Just on the heels of its auspicious launch
, the 2011 Nissan's Murano CrossCabriolet showed up on our doorstep like a lost dog in search of some vittles.
We were happy to let it in, but was this a house guest we wanted to hang out for a while, or one which we would be just as happy to have it be on its way, further on down the road?
What is it?
A four-seat CUV that isn't quite like the others, this one is like a Barbie doll that always seems to end up with its top off. Actually, it might just be Barbie's next ride - in a cartoonish sort of way, not a sexist one.
More a people-hauler than a hauler of things, it might still do the trick for a pair of golf bags, a weekend roadtrip machine or what have you. The choice is yours, but you do need to preplan where you are going and what you are doing.
What's it up against?
Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Niente. ÐÐ¸ÑÐµÐ³Ð¾. Nichts
The fact is that there is nothing that exists that the Murano CrossCabriolet directly competes with. The only thing that possibly comes close would be the Jeep Wrangler
Unlimited, and that can hardly be considered a crossover.
Well, the design for one. Love it or hate it, it is still innovative. Not content to just go topless, Nissan seemingly raided the parts bin of big brother Infiniti to claim some of that brand's bits as its own. Which has us asking, "why is this car a Nissan, and not an Infiniti, anyway?"
Nissan expects CrossCabriolet buyers to skew decidedly female. Interestingly enough, though, it was the positive comments from male observers that really surprised us.
How does it look?
Start with a Murano front clip. That includes the grille, front fenders, hood, windshield and so on, up to the front doors. Secondly, discard the rear doors, making this a two-door joint. Slot it in about one-inch longer than the Murano four door, although it still does use the same 111.2-inch wheelbase as that car.
Add a sleeker roofline with canvas top convertible roof that acoustically isolates the road noise from the interior, and a pair of upward-sloping buttresses to add symmetry to the rear quarterdeck. Flared fenders carry on the Murano profile although the CrossCab's bustle-back deviates from the four-door hardtop. Atop the canvas roof is a skylight. Well, it at least looks like one. It is actually an area where rollover bars shoot out, keeping the car from injuring its occupants.
Depending on color choices, you can pick a beige or dark brown canvas covering.
And on the inside?
By all accounts of what we see inside, the CrossCab should be an Infiniti rather than a Nissan. It is just that nice - and so is the normal-roofed Murano. The by-now-familiar command dial with joystick-style controls is here along with a Bose audio system and navigation setup. Driving position is high and upright, and gives a good view of the road ahead. The view towards the caboose, rearward, presents some blind spots but we quickly became used to them.
Though not covered with one of those sexy new hardtop roofs, the traditional canvas model works just fine to isolate the majority of road noise that rises from the pavement. That, or maybe we just had the Bose AM/FM/Satellite/CD/MP3 player with 9gb hardrive cranked too high.
The seats offered good support, but the ride height would probably prevent you from hotfooting the Murano around a tight turn. And unlike a typical two-door, four-seater, you can actually load a pair of adult friends in back and still have them arrive without the need to visit a chiropractor following your journey.
As an added plus, air conditioning outlets are located in the rear portion of the center console, and will come in handy, seeing that at press time, this CrossCabriolet was already flirting with 100 degree temperatures.
But does it go?
DÃ©jÃ vu. We have been here before with the 3.5-liter 24-valve V6 engine. A stalwart motivating factor in many parts of the Nissan product portfolio, it shows up here producing 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. of torque. Essentially the same all-wheel-drive powertrain as found in the regular Murano crossover vehicle, it has been strengthened to make five extra ponies and eight lb-ft. more of torque.
The continuously variable transmission is firmly entrenched at Nissan as a means of improving fuel mileage and efficiency throughout its line. The Murano Cross Cabriolet is no exception. During the car's launch, we proclaimed the CVT one of the industry's best. We still feel that way. Now available as version 2.0, it uses such up-to-date ingredients as yaw sensors, wheel slip indicators and steering angle sensors to move the torque bias from front to rear as needed. Such technologies do have a price in fuel economy: The EPA cites mileage numbers of 17-city/22-highway, about what we saw in mixed driving.
A pair of MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link system on the trailing side keep the 20-inch Toyo Proxes tires firmly planted on the macadam. Sporty feeling, yes, but during our week-long drive with the CrossCab, we became conscious of the higher center of gravity than that found in a 370Z, for example. Along the way, we found this not to be the topless corner-cutter that we hoped it would be. Different vehicles for different purposes. The variable speed-sensing power assisted steering did, however, provide good road feel.
Approximately 400 lbs. of structural enhancements added to the overall weight (still a surprisingly reasonable 4,438 lbs., all things considered) of the Murano CrossCabriolet. Generally, these measures helped to provide a solid feeling ride, but not always, as we discovered. A slight groany creak appeared, which we attributed to closing the convertible roof while on an inclined driveway. It gradually became so annoying that we pulled over to a level piece of pavement, where we were able to cycle the open and closing action of the roof for a more complete sealing solution, which did help to minimize any further groans.
During our week with the Murano CrossCabriolet, we managed to cruise on a variety of roads ranging from highways, to backroads, city streets and dirt roads. Throughout, we found the CrossCab to be a willing performer, and one that was capable of handling all road challenges we tossed its way. That's not to say we would cruise the Rubicon Trail in it, but for most situations, it is more than suitable for most any task.
We just wish the sun wasn't shining so brightly during our week evaluation. If that was the case, we would have gone topless all week long.
Why you would buy it:
Because it makes you feel like you are playing hooky away from work, even when you are driving to work.
Why you wouldn't:
Your idea of topless fun revolves more around a Z-car roadster.
Leftlane's bottom line
We like to think of the Nissan Murano
CrossCabriolet as a vacation on four wheels.
Without an obvious need for all-wheel-drive, we think it would be sufficient as a front driver instead.
With that in mind, think of the CrossCab not as an off-road-capable droptop crossover vehicle, but an updated version of the mid-1960's Fiat Jolly Yacht Car. That car, derived from the Fiat 500 of the same time period, was the vehicle wealthy yacht owners would carry on-board for landside excursions once they docked at such ports as Monte Carlo or Cannes.
This won't have quite the same effect, but we like it well enough anyway. Thanks for showing us some character, Nissan.
2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
base price, $46,390. As tested, $47,190
Words and photos by Mark Elias.