First Drive: Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Occasionally a manufacturer steps out the box and comes up with an idea for a new car that no one else has thought of, or at least built beyond the conceptual phase.? Nissan has a reputation for trying some different things, but the Murano CrossCabriolet is pretty far out in left field, as far as new car ideas go.

No one at Nissan seems to point a finger saying this is where the first crossover convertible idea came from, but they have built it, and it?s arriving at U.S. dealers soon, and honestly, it?s pretty cool.

The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet takes the front end of the popular Murano crossover, then from the ?A? pillar back creates a plush four-passenger convertible.? It?s certainly not like taking a four-door Murano and cutting the top off and beefing-up the frame.? The CrossCabriolet (or CC) is a two-door, with a slick looking convertible top and spacious back seat.?? In fact, the back seat is one of the most comfortable convertible back seats I?ve been in

The design called for an eight-inch wider door, for easy rear seat access, a slightly raised area behind the rear seat followed by a trunk area.? The raised area is where Nissan stores the top and its hardware when the order comes to ?drop the top.? That process requires holding a finger on the switch for only 25 seconds, so it can be done at a normal traffic signal.

The convertible top is so well designed, it folds neatly into an area about the same size as the top of a two-seat convertible.? It ends up in a ?top trunk? mounted behind the two ?pop-up? roll bars in the top area of the trunk.? This leaves 7.6-cubic feet of well-configured cargo space.? In my case, that?s enough space for my wife Barbara and me to fit our two carry-on bags and couple of smaller bags.? When the top is up the space grows to 12.3 cubic feet, and there would be room for us to add a couple sets of golf clubs?if we golfed.

Nissan designers said they wanted to give the CC the same elegant feel you might get in a cruise ship. ?That translates to curvaceous lines, posh leather seating, tasteful wood trim.? The CC starts with all the same features as the top-of-the-line Murano LE and adds a few other features.?? The only options are a camel- or cashmere-colored interior ($500).

For $47,200, the CrossCabriolet buyer will want for nothing.? The standard equipment includes HID headlights, heated (front) leather seating, heated steering wheel, HDD navigation, Bose audio, XM radio, all power and most of the luxury accoutrements I expect to find in a luxury vehicle.

The CrossCabriolet is one of the best examples of all-weather transportation you will find, and I think that?s what helps make it so interesting.? This is a vehicle that may replace a couple of vehicles in a garage. One of its greatest appeals is tooling around with the top down on a warm, sunny day, but the CC can also handle a trip to the ski area, or even a drive to that remote cabin.? The CC is not going to be a hardcore off-roader, but it?s going to take a couple nearly anywhere they want to go.

All CC models are equipped with all-wheel drive and are powered by Nissan?s award-winning 265-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine.? The transmission is the Xtronic CVT with Adaptive Shift control.? In my mind, this is the best CVT in the business because it is smooth and efficient while feeling more like a conventional transmission.? I would have preferred to have the transmission equipped with a simulated manual shift system so I could fulfill my personal need to shift rather than brake.

Crossovers and convertibles tend to be heavier than the general automotive population so as you might expect, the CC is no lightweight tipping the scales at 5,269 pounds.? That weight is evident in the way it drives.? It?s a cruiser, not a sports car.? The ride is skewed toward comfort, more than handling, but I think that?s more the nature of this vehicle.? If someone wanted a sport car, they could buy something like the Nissan 370Z instead.

Nissan engineers outfitted the CC properly with four-wheel vented disc brakes with all the electronic aids like anti-lock, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution.? The steering has a good positive feel, and it has a turning radius of less than 40 feet, which is quite good for an all-wheel drive.

This is going to be an interesting car, (or CrossCabriolet) to watch because it?s so unique.? However, when it comes to universal appeal, it should get the Swiss Army Knife award for versatility.? I hope it?s a big success so we can watch all the other companies rushing to market with their own interpretation of a CrossCabriolet.