When automakers innovate, there is always a bit of risk involved. But there is also the potential reward of building a breakthrough vehicle. In recent years, Nissan has shown its willingness to face these risks, releasing innovative vehicles such as the GT-R and the Leaf. But the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet represents a risk with little reward, a vehicle that is more likely to sit alongside the Pontiac Aztek as a legendary design mistake.
The Murano CrossCabriolet does count as a new type of vehicle, a crossover with a convertible top. As such, you can ride with the top down while sitting up high. It's kind of like sitting in an open-top double-decker bus. All the Murano CrossCabriolet needs is a tour guide, pointing out local sights while delivering a spiel through a scratchy microphone.
The biggest design problem with the Murano CrossCabriolet comes from changing a hatchback crossover to a convertible. Losing the hatchback means instituting a trunk, a place into which the convertible top can fold. Without the hatchback, the Murano CrossCabriolet ends up looking like a very fat coupe.
The top is fully power-operated, and takes up a chunk of trunk space when folded down. Nissan includes a removable cover in the trunk that shows just how much space is available for cargo.
When the top unfolds, its last little bit of business, attaching to the top edge of the windshield, occurs with a scary amount of force. It comes down hard enough to take off the fingers of anyone foolish enough to leave a hand in the way. The Murano CrossCabriolet could also use a single button to raise or lower all the windows, as found in many other convertibles. As it is, the driver has to work four switches, and the automatic, one-touch switches are only for the front windows.
Appropriately for a jumbo convertible like the Murano CrossCabriolet, the suspension and drivetrain are designed for comfort, not speed. The car uses Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6, producing 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The engine is solid, but not very efficient by today's standards, getting only 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Nissan has used this engine for many years and in a wide variety of vehicles. It creates enough power to move the Murano CrossCabriolet without fuss.
Nissan's CVT is the best in the business, and is the saving grace of the Murano CrossCabriolet's drivetrain. The incredibly smooth power delivery makes for comfortable acceleration, unmarred by harsh gear changes. Although some Nissan models have virtual shift points programmed into the CVT, the company did not bother with that for the Murano CrossCabriolet. Instead, it offers a low range for engine braking.