By on March 7, 2011

Given TTAC’s reputation for lack of restraint when it comes to criticism, I was more than a little surprised to see an invite to the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet launch in San Diego, California. Especially considering that our initial reaction to images of the world’s first soft-top CUV was

If you’ve ever been to a topless beach, you know the basic problem: you expect a bunch of topless Jags and Maseratis, but what you actually get is this, the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Four thousand pounds of roly-poly crossover blessed with the totally misguided belief that people want to see it with its top off. We’ll keep a corner of our eye on this as the LA Auto Show kicks off… but we’ll be sure to avoid eye contact.

On the other hand, strong initial reactions are exactly what this vehicle is all about. And like Nissan’s last controversial design, the Juke, the Murano CrossCabriolet can not be simply judged based on two-dimensional images. Besides, if even Nissan’s designers are willing to acknowledge that the Murano CC is “the answer to a question nobody asked,” surely there must be some kind of logic to this unexpected arrival. So, with an open mind, I dropped in on the strangest, most unique vehicle to launch in ages, hoping to make some kind of sense of something that, on its surface, has no business even existing.

Parked in front of a hideously expensive beachfront hotel in tony Del Mar, the Murano CC makes its first bid at making sense. The sheer awkwardness of the design’s two-dimensional impression fades considerably in the look-at-me automotive arms race that is Southern California. In an environment where AMGs are more common than base-level Benzes (ironically known as “Newport Nissans” for their sheer ubiquity in these parts), the logic of of a 4,416-lb convertible that looks like nothing else on the road becomes just a little more accessible. In fact, from Nissan’s perspective, any $46k vehicle that will get even a little bit of attention from a SoCal valet parking attendant is a downright value proposition. If it takes a tuned Bentley to draw your eyes away from the CC (see above), well, Nissan’s accomplished something.

But the valet parking test is notoriously skewed towards novelty, so just because the CC grabs eyeballs like Lady Godiva now doesn’t mean it’s a successful design. Which leads to a problem: how do you define successful designs for convertible crossovers? Simply put, there is no precedent for what we’re looking at. Yes, it’s impossibly chunky for a two-door drop-top, but it’s also remarkably clean for a topless conversion. The lack of a roll-bar/cross-brace keeps the design blessedly free of typical ” convertible conversion” cues, and the beltline’s upward slope towards the truncated C-pillar keeps the visual mass rearwards, allowing a snug, nearly straight-across folding roof. Though the proportions are out-of-this-world, there’s actually some real elegance to the CC’s clean lines and graceful top: think of it as an overgrown version of a little French C-segment convertible with moon-buggy ride height, and you’re getting the picture. In fact, the least successful aspect of the design is the Murano’s front clip, which is one of the only elements that actually carries over from the fixed-top CUV.

When you realize that only the front clip and instrument panel are carried over from the standard Murano, another apparent hole in the CC’s logic appears: why isn’t this thing an Infiniti? Nissan explains that the goal of this car isn’t simply to sell a huge number of convertibles: it’s actually intended as a halo for the Murano line. Had the Murano CC been, say, an Infiniti FX50 CC, it would have been bringing polarized eyeballs towards a vehicle line that sells in fairly limited quantities. Instead, Nissan hints that the CC will be marketed alongside the standard Murano in hopes of extending the popularity of a line that Nissan already considers a hit.

But because Nissan also wanted to avoid a quick-and-dirty conversion, the CC has been worked-over enough to give it a nearly-Infiniti feel. As with the exterior design, the only thing keeping this from feeling like an Infiniti is the one element carried over from the Murano, the IP (sticklers will find an awkward C-pillar seam in interior photos of these pre-production soft-tops). Otherwise, new front seats have been fitted to give more visibility from the rear seat, and the interior has been worked over considerably.

The only major option for the CC is a $500 leather interior, with swaths the cabin with quilted leather finished in a languidly curvaceous pattern intended to evoke a luxury yacht. Considering the one-trim-level strategy, the $125k+ annual income target audience for the CC, and the fact that this option works so well with the car’s hedonistic vibe, it’s tough to understand why Nissan bothered to make it optional.

