Murano CrossCabriolet certainly is distinctive, because of the top, whether it's up or down. No one looks twice at a Murano any more, but everyone, especially women, looked at our CrossCabriolet as we drove it around Southern California streets with the top down. Regardless of whatever ribbing Nissan has been taking for solving a problem that nobody had, when a carmaker comes up with a car that everybody looks at and smiles at, they feel they've done something right.
Besides, some people actually do need an SUV convertible. They need four-wheel-drive traction in cold winters and want open-air enjoyment in hot summers.
The CrossCabriolet maintains the silhouette of a Murano, but about four-fifths of the sheetmetal is new, everything except the A pillars, hood and front fenders. There's a new front fascia, and also everything from the reinforced A pillars back, especially the doors. (The Murano also features new styling for 2011.)
Two of the Murano doors have been sacrificed in order to keep the roofless chassis structure of the CrossCabriolet strong. The remaining two doors have been widened by 7.9 inches, in order to allow easier entry and exit to the rear seat. There are no B-pillars.
The sides of the car curve upward into the shape of a small J, where they meet the low-profile roofline. J-motion waistline, Nissan calls it, the shape adding both roof height and trunk space. The feature is more pronounced with the top down, as it encompasses the heads of the rear passengers and seats them in a secure small well, without blocking their visibility. Sporty-looking brushed aluminum rollbars rise behind their heads, and pop up another six inches if triggered by rollover sensors.
The pop-up rollbars will smash the skylight if that happens. It's a horizontal slit over the rear passenger's shoulders that opens things up and raises the roof, at least in the occupants' minds.
Edgy fender flares front and rear, and a gap for off-road ground clearance over the tires, make the CrossCabriolet statement: take me to the boonies, I'm ready. The look is especially striking when the top is down. The Nissan design team wanted to express a feeling of "sky and earth," and they have.
Boomerang taillamps are traced from the Nissan 370Z and Maxima, and split five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels finish off the styling.
The CrossCabriolet interior begins where the Murano top of the line interior ends, says Nissan. The only option for the entire vehicle is Camel leather, and although it's the same double-stitched leather as the black or beige, the beautiful brown color (with black trim) might just be worth it.
The overall lines of the interior, including the very comfortable seats, are sculpted and curved, subtly, so it works. The forward view of the rear seat passengers is helped by sloping shoulders of the front seats. The trim looks nice in half-matte chrome finish, which we usually just describe as brushed aluminum. There's just enough wood trim, light or darker, on the console and front-door armrests.
From the high driver's seating position, it feels like what it is: a big SUV with no roof. Visibility out the rear with the top up is pinched a bit, but sideview mirror visibility is good. The instruments look clean and sharp in white on black, and all the buttons and knobs on the dashboard and center console are good and functional.
A 7-inch display screen is used by the rearview camera whenever backing up. The rest of the time it's used by the navigation system, which comes with XM traffic.
With the top down, the interior space is sheltered from the wind. "Confined and protected," Nissan says, describing the feeling. We drove the CrossCabriolet with the windows up, down, half up, and front-rear up-down, and were sheltered all ways. So no screen or shield seems to be needed, behind the rear seats or at the top of the windshield. Turbulence is kept out of the car by the tall windshield, high beltline, and high rear shoulders from the J-motion design. Conversations between driver and passenger are easy. We didn't have any passengers in the rear seat, but even they should be able to talk to the driver without having to shout into the wind. Even with the windows down at 75 mph, there wasn't much buffeting. When we raised the windows, it got whisper quiet even at that speed.
Those backseat passengers are positioned 3.6 inches closer to the front seat, than in the Murano SUV. Rear legroom has been lost, down to a slim 32.7 inches from 36.3 inches, to create storage space for the soft top. The good news is that there's tons of hip room with the rear bench reduced from three seats to two, with a console and two fixed cupholders in between.
The front seatbacks flop forward and the seats slide forward, to enable entry and exit for the back seat. It's not the slickest method we've come across, but it works.
With the top up, there's good trunk room of 12.3 cubic feet. When the top is down it rides on a shelf in the back, so trunk space then gets slashed to 7.6 cubic feet. Cargo space is not the CrossCabriolet's strong point.
The quality cloth top with fabric liner comes in black or beige, and looks sleek with its low profile. Using aluminum and magnesium rails, it goes up or down in 25 seconds, even with the car moving at a few miles per hour, for example if you're in a freeway traffic jam and a thunder shower comes along; or the opposite, and you decide you might as well get some rays while you're stuck in traffic. Expect to attract attention when doing this.