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A Brief History of the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

A bizarre drop-top four-seater SUV that's made for not-so-secret getaways.

Nearly a decade ago, a truly odd duck was inflicted on the motoring masses: The 2011-2014 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Debuting at the end of the PT Cruiser convertible's reign, the then-most questionably styled drop-top on sale had standard all-wheel drive and a substantial base price of $47,190. It lingered on for four model years, never quite setting the sales charts alight, but certainly setting many heads a-scratch.

The posh Murano (non-CrossCab) debuted in 2002 as a 2003 model year two-row, midsize crossover, pairing avant garde styling with athletic performance thanks to a platform related to the Altima and a stellar 3.5-liter DOHC V-6—which made 245 horses and 246 lb-ft of torque. We were wowed by the focus on aesthetics and performance, sportier and more exciting than the segment leader at the time, the Honda Pilot.

The same can't be said for the CrossCabriolet, a tragedy of poor planning and taste based on the lamer second-generation Murano—no offense if you still own one. The cursed convertible recently made our "The Ugliest Cars of the 2010s" list where our scribe Aaron Gold opines, "The idea was bad, the execution was bad, and the styling, well, it was just terrible, top up or top down. Worse yet, Nissan insisted on a paint palette full of metallic pastel colors and a white interior, which makes driving a Murano CrossCabriolet feel rather like riding around in Zsa Zsa Gabor's wardrobe. " Um, Google her and you'll know who Gold is talking about.

So how did the CrossCabrio come to be? Back in 2011, when the Murano CC made an appearance at the Geneva motor show, Automobile interviewed Nissan chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura about the genesis of this automotive anomaly. Nakamura told us that Carlos Ghosn, CEO (at the time), "was the instigator ... He came up with the idea three years ago. The sketches were promising, so we went ahead with it. Murano is an upmarket product, and with this version we were targeting affluent, aged customers."

Ah ha! It was made for old geezers! Rumor also has it that Ghosn's wife was interested in a topless vehicle based on the Murano, for some reason, but this has never been fully proven.

Crazier than the why is the how: Most of the convertible was new compared to the regular Murano and almost everything behind the firewall had to be done over. The bodywork was new and the overall body structure was stiffer for the high stance SUV. Under a hood, a 3.5-liter V-6 engine is good for 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the engine layout has remained relatively unchained since then.

The chopped-top Murano's interior has room for four passengers, or maybe five if you squeezed an extra one in the breadbox-sized trunk for a quick getaway. Today a search for used ones online surprisingly shows examples that are still selling in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. Would you pay that much for what one staffer described as "a 4,438-pound freak of automotive design"?

"The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is destined to go down in history as the most stupid vehicle of 2011," another staffer said at the time. "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." It surely wasn't utilitarian—cramped inside and with a tiny trunk, the CrossCabrio combined the heft of a crossover with none of its usefulness.

More to the point, despite being sold as a convertible, rear visibility is described as "marginal at best." The top sported two windows, a rear glass one, and a narrow rectangular plastic one above it on the roof for its retractable rollover bars. Inside the cabin sported a massive dashboard with a "beautifully finished" interior, and we noted that "the front seats are very comfortable."

Well, at least we had something good to say about it. Perhaps we will never know the purpose of the Murano CrossCabriolet's existence, but one thing is certain, it won't be the last of its kind.