasn’t their idea — for making a concept so inherently unworkable almost work.
Americans have a history buying some pretty awful cars – Chrysler LeBarons, four-cylinder Fox-body Mustangs, Pontiac Sunfires — for the joy of lowering the roof on a sunny day. The CrossCab does deliver that wind-in-your-hair experience. It’s also genuinely different. We as auto journalists ask for different all the time only to point and laugh like middle school bullies when an automaker actually dares to deliver it. I won’t. I like the Murano CrossCabriolet. Now, please excuse me while I search for my Man Card.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is destined to go down in history as the most stupid vehicle of 2011. It’s confounding that Nissan is even building this car. It flexes and shakes over bumps due to its lack of structural rigidity caused by the huge aperture for the convertible roof, and the ride height serves no useful purpose other than to make the CrossCabriolet look ridiculous and be less efficient.
Rear visibility is marginal at best. Front and side visibility is okay. The cabin is overwhelmed by the huge mass of dashboard but, that said, the interior is beautifully finished, and the front seats are very comfortable. There’s a decent amount of trunk room even with the top down. But what, exactly, is the purpose of this ugly thing?
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
There are some quirky thinkers within Renault-Nissan’s engineering staff. Who else but the zany French minds behind the Renault Avantime — a four-seat, two-door, minivan-based gran turismo — could think to build a convertible out of a midsize crossover?
Remarkably, there may be some method to the madness. As was the case with the Avantime, transforming such a large four-door vehicle into a two-door coupe provides ample leg- and shoulder room for rear-seat passengers. And, for those who love both open skies and the raised stance of an SUV, this is about the only way to get both, other than the barebones Jeep Wrangler.
One warning: you will be noticed in this vehicle. Heads turn every time you drop the top, and the comments — many of them remarkably unpleasant – are immediately forthcoming. Raising the top won’t necessarily help things, as Nissan’s folding-top design doesn’t offer much in the way of noise abatement.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
After reading David’s comments, I feel much better about the Murano CrossCabriolet — that is, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone on the Automobile Magazine staff in my lack of enmity for Nissan’s for the two-door, convertible SUV.
Most importantly, it needs to be remembered that this is not a sports car, has no dynamic intentions, and is made more for cruising and garnering looks than for hot laps. I received only one thumbs-down, I had two women gushing over the car, and I got more puzzled looks than I could count. Honestly, I quite like the look of the CrossCab; it has a great fun factor to it because it is just so utterly strange and ridiculous. Every time anyone laid eyes on the car the CrossCab evoked an opinion, something that few cars do anymore.
Because it is such a conversation piece and so unlike anything else on the road, the CrossCabriolet is fun. Yes, fun. That’s what this car is — it’s about fun and a certain type of joie de vivre that goes with both making a splash and putting the top down on a starry night and just going for a drive.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet AWD
Base price (with destination): $47,190
Price as tested: $48,500
3.5-liter V-6 engine
Vehicle dynamic control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Nissan hard drive navigation with 7-inch touch screen
Digital Bose audio system
7 speakers with subwoofer
XM satellite radio
9.3 GB music box
USB connection & auxiliary audio inputs
Rearview backup camera
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Nissan intelligent key with push button start
Power tilt/telescoping steering column
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Heated front seats
Heated steering wheel
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Options on this vehicle:
Camel interior — $500
Cashmere & brown top interior — $500
Floor mats & carpeted cargo mat — $185
Splash guards — $125
Key options not on vehicle:
17 / 22 / 20 mpg
3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 265 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Curb weight: 4438 lb
Wheels/tires: 20-inch alloy wheels
235/55R20 Toyo Proxes A20 all-season tires