Editor's note: This review was written in July 2011 about the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2012, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is a large car that succeeds at being a comfortable convertible despite being hampered by uncertain handling, a small trunk and portly road manners.
Nissan does the car no favors by marketing it as a convertible crossover with all-wheel drive. Yes, it has standard all-wheel drive, and I know the car is based on Nissan's Murano midsize crossover, so one would expect Nissan to use that name in its marketing.
But the choice sets shoppers up for disappointment, as the term "crossover" usually describes SUV-style vehicles with four doors, two or three rows of seats and a generous cargo area. The Murano CrossCabriolet isn't that type of vehicle — but that doesn't make it a failure.
Making a CrossCabriolet
Nissan says the Murano CrossCabriolet offers the same features and options as the top-level hardtop Murano LE.
That means the Murano CrossCabriolet has standard 20-inch wheels, a backup camera, a navigation system, heated seats and steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift, and simulated wood trim. Opting for the Murano CrossCabriolet means you're vaulting to the top of both the option and price trees.
The Murano CrossCabriolet has a power soft-top that folds into the rear trunk area. It's a good-looking car; were it not for the tall ride height, it would almost look sporty, especially in profile.
Two things immediately stand out. First, because the Murano CrossCabriolet rides so high, it's easy to get in the front seat. (And it's not so high that shorter people should have an issue.) Considering most convertibles on the market today are lower-slung cars, that's a refreshing change.
The second thing is that I kept feeling like I was on display. It's hard to explain — and maybe it was because I was riding high enough to look pedestrians in the eye as I drove by — but I felt very much on top of things and more out in the open than I have in other convertibles. Also, whenever I went into a garage with the top down, I felt like I was going to bump my head on the ceiling, even though I was sufficiently low enough to prevent that from happening. None of that is to knock the CrossCabriolet, but it is unique.
Out on the highway, the Murano CrossCabriolet is a fairly pleasant car to drive. One good thing is that there's very little buffeting in the cabin with the top down at highway speeds. I didn't feel as beaten up as I have in other convertibles.
Overall visibility is fine for driving, though a fairly high trunk lid compromises the rear view. I did feel I could still judge distances for passing and merging, though. It helps that Nissan gives you large mirrors instead of the small or oddly shaped ones more automakers seem to be favoring.
The Murano CrossCabriolet's biggest fault is that its body rigidity is more like a convertible's than a crossover's. When a car loses its roof, it also loses rigidity. That leads to body shake and, especially in the case of the Murano CrossCabriolet, a sense that the car is "jiggling" over uneven pavement. It's the kind of thing convertible owners might expect, but if you're moving from a crossover or SUV, it will be a bit of a surprise. The CrossCabriolet just didn't feel sure-footed.
Another fault is the lack of a particular option: I've owned convertibles, and I find heat, not cold, to be the bigger obstacle to enjoying a convertible year-round. Even if I'm the outlier on this, not even offering cooled or ventilated seats — even while making heated seats standard — seems a bit short-sighted.
Care must be taken whenever raising or lowering the roof. While this isn't unique to the Murano CrossCabriolet, the power top requires a lot of vertical clearance, as well as some clearance to the rear, for the mechanism to work its magic. At about 30 seconds, it's not the slowest power-retractable hardtop I've been in, nor is it the fastest. I wouldn't want to try opening it at a stoplight, for instance.
Finally, be warned that the Murano CrossCabriolet's roof drops to the windshield frame with a pretty violent bang. It's actually startling, to the point that the first time I closed the roof, I thought something had broken. I don't need to tell you to pay attention to it on your test drive, because the only way you wouldn't notice it is if you were dead.
The Murano CrossCabriolet is a comfortable place to be even when the roof is closed. Thanks to a pillarless design for the side glass, things feel very open and airy in the front seats. There's a small skylight for rear passengers that, combined with the pillarless glass, makes the rear a less claustrophobic place to be than it is in many other cars — convertible or not.
Part of what helps you feel less claustrophobic, too, is that there just is a lot of room in the rear seat. Headroom is quite good — I'm tall and had no issues with my head coming near the roof — and legroom is also impressive. It's a comfortable place for an adult, and a large adult at that.
It should be noted that getting into the rear seat of the Murano CrossCabriolet with the top up isn't the easiest thing to do, because it's a two-door. Getting out is worse.
Anyone with limited mobility should try clambering in and out of the rear seat with the top up before buying.
The Murano CrossCabriolet is pretty loud with the top up, at any speed. There was wind noise from the roof at highway speeds and a great deal of ambient noise from outside while driving around town. I expect this from any soft-top convertible, but it was more noticeable here. I found the noise level acceptable, but it's something others might find off-putting.
Finally, as is often the case with convertibles, the Murano has a fairly small trunk. Part of that is because the top stores in the trunk when it's down, but even with the top up and the partition retracted there's not a lot of room. The specs tell the story: With the seats up, the 2011 Murano has 31.6 cubic feet of storage space. The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet has 12.3 cubic feet.
It would probably be OK for a couple of light packers to take on a weekend getaway to the country, but I don't see four people being able to do the same trip — at least not with their luggage.
I've covered how the body shakes and jiggles, but there's more to driving a car than that.
The Murano CrossCabriolet is a car that's more comfortable cruising than sprinting. It's got a 265-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission with overdrive. In the real world, that means the Murano CrossCabriolet moves away from lights fairly well, it has a transmission that's responsive and it merges with traffic OK. But it's not a sports car.
One thing that doesn't help is that the Murano CrossCabriolet is about 200 pounds heavier than the conventional Murano, and that slows it down, making it feel a bit more portly coming down highway ramps.
This is also because the ride is very soft. Setting aside the jiggling you notice on lumpy, rough roads, the Murano CrossCabriolet does a good job of absorbing bumps from things like expansion joints or single potholes. It's a nice car for long highway drives.
Other editors who drove the car said it felt very big, and even though a glance at the specifications shows it's not that big, I know what they mean.
Safety, Reliability & Mileage
The Murano CrossCabriolet has not been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are standard pop-up roll bars behind the backseat as well as seat- and door-mounted side airbags. The door-mounted airbags are designed to protect both the heads and torsos of those seated in outboard seats in a side impact or rollover.
The Murano CrossCabriolet was introduced during the 2011 model year, so reliability data has not been gathered. It's estimated to get 17/22 mpg city/highway.
Murano CrossCabriolet in the Market
The Murano CrossCabriolet is in a market of one. Yes, there's the Jeep Wrangler, which also offers four-wheel drive and a true convertible roof, but that car is all about tackling the wilderness. The Murano CrossCabriolet isn't that type of car; it's much more luxurious.
It's also one of the only large convertibles that can carry four adults comfortably. It'd be a stronger offering if it had cooled seats, a bigger trunk and a less-flexible body. That way, the Murano CrossCabriolet would be a vehicle that people in warm or cool climates could take on long road trips with their friends.
As it exists now, the Murano CrossCabriolet is a large car that's best suited for trips where part of the fun is not having to be anywhere in a particular hurry and nobody wants to carry a lot of luggage.
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