But the best thing about the CC’s interior is the spacious rear seat. At around $46k, the Murano CC may be approximately price-competitive with the BMW 3 Series convertible or Audi A5 ‘vert, but neither of its German rivals will fit a 6-foot 3-inch gentleman (like AutoPacific’s Dave Sullivan) in the backseat with good head and leg room. In fact, only the Mercedes E-Class offers comparable comfort for four-up motoring, again making the Murano CC something of a surprise value.

Of course, there are downsides: ingress and egress can be a bit of a squeeze, and that’s only after you manage to swing open the CC’s giant door (which weighs approximately the same as a Versa) and unclip the front shoulder belt from its leather strap (why no seat-integrated front belts on those unique seats seats?). And like any drop-top rear seat, things get a bit windy back there at speed, especially since Nissan preferred to keep the CC’s lines clean rather than adding any wind mitigation screens or baffles. Luckily the rising beltline keeps rear passengers well-cocooned, and the fresh air is not unpleasantly buffeting (although the rear belts will batter against the seats at speed).

And though the rear seats offer Crossover-like comfort for four people, the Murano loses much of its cargo-carrying utility along with its top. Golf clubs for the foursome will fit back there, but overnight gear for four will be a bit of a squeeze. More luggage fits in with the top up, but you must first re-position a bar in the trunk, and then move it back when you want the top back down. Though it sounds inconvenient, this isn’t a huge hassle because you can’t raise or lower the CC’s top on the go anyway.

So, how does it drive? Well, for the surprising amount of sense the Murano CC makes as a value-poseur-mobile, Murano halo or four-up cabrio, on the road the CC falls apart under the weight of its many contradictions. The 265 HP version of Nissan’s ubiquitous V6 works hard to motivate the nearly-4,500-lb CC, calling on some the distinctly un-luxurious areas of the rev-band with frequency. The continuously-variable transmission helps smooth out what might be an otherwise undignified drivetrain (it’s especially intuitive at low speeds), but there’s no sense of effortless pace or power reserves.

Similarly, the unnecessarily tall ride height and soft suspension limit the CC to relaxed cruising, lest passengers become seasick all over the luxury yacht-inspired interior. Luckily the damping is solid enough to keep the huge weight and soft springs from unsettling the ride in sedate driving, but the overall driving impression from both the chassis and drivetrain is of the huge weight of the vehicle. Add to the weight issues the fact that the CC has you looking down on traffic, and piloting the CC becomes a downright bizarre experience; akin to driving a cross between a power boat and a double-decker bus.

In his fictional piece “The CAFE Continuum,” Jack Baruth posited a world in which CAFE had not been passed and where Americans still rolled around in large, comfortable sedans rather than “light truck” crossovers. In that world, the Murano CC would not exist, as large, softly-sprung convertible sedans would be able to seat four adults with the top down. But in this, the real world, large American convertibles simply don’t exist. Instead we get the Murano CC, which cruises competently, grabs stares, and generally comports itself well with the end-of-life, beachfront community lifestyle. But, as a Nissan rep helpfully pointed out, the Murano CC simply brings the crossover through the sedan’s journey from sedan to coupe to convertible. Perhaps, by pushing crossovers into the final stage of evolution, Nissan is actually helping bring the crossover era to an end. It’s certainly tough to see where they go from here.

Nissan provided transportation, lodging and meals, as well as the vehicles, for this day-and-a-half-long test event.

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62 Comments on “Review: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet...”

  • avatar

    The only reason I was distracted by the Bentley was because it is so hideously altered.
    I’m still amazed that Nissan went ahead and built this thing… so kudos to them for offering something nobody else would.  Who knows maybe it will start a new class of vehicle (although I doubt it based on the current economic climate and rising gas prices).  The roof even has two windows, how odd!

    • 0 avatar

      Wasn’t the 1960 Impala convertible something like 4000 lbs?  Why didn’t Nissan make an updated version of that instead?  At least it would be nice to look at…

  • avatar

    Styling wise I think both top up & down it’s a lot better looking than the Crosstour.
    I know that’s not saying much but I don’t find the styling to be objectionable.

  • avatar

    There’s nothing really wrong with this car save the brand.
    It’s a relaxed-fit convertible; if it was a sedan, it’s clientèle would have to crunch down and in.  CAFE be damned: no one, save stylists, really likes low-roof cars.  We have a whole market of people who’ve been sold on the easy of access that crossovers provide, so what’s really wrong with a convertible that you don’t need to fold yourself into?  Especially when you consider that the kind of people who can afford this car are likely not going to be young. Heck, I am young and I like it.  Can’t come close to affording it, though.

