2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

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2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet: Review

This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2014.
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.0

Bottom Line:

The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is a visual challenge, doesn’t offer much cargo space, and it is pricey. However, it delivers proficiency and panache. A solid powertrain, eloquent ride quality and excellent fit and finish are joined by a surprisingly lush interior. Even so, we’re still scratching our heads over who it is built for.
Pros:
  • Alluring open air ambiance
  • Spacious, highly refined leather interior
  • Capable AWD system promotes confidence
Cons:
  • Less cargo capacity than a subcompact
  • Wallops the wallet for $46,390
  • Styling is hit-or-miss proposition

The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is a head-scratcher of a vehicle. Nissan is touting it as the world's first all-wheel-drive crossover convertible. Sounds kind of cool, right? The description conjures up images of classic SUV drop-tops such as the 1970 Ford Bronco or the mid-1970s Toyota Land Cruiser, both of which could be outfitted with soft removable tops.

While we didn't expect the CrossCabriolet to be as capable as those off-road icons, we also didn't expect what we were presented with either. We expected a vehicle with four doors, seating for five and room for a dog in back--a true SUV with a convertible top. The Murano CrossCabriolet has two doors, seating for four and less cargo space than a subcompact Nissan Versa sedan. It's basically a coupe with a high beltline.

Sure, it's unique. But what good is it for? Well, that question is still unanswered.

Model Lineup
The CrossCabriolet is based on the top-of-the-line Murano LE, replete with all the bells and whistles, including Nissan's hard-drive navigation system with a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive. From a sheet metal standpoint, the fenders, hood and front bumper cover are standard Murano fare. Everything else is specific to the CrossCabriolet.

While there are no options on the menu, buyers can choose from six exterior colors and pay $500 to upgrade from a black leather interior to a Cashmere beige or Camel tan leather interior. For an additional $500, buyers can also swap from the black top to a tan top.

The CrossCabriolet is pricey, starting at $46,390. That's about $5,000 or 13 percent more than a standard Murano LE.

Under the Hood
Like the rest of the Murano models, and much of Nissan's truck and SUV lineup, the CrossCabriolet is motivated by the proven VQ35DE 3.5-liter V6 engine. In the CrossCabriolet, it is connected to a second-generation Xtronic continuously variable transmission, rated to deliver 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque.

The freshened CVT is noticeably smoother, especially on initial engagement from a standstill. Acceleration is authoritative without revving the engine to extreme levels. Nissan says engineers reduced friction, fortified the belts and improved cooling in the new CVT. It was work well done. From the transmission, the CrossCabriolet grips the road via Nissan's Intuitive all-wheel-drive system. Fuel efficiency checks in at 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway.

Inner Space
The CrossCabriolet's cabin is a real gem. In fact, it's so plush you'd expect to see an Infiniti logo on the steering wheel. Supple leather seats and upholstery and high-quality materials in the dash and center console, including lavish wood trim accents, set the stage. We'd spend the $500 on one of the lighter interiors, though. The quilted seatbacks, double stitching, and the 2-tone effect really add a sense of style and refinement to the already cheeky CrossCabriolet. The front seats, which have rounded shoulders to provide more visibility to rear passengers, are very comfortable and provide that high-and-mighty driving position that SUV owners like.

Rear passengers get wide, cozy quasi-bucket seats that feel like Lazy Boy recliners. They are separated by a cup-holder array. We would have preferred a more substantial drop-down armrest.

The low-profile cloth-top features three layers, is well insulated, and it sports two rear windows; the second window serves as a skylight to brighten the scene for rear-seat passengers. The top takes 25 seconds to fold up and stow in the trunk, and the process is like a captivating puppet show as both ends of the top move in concert while the deck lid raises and flaps unfold all around. Amused, we pushed the button three different times to take it all in.

With the top up the skylight does a good job filtering in more light, but it is not above the passenger like a sunroof. The three-layer top does an excellent job buffeting road noise, providing a calm atmosphere in the cabin. Drop the top and you get to fully appreciate the CrossCabriolet's open-air driving experience. The Nissan has a slew of conventional safety systems, as well as a CrossCabriolet-specific, pop-up roll bar. The silver finished accents behind the rear-seat headrests are actually roll bars that extend upward in a crash, protecting the cockpit.

The CrossCabriolet's big sacrifice is cargo capacity. The CrossCabriolet sports a maximum of 12.3 cubic feet, which pales in comparison to the standard Murano's 31.6 cubic feet with the seat up and a maximum 64.0 cubic feet with the seat down. Heck, the subcompact Nissan Versa sedan can haul more gear at 13.8 cubic feet of capacity. The CrossCabriolet offers a scant 7.6 cubic feet of storage with the top down, which takes a lot of utility out of this sport utility.

On the Road
Main Street cruising is the CrossCabriolet's forte. Drop the top and the Nissan delivers ample acceleration, a silky smooth ride and the sense of peace and freedom that comes with open-air motoring. The new continuously variable transmission is stellar, seamlessly streaming power when needed and holding the revs down on the highway.

The buckets seats feel great and should feel better the longer the road trip. The driving position is tall--the CrossCabriolet has the same ride height as the rest of the Murano lineup--and driver controls are logically placed and easy to use.

To access the rear seats you merely unsnap a seatbelt holder on the front bucket and push a button on the seat shoulder. This tilts the seat-back forward and scoots the seat bottom forward as well, affording easy ingress into the rear area.

Right for You?
More of a robust convertible coupe than a drop-top SUV, the Murano CrossCabriolet is a visual challenge with its chunky proportions and a distinct lack of that low-slung sex appeal usually associated with convertibles. It also sacrifices many desirable crossover/SUV attributes in its quest to go topless. And the Nissan rings the register pretty hard at $46,390.

But while it lacks the cargo prowess of its Murano brethren, this newcomer should be evaluated on its own merits. In this light the CrossCabriolet delivers proficiency and panache. A solid powertrain, eloquent ride quality and excellent fit and finish are joined by a surprising lush interior.

Even so, we're still scratching our heads over who this vehicle will appeal to. Sorry Nissan.

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BB02 - 9/1/2014 11:52:26 AM