Test Drive: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

?Nissan bows with world?s first AWD Crossover Convertible?

It may be classified as a truck, but the all-new, four passenger Nissan Murano ragtop actually breaks totally new ground. It?s like nothing that has ever appeared in the marketplace before. It?s part Crossover and part convertible, but it?s all Nissan Murano, and it?s the world?s first All-Wheel Drive crossover convertible. It?s officially called the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Generally, when people think of a crossover, they associate the combination of the driving sophistication of a sedan with the utility of a sport utility.? The new Murano CrossCabriolet adds an unexpected third element, more exciting open air driving.

The CrossCabriolet delivers a new and unique, custom boutique design form, transforming the Murano from a 4-door to a 2-door vehicle on a crossover body. The body is the same as a regular Murano from the nose to the ?A? pillar, which sports Nissan?s new Murano front fascia for 2011 ? everything else from the ?A? pillar back is all new, including the interior, except for the dash, which includes a new informational display. There is no ?B? pillar.

The top is a three layer, low-profile soft-top that highlights the CrossCabriolet?s sleek and sexy silhouette. Wheel wells are pronounced, and there?s an upper character line that runs from the front wheel arch to the taillamp assembly which is consistent with the boomerang styling of the Z and Maxima rear light treatment. Above that line is a kicked-up J-Motion waistline where the top?s rear connects. Another lower character line travels from front to rear, connecting both the wheel arches and fender forms. The lightweight material top features glass windows including a unique rear skylight, and stows in roughly the same space as in a 2-seater convertible. The top is available in Black or Beige, and operation up or down takes place hydraulically in a mere 25 seconds.

The CrossCabriolet?s curvaceous lines carry over into the interior, with available quilted seatbacks and door panel inserts. Double stitching expresses a tailored finish on quilted surfaces. The front seat design features sloping shoulders that offer improved forward visibility fro rear seat occupants. Polished wood-grain trim accents provide a warmth and elegance to the cabin?s ambience ? in a dark or light tone, dependent upon which of the three the interior color themes are selected. The interior color choices are: Black, Cashmere or Camel. There are 6 exterior colors from which to choose.

The Murano CrossCabriolet is based on the LE trim level of the regular Murano, and draws its motive force from a 3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve V6 with electronic fuel injection and CVTC. Power is transferred from the transversely mounted front engine, through Nissan?s second generation Xtronic CVT transmission with Adaptive Shift Control to all four wheels via an intuitive all-wheel drive system. Horesepower rating is 265 at 6,000 rpm, and the torque rating is 248 at 4,400 rpm. EPA fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Essentially, the drivetrain is shared with the AWD version of the Murano.

The suspension setup consists of Independent twin-tube struts, coil springs, dual flow path shock absorbers and a 25mm solid stabilizer bar up front and

Multi-link with dual flow path, twin tube shock absorbers and a 20 mm tubular stabilizer bar in the rear. The CrossCabriolet rides on 20-inch split 5-spoke titanium-finished aluminum alloy wheels shod with Toyo Proxes A20 all-season tires. Steering is vehicle-speed-sensitive and power-assisted, and bring the Murano drop-top to a halt are 4-wheel, vented disc brakes with ABS and EBD.

Safety features include:? Nissan?s Advanced Air Bag System with driver and front passenger side-impact supplemental air bags and door-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental air bags with rollover sensor, front seat Active Head Restraints, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Traction Control System and dual pop-up roll bars fro rear passengers.

The 2100 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet represents innovation without limits, and comes only in one extremely well-equipped model, with: leather appointed seating, available with premium diagonally quilting for both seats and door panel inserts; Nissan?s Hard-Drive Navigation System with 9.3GB Music Box? Hard Drive and XM NavTraffic; Bose? AM/FM/CD audio system with 8 speakers including subwoofer and automatic audio adjustment for soft top position; and RearView Monitor. Pricing is $46,390 completely equipped ? add $810 for Destination and Handling charge. Only two options exist – the Camel interior incurs an extra $500, as does a Cashmere interior with the Beige top.

My test Murano CrossCabriolet came with the exterior finished in Sunset Bronze metallic, with a Cashmere interior and Beige top, which with D&H brought the final tally to the top price of $47,700.

SUMMARY: My first reaction to the concept of a convertible Murano (which I really like in its basic form) was ?What in the H – – L is Nissan thinking??. Photos

didn?t really do the unusual CrossCabriolet justice ? it is much more appealing

when viewed in person. In fact, once one has experienced driving and riding in it, the realization that it?s pretty darned cool. It actually overcomes the traditional limitations of a conventional convertible such as limited trunk space, a cramped back seat or none at all, and a lack of flexibility and versatility for everyday use. Ultimately, the Murano CrossCabriolet reinvents the open air versatility issue and encourages people to rethink what a convertible can become.

Trunk capacity with the top up is 12.3 cubic feet, and 7.6 cubic feet when the top is stowed. Cabin space storage is plentiful and standard features include: power front windows with one-touch up/down and auto-reverse feature, Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control, a 7-inch color display for audio, climate control, fuel economy, maintenance and comfort and convenience systems,?a two-tier center console storage box with fold-out function, cell phone holder, dual seatback pockets, Fine Vision gauges and driver instrumentation with white backlighting, illuminated steering wheel controls, auto door lock feature, four cupholders, power tilting and telescoping steering column, auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control with illuminated steering wheel mounted switches, front door map pockets, and Remote Keyless Entry system.

Acceleration is more than adequate and handling characteristics are sporty. The suspension is on the firm side, but not to the point of stiffness. The CVT transmission shifts smoothly, but tends to allow the vehicle to roll back on an incline when letting off the brake, which may be offset by left foot braking.

All-in-all, the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet should prove to be a big success ? especially for open air motoring fans with the need for more functionality than conventional convertibles tend to provide. Turns out that Nissan was thinking outside the box, which may be why they?re doing so well.