    Good for Nissan for having the guts to buck conventional wisdom and build a car for actual buyers.

    • 0 avatar

      I see what you’re saying, but isn’t part of a convertible’s appeal its sexy top down looks?  I don’t think the Nissan is ugly, but sexy it is not.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends who the customers are.  In the case of people buying anything from the Mustang to the SLK to the 645Ci, sure.
      In the case of this, or the old Solara/Sebring?  Not so much.  This is a car to take four people to lunch on a nice, sunny day.

  • avatar

    My very first reaction to the aqua-colored one was: someone pumped a 1990’s Chrysler LeBaron convertible full of air! I don’t know what to think of it – I couldn’t buy one – too much of a gas-hog and too expensive for my taste – I wish it wasn’t, but we need more convertibles on the road than we have now; Chevy: are you listening? Anyway, bravo, Nissan! The top part of the split window gives me pause as to early material fatigue and easy breakage, but if you can afford this, so what? you fix it. Plus many know how I feel about side quarter windows on coupes rolling down, and if this is what it takes, well…I see nothing wrong with it. Whatever happened to the “tall sedan” trend of a few years ago? I agree with Psar – I am 60 and want a car I can get in and out of easily. My Impala is that car. My MX5 is sometimes a pain to enter and exit, but until I start having problems with flexibility, I’ll worry about it then – that’s why I exercise and try to stay in shape!

  • avatar

    I dunno, it screams Avantime 2.0 to me. It’s a CUV without any of the “practicality” of a CUV, much like the Avantime was a minivan without the practicality of a minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right. Limited practicality – if you’re looking at it as a CUV. Consider it a convertible first, and by definition, practicality becomes a non-concern.

  • avatar

    And like Nissan’s last controversial design, the Juke, the Murano CrossCabriolet can not be simply judged based on two-dimensional images.


    Been seeing plenty of Jukes on the road these days.  I was iffy on the photos, but in the flesh it looks great!  100% successful from a styling standpoint if you ask me.  Not thrilled with the compromise to luggage capacity that comes along with the sloped hatch, but maybe that’s no biggie for the target audience.

    Looking forward to laying eyes on one of these.

  • avatar

    Convertibles are meant to be fun. What is “fun” about a bloated CUV with a drop top? Nothing, absolutely nothing. This thing is a mess, both in form and function. Amazing that it got built while we still wait for a decent wagons, light & cheap RWD cars and more diesels. Instead Nissan makes this… thing. Its almost like they are trying to become know as makers of ugly since the Juke is current title holder.

    • 0 avatar

      <i>Amazing that it got built while we still wait for a decent wagons, light & cheap RWD cars and more diesels. </i>

      Is this some kind of TTAC parody?

    • 0 avatar

      Before you decide that this needs to be fun – think about the target audience. Now imagine what they consider to be fun.
      It’s going to be the novelty of casually cruising in the sunshine, not doing hot laps at the track.

    • 0 avatar

      @ srogers  I agree. You really have to assess this kind of vehicle against its target audience.

    • 0 avatar

      So I guess lots of people were saying “Gee, I’d buy this convertible, but it’s too much fun to drive, it gets too good of gas mileage, and it’s too pretty.”  Similarly, a bunch of people were standing around saying, “Man, I wish this CUV didn’t fit so much crap in it!”

      Give me a break.

      Are you telling me that the mustang convertible is too hard to get in and out of?  If so, what about a 328, G37, or IS250?  This is not even getting into the mini or VW beelte and Eos or the offerings from Volvo, Saab, and others.   

  • avatar

    It’s not nearly as ugly or goofy-looking as I suspected it would be.
    In fact, it looks rather attractive but, they photographed it in context with a bunch of other Murano CCs.
    It will be interesting to see it juxtaposed against more conventional cars.

