First Look

First Look: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Some cars should never be made. We all know several of them and, boy, they are lots of fun to mock. Sometimes they're well-built, but even then, it's nearly impossible to find justification to buy them. And yet automakers still manage to find that supposed "empty void" in their product lineup and the market as a whole. Call it clever accounting in terms of building a unique model that's based off an existing one.

Either way, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is definitely a departure for the automaker, considering the standard Murano crossover has been a consistent sales success since it first went on sale in late 2002. Now in its second generation, Nissan felt that deleting the rear doors and hacking the roof off would actually increase sales. And what you see is what you get. The 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet looks strikingly familiar but its proportions still look, well, off.

Maybe I'm used to seeing the regular Murano or perhaps because the Cross Cabriolet looks like something out of my old Hot Wheels collection. Likely a combination of both. The cheap plastic surgery began with engineers modifying the existing platform for fun in the sun duties. This resulted in a 400 lb weight gain, larger doors, and vertical reinforcements located behind the passenger seats. Basically, everything from the A-pillar forward is the same. Nissan then brought in the reliable Canada-based supplier Magna to design the hydraulic soft top.

It's composed of five sections and has a frame made from aluminum and magnesium. There's also a skylight above the rear glass window that provides additional light for when the top is up. Designers and engineers also had to rework the trunk to enable it to stow the folded-down top. Fortunately, it still manages to provide enough storage space. Road noise with top down is fairly quiet, but there's a definite increase as the car accelerates. Power comes from the same 3.5-liter V6 from the standard Murano, which has 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.

Mated to the familiar Xtronic CVT transmission, fuel consumption comes in at 17/22 city/highway. The Intuitive All-Wheel Drive system, a welcomed feature for various road settings, also remains. The nice interior is also untouched as it retains the nicely designed dash and 7-inch central infotainment display screen. Other standard features include 20-inch wheels, Bluetooth, Bose stereo, rearview camera, bi-Xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats and steering wheel.

Now, here's where the gimmick really becomes clear. Nissan has taken it upon themselves to decide that the CrossCabriolet will have just one trim level. And not just any trim, but the top-of-the-line most expensive one of the entire Murano lineup. For a list price of $47,200, you could become the proud owner of this two-door, four passenger clownish beach highway cruiser. For that cash, just think for a moment of the nearly countless other choices out there (I'm thinking Audi Q5).

Does it drive well? Yes. Good build quality? Absolutely. Relevant for any reason other than L.A-inspired vanity? Nope. Nissan claims buyers will be mainly women between 40 to 45 years old who are well-educated and earn somewhere around $125k a year. Count me out. Hopefully they (and everybody else) will realize the $7,220 premium it costs to cut the top off and remove two doors of a perfectly good Murano is not exactly a smart buy. Wherever that "empty void" supposedly is, Nissan should have just ignored it.

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