Thumbs Up: The only all-wheel-drive convertible crossover we can name.
Thumbs Down: Top down, there isn’t much cargo room; luxury-car price tag.
Buy This Car If: You want an AWD ragtop that seats four in relative comfort.
Sometimes, blending two (or more) things into one is good. The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is a prime example, since nothing goes with chocolate quite as well as peanut butter. Blending a telephone with a GPS device and web browser was another stroke of genius, since it all but made in-car and stand-alone GPS systems obsolete. There’s a reason, however, that no one has ever launched a combination cough syrup and dessert topping.
Which category the 2012 Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet falls into depends entirely on your perspective. On the one hand, it will carry four adults comfortably, offers the benefits of top down motoring and even comes with standard all-wheel drive for year-round-confidence. In fact, the Nissan Murano stands alone as the only cabriolet crossover we can name.
On the other hand, people buy crossovers because of their versatility. They’re equally adept at hauling passengers or cargo, which is a large part of their appeal. A crossover with limited cargo capacity, at least in our eyes, will have limited appeal. Top down, the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet only offers a small fraction of the cargo room that its hard top sibling does, so forget about bringing that big-screen TV home (unless you drop the top and throw it in the back seat). There isn’t much luggage space, either, so don’t plan on any multi-week driving vacations with three of your closest friends.
There’s no denying that the Murano Cross-Cabriolet is unlike anything else on the road, and that includes its polarizing style. Fans love it for its originality, and its one of the few press-fleet vehicles that drew routine comments from passers-by. Some praised its lines, while others equated it to Moe, the overbite-saddled bartender from The Simpsons. Love it or hate it, you absolutely, positively won’t lose the Murano Cross Cabriolet in a parking lot.
Top down, its a far better looking vehicle, even though its proportions are somewhat unusual. The windshield, for example, is very steeply raked, while the front fender is oddly short. From a side view, there isn’t much front overhang, but head on, it seems out of proportion. Even the flared wheel arches seem more pronounced than on the regular hard-top Murano, although they probably aren’t.
Like Nissan’s smallest crossover, the Juke, the Murano Cross Cabriolet’s styling will draw an equal number of fans and critics, but we’ll give mad props to Nissan for putting the car into production. You can’t be a leader by building the same products as everyone else, and Nissan was clearly thinking outside the box with the Cross Cabrio.
Inside, the Cross Cabrio blurs the lines between Nissan and Infiniti, which is a good thing given its premium price tag. The dash is wrapped in sculpted, soft-touch vinyl that wouldn’t be out of place in a luxury vehicle. The infotainment system is driven by the same type of intuitive controller used on Infiniti models and even the aluminum dash trim is a welcome touch. There’s blonde woodgrain plastic trim used on the doors and center console, and it blends well with the camel-colored interior. Overall, the interior is among the nicest we’ve seen in a non-luxury brand vehicle.
That carries over to the Murano Cross Cabrio’s front seats, too. Leather clad and heated for all-weather comfort, the seats are wide and reasonably well bolstered. As part of the Upgraded Leather Seat Package, both front and rear seats get diagonal stitching for an enhanced appearance.
Rear seats will accommodate two passengers only, although Nissan opted for a semi-bench style instead of individual bucket seats. There’s a reasonable amount of leg room, but accessing the seat with the top in place is somewhat challenging. Nissan does provide a handy switch for the driver to move the front passenger seat out of the way, allowing better access to the rear accomodations. We wouldn’t want to travel cross-country in the second row seats, but for a top down run to the beach or out to dinner, they should be just fine.
The Murano Cross Cabriolet is powered by Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6, but that’s a good thing. In this case, it produces 265 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to accelerate even the AWD Murano with reasonable authority. Your sole transmission choice is Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT), and while we generally aren’t fans of CVTs, Nissan’s version is as good as it gets. Despite the CVT, the all wheel drive takes a toll on fuel economy, which is rated at 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway; we saw 18.3 in mostly-city driving. Offering a front-drive Cross Cabrio would help with both the sticker price and with fuel economy, so lets hope that Nissan gives this consideration for the future.
The Murano Cross Cabriolet isn’t a drivers car, and it’s handling is best described as “adequate.” Turn-in is leisurely, although the steering is nicely weighted and provides a reasonable amount of feedback. The Cross Cabrio’s area of expertise is leisurely cruising, making a run to the beach an ideal mission. Blasting up a canyon road with anything resembling haste isn’t what the Cross Cabrio was designed for, but the trade off is a comfortable ride that’s relatively quite for a cloth-top convertible.
Dropping the top requires just the press of a button. There are no latches to release, but the complete operation takes a while. You’re better off planning ahead, since attempting to go topless at a red light is likely to produce some angry motorists behind you. Stowed, the top takes up a considerable amount of the Cross Cabrio’s trunk, but the hard tonneau cover adds a completed, custom look to the Cross Cabrio.
Few people buy convertibles for their practicality, and with the top down on a bright, sunny day (or a star-filled summer’s night), the sins of the Cross Cabrio will likely be forgiven. Fans will argue that convertibles give limitless (if not secure) carrying capacity, and that the all-wheel-drive makes the Cross Cabrio a do-it-all vehicle for every imaginable climate. Even the luxury touches are surprising from a major manufacturer, and the Cross Cabrio would fit in to the Infiniti lineup with almost no changes.
You pay for that luxury, however. The Murano Cross Cabriolet has a base price of over $45,000, and that doesn’t even include a navigation system. That’s comparable to luxury crossovers from Cadillac and Lincoln, although neither brand builds a convertible variant to go toe-to-toe with the Cross Cabrio. If that’s what you really want, and your budget will allow a Cross Cabrio in your garage, the Nissan stands alone.
Nissan supplied the 2012 Murano Cross Cabriolet for my review. Base price on the press fleet tester was $45,350, including a destination charge of $810, and options were the $190 Floor Mat Set, the $1,850 Navigation Package and the $500 Upgraded Leather Seating Package for a total sticker price of $47,890.
For an indirect comparison, a similarly equipped Cadillac SRX Luxury AWD would sticker at $45,975, while a comparable Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible (only available in FWD) would sticker for $33,490. Neither one is a direct comp for the Cross Cabrio, but both are as close as you’re likely to get. At $47,890, the Cross Cabriolet isn’t inexpensive, but on the other hand buying both the Cadillac SRX and the Chrysler 200 to get the same capabilities would cost you far more money.