  • avatar

    I like the concept.
    High cars are better than low cars.  That should hold true for convertibles too.  Look how well the Wrangler sells to people who never go off pavement.  In spite of how terrible it is in every other regard.
    But somewhere along the way this one went terribly wrong.  In every way right down to the Barbie accessory pastel paint.
    Maybe if they’d started with something that didn’t look like an ill proportioned egg to begin with.  Like the FX.
    Or better yet the QX.  Not like that one could be made to look any worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Your comment about high cars suiting a lot of people is correct, I believe. While it’s not my cup of meat, so many people drive SUVs, that a SUVC (convertible) is a logical progression of events.
      Really, how is this worse looking than a (new and old) VW Beetle, PT Cruiser, Geo Metro or Dodge Dakota or Shadow convertible?

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat


    First you expose me to the hideous freak of (customized) nature that is/was the WRX convertible and I thought it was for my own good to make me understand that there are bad, bad people out there who will have their way with unsuspecting near-supercars.
    And then this.  When will it stop?  Dear God, please be merciful and cease this effort to make me turn my back completely on the car culture and start dreaming about the latest Zip Vuca Aero Bars on a carbon fiber road bike.
    If you keep it up, I may give it up completely and start babbling nonsensically about the best props for holeshots with a MasterCraft.

  • avatar

    I almost hate to say this, but I kind of like it. I’d never buy it (not that this is a a real option for me anyway), but I do think it is an interesting vehicle in its own way.

  • avatar
    John R

    Female Divorcee Realtors…you’ve arrived.

  • avatar

    If this sells I bet Range Rover, BMW and Audi all launch competitors…. Range Rover Evoque CC anyone?

  • avatar

    The real judge here is sales.  I don’t see people paying this much for a soft top convertible crossover.  While a cool idea, I don’t think this works in reality, especially not at the price point for Nissan.
    You made the comparison with the Juke.  How are juke sales?

    • 0 avatar

      How are juke sales?
      They’re currently running a little over 3k units per month… so Jukes sell in one month what the Acura ZDX sold last year.
      Nissan claims “about” 900 pre-orders for the Murano CC.

    • 0 avatar

      The Juke is actually a pretty cool little car.  It’s a little too ZDX in it’s packaging (to be fair, it’s roomier than the ZDX) but otherwise it’s nice inside, reasonably versatile and both acceptably fun to drive and frugal.  Way, way better than most people give it credit for.
      I’d like to see that powertrain in the Cube.

  • avatar

    Probably the only thing outdoing this in ugliness is the Juke, brought to you by Nissan.

  • avatar

    This is a real WTF? car because I’m not sure what they were thinking or why. Also the only detail that really strikes me as clever is the reversed rear seatbelts to avoid a clumsy looking outboard anchor.

  • avatar

    What an ugly & useless car. Why not buy a WWII Dodge Command Car? More versatile, more bad-ass, plus 4 doors.

  • avatar

    The potential exists here to set new records…for incentives.

  • avatar

    Hmm.  I dunno.  You’d have to really love the Murano to get one of these, and the Murano is polarizing enough.  They did the best they could, but the low roofline really accentuates the gunslit window look.
    Branding it as an Infiniti would have raised the price by $10k, and then it’s nearly useless to Nissan.
    Living in western PA, where we get something like 3 sunny days a year, it just doesn’t make sense to consider a car like this.

  • avatar

    This really looks French — it immediately reminded me of the Renault Avantime and Vel Satis.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I think it would look fine along the Côte d’Azur.

      Now have you seen Renault’s take on the Juke? Makes you wonder if the French have taken over for Nissan’s designers…Probably a good thing. Take a look here:

  • avatar

    This reminds me of that weird retro convertible pickup by Chevy (SSR?).  That was style over substance as well, and kind of pricey.  How’d that go?

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    This is hilarious.

    If GM even showed this thing at some backwater Autorama the whole blogosphere would be donning sackcloth, burning their voter’s cards and drinking their urine.

    But since Nissan produced this guppy, we’ll wink and call it cute.

    Personally I rather like the aqua one – but then again I’ve always been attracted to chubby chicks.

  • avatar

    Seems the same as PT Cruiser Convertible. How is the roll-over safety on this thing?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Nautical references are appropriate.  If you picture the Murano CC up to about the top of its wheel-wells in water, it suddenly looks at home.

  • avatar

    If a Suzuki X-90 mated with a Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible this is what their offspring would look like.

  • avatar

    I can almost guarantee