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2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet: Crossing Over into Unchartered Territory

As the owner of a 2011 Murano, I was very skeptical of the Murano CrossCabriolet and the ability to deliver on the ‘cross’ bit of the name with only two doors and four seats.  After a brief test drive in Del Mar, CA, I realized that the word crossover was being redefined right before my very eyes.

The idea is a bit wacky: take a Murano LE AWD, chop off the roof, cut out two doors and one seat.  Sounds like a total hack job, right?  Wrong.  What is so weird is that the Murano CrossCabriolet actually pulls this off in a very interesting way.  Besides the Jeep Wrangler, this is the only vehicle that has an elevated seating position and can drop the top.  It has standard all-wheel drive to make mincemeat of any snow and heated seats and a heated steering wheel to maximize top down motoring twelve months out of the year.  It boasts more interior room than an A5 Cabriolet.  Simply put, it means the back seat is actually a place to put people larger than 4’8″.  Since I was the tallest person (6’3″) at the event I was pressured into trying out the rear seat.  Everyone was so impressed that I could comfortably fit (top up and down) that I became the poster boy for rear seat legroom.  A not-so-flattering picture of me popped up on The Truth About Cars site.  Nissan claims a baby seat can fit comfortably back there as well.  I believe it.

So crossover is a word we hear thrown around quite a bit these days.  Basically a crossover is a vehicle with room for a family, some cargo space, and handles like a car with an elevated seating position.  Nissan is adding another element to that definition by adding convertible capability.  Why should mothers and fathers have to sacrifice vitamin D for utility?  It’s an intriguing idea that solves a problem no one realized they had.  So is there anything wrong with this Swiss Army knife of crossovers?  The price.  It starts out north of $45,000.  Sure, it comes fully loaded with navigation and all-wheel drive but it’s still pricey.  Nissan isn’t looking to sell many of these but I can tell you there was definite interest in this vehicle everywhere I took it.

It didn’t matter if you pulled into a valet behind an AMG or stopped at a red light next to a Ferrari and a Bentley (yes, I did both) the eyes and finger pointing were all directed at me.  I almost felt like I was driving a UFO or riding a unicorn.  Even at highway speeds people were slowing down or speeding up to catch a glimpse.  Luckily it handles well at highway speeds.  There are some jiggles and cowl shake going on with the rear view mirror and steering wheel but it wasn’t as bad as say, the Infiniti G37 convertible.  The roof was chopped off so I naturally expected worse.  With the top up the ride is pleasant and quiet.  The top is made from the same material as the Nissan 370Z and the good quality shows.  The rear seat gets a small tinted piece of glass to reduce the “cave effect” in the back seat.  It seems to be rather pointless because the glass is so dark that it doesn’t let much light through.

A lot of people are questioning why Nissan is producing vehicles that are so “different” but it’s a welcomed change in a world full of vanilla sedans, white cargo vans and blinged out SUVs.  People either love or hate it but if you have a passion for open air motoring and don’t want to sacrifice passenger comfort, the Murano CrossCabriolet should be on your shopping list.  Nissan has pushed the engineering envelope with the Murano CrossCabriolet and it appears they met their goals of offering a comfortable crossover that seats four, can haul a suitcase or two, and lets you save some money on spray tanner.

August 2011 Update

So, driving a car such as the Murano CrossCabriolet in California didn’t seem so bad back in March.  Fast forward to July in Michigan.  I asked Nissan if I could drive the Murano CC in Southeast Michigan.  Sure, why not?  First of all, the Murano CC looks hideous with the top up so you’re pressured to ride with the top down, even if it is raining.  Isn’t that the point of a convertible?  So, driving around downtown Ann Arbor I heard things yelled out from people sitting on the sidewalk eating fancy steaks like “UGLY” or “WTF” and the best was “Oh God, no they didn’t.”  But Nissan did.  I even had a guy in a Ford Edge tell me he wanted to sell his Edge for a Murano CC.  He said the panoramic sunroof just doesn’t cut it after seeing the Murano CC.

I went rolling through some of the more urbanish areas near where I live.  I knew no one would want to car jack me.  At red lights people would ask me “this car for real?” or “is that a California special edition?”  I realized I was getting a lot of positive reaction in the hood.  Interesting.

I am happy to report that the Murano CC does in fact hold people in the rear seat.  My 6’5″ father sat in the back seat without requiring the removal of his legs.  A baby seat fits back there wonderfully, as well.  I also had my 6’6″ father-in-law sit in the front seat.  The windshield was high enough for him to see out of – a rarity for convertibles.

So, I now understand who this car is for: tall people.  We can fit in any seat in the Murano CC.

The other secret sauce Nissan has going for it is ingress and egress.  With Baby Boomers getting to the golden years, they might be up for sunning their bald spots while they take their Social Security check to the bank.  Have you ever watched an old man try to get out of a BMW Z4 or a Porsche?  Yeah, two broken hips later they make their way out.  Well, what better way to save those bones than to pick up a Murano CrossCabriolet.   The elevated seating position makes for a very easy entry and exit.  And there is room for the grandkids in the back seat.  Sacrificing your crossover seating position for an open roof is no longer required.

While other manufacturers were cutting back on spending during the recession, Nissan was moving ahead.  If anything, the Murano CrossCabriolet is a big middle finger to everyone else who is turning out boring cars with apparent cost reductions throughout the interior.  With the Japanese Yen stronger than ever, the Murano CC can’t possibly be making any money for Nissan.  So why make it?  It gets people talking.  It gets people looking at Nissan’s website.  It’s a moving billboard for Nissan that people will pay $47,000 for.  You can love it or hate it.  It’s something that no one thought would ever be done but even Audi says they are going to do a CrossCabriolet of their own.  Maybe Nissan is on to something…

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