2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

7.8
2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

The Basics:

Can you wrap your head around this? The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet may well be the first all-wheel-drive crossover convertible in automotive history. Loosely described as a two-door ragtop version of Nissan's mid-size crossover, the CrossCab is easily the most unusual vehicle to come from a mass-market automaker in recent memory.

It's stylish and refined, but the 2012 Nissan Murano isn't the most space-efficient crossover.

The conversion from Murano to CrossCabriolet makes for some strange proportions. It's not just visually arresting, it's a full-on S.W.A.T. takedown of your optic nerves. Wait, what? The CrossCabriolet sits very tall--taller than the standard Murano--and while the toothy grin is shared, it's completely different from the windshield on back. Longer doors, massive 21-inch wheels, and a long-lidded convertible top cap the CrossCabriolet, giving it something of the proportions of the old Chrysler PT Cruiser, blown up 2x but without the death to all good convertible styling, the roll hoop. The interior's much more conventional, though: the standard Murano pieces have been beefed up to cloak structural improvements, and covered in higher-end details like lovely wood trim and quilted leather.

The CrossCabriolet carries over the powertrain and some drivetrain pieces from the hard-roofed Murano, and those pieces work well for its easy-riding mission. There's a familiar 3.5-liter V-6 engine under hood, with 265 horsepower and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) producing an ample stream of power, quite smoothly at that. All-wheel drive is wedded into the CrossCab's hardware, along with an independent suspension front and rear and lots more body reinforcements. So outfitted, it's an effortless cruiser, but it's not at all sporty. More than any other vehicle we've driven, including some heavy-duty trucks, the CrossCabriolet gives the sensation of being at the helm, distinct from driving, with softened body motions cresting bumps and navigating curves with nautical precision. Gas mileage of 17/22 mpg is actually a surprise, given its visual and actual heft.

The CrossCabriolet's unusual packaging cuts down on the Murano's already cozy interior. Big, long doors swing open widely, making front-seat access easy but making parking more of a chore. The driving position is commanding--think Pirates of the Caribbean--and the front seats sit very high. The rear seats are for showing off: it's a climb up through those long door cutouts, and once you're in, shoulder room's much narrower even than in the Murano hardtop, but there's no better place to see and be seen. The trunk isn't at all spacious when the power-folding top is lowered: with 7.6 cubic feet of space, there's no room for a suit bag, but golf clubs or a couple of roll-aboards will fit. Trunk space nearly doubles when the top is raised and a rigid trunk liner is lifted into a set of latches that prevent the top from smushing the trunk's contents.

By the way, opening that top is like watching a billion-dollar stadium peel back its retractable roof. Push a button and the power-operated lid arches skyward majestically; stop it midway and you get a sense of what the Sydney Opera House looks like without the burning thousands in airfare. The convertible top's so large it has its own glass sunroof, but it's actually packaged in a fairly small bundle when stowed.

The Murano CrossCabriolet is sold in one form, with a few options. Rollover pop-up bars, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth, and HID bi-xenon headlamps are all included on the roster, as are satellite radio, a USB port, and a rearview camera. The hard-drive-based navigation system is now a stand-alone option, and removing it from the standard-equipment list has lowered the base price by about $1000.

Still, the CrossCab's priced rather steeply at more than $45,000. That's far more than a VW Eos or Volvo C70, and it overlaps a base BMW 3-Series convertible. For that price, you get exclusivity of a Bentley kind, and just as much potential for vitamin D production--not to mention a constant stream of what-the...

For something less completely different, be sure to read our full review of the 2012 Nissan Murano.

 

Buying Tips:

It comes in one configuration, so it's easy to find a CrossCabriolet to your liking--if such a creature exists. This year, the navigation system comes as a stand-alone option, but it's a good factory unit with touchscreen and hard-button controls.

Other Choices:

  • 2012 Jeep Wrangler

Reason Why:

There's just one vehicle remotely competitive with Nissan's truly offbeat Murano CrossCabriolet. The Jeep Wrangler--in long-wheelbase, five-seat Unlimited form--comes in hardtop or soft-top convertible form. It's less steady and smooth on everyday roads, but retains a good deal of the traditional Jeep off-road ability, and can be optioned up just as expensively as the Murano CrossCabriolet.

The Bottom Line:

The perfect convertible for the Rose Bowl Parade and other showy, low-speed occasions, Nissan's Murano CrossCabriolet is a truly offbeat vehicle.

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