Along with tall wagons called “Gran Turismo” and crossovers branded as “Activity Vehicles”, the blurred lines of auto segments have bred some unfortunate crossover SUVs.
Things used to be a lot simpler in the automotive industry. Sedans were sedans, not four-door coupes. SUVs were trucks, not car-based crossovers. Vans were vans and convertibles were convertibles. But these days lines are being blurred. Some of these can come as welcome additions, but we couldn’t say the same for these convertible crossovers. High-riding off-roaders like the Wrangler, Defender and G-Wagen are one thing, but these five are more likely to put your face in porcelain than in the wind.
We start with one of the latest violators: the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. We’ve got nothing against the Murano itself – it’s a fine crossover if you’re in the market for one – but once Nissan chopped the roof off, it lost us entirely. Unveiled (somewhat appropriately) at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2010, the CrossCabriolet loses the rear doors and cargo capacity of the Murano in favor of a large folding fabric roof mechanism. We understand people like their crossovers and like their convertibles, but we like pickles and we like ice-cream – just not together.
Nissan isn’t the only culprit here, though. And it’s far from the first. But the Japanese seem to be particularly adept at making the rest of us scratch our heads. In the late 90s, before withdrawing from the US market entirely, Isuzu offered a truck called the VehiCross. It was based on the Trooper but with far more divisive styling. Some called it futuristic, others called it just plain ugly. Now if you’re thinking “but the VehiCross only came with a hardtop”, then you’re right. Isuzu presented the VX-O2 convertible concept version at the LA show in 2010, and lent it out for "Mission to Mars", but never put into production.
While Isuzu may not have produced the VehiCross roadster, another Japanese automaker did far worse. We’re talking, of course, about the Suzuki X-90. The two-door, trunked targa cute-ute was based on the Sidekick and replaced the Samurai with a more useless form than either. Powered by a 95-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-four, the X-90 was only built for a few years in the mid-90s before it was thankfully discontinued and never heard from again. And with Suzuki gone from the US market, we may never have to endure such an automotive atrocity again.
Japan’s automakers weren’t the only to have mis-stepped into this unfortunate territory, though. GM deserves some blame here too. Because at the same time it was sinning with the Pontiac Aztek, the Chevrolet division came out with the SSR. Crossing more segments than we could even think of, the SSR was a hardtop convertible pickup truck with retro hot-rod styling that was closer in form to a car but shared its platform with the TrailBlazer. Although its design had a following, and its engine bay a V8, the SuperSport Roadster was the answer to a question nobody asked.
Finally we journey to Britain for a look at the Range Rover Evoque Convertible Concept. Made by the same company that built so many open-top Defenders over the years, this show car was based on the Evoque that’s available in three- and five-door configurations, but blew the top off to claim the title as "the world’s first premium SUV convertible" even in the absence of any demand for one. The concept was unveiled at the Geneva show last year, but hopefully won’t make any progress from the show floor to the show room, even if Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham asks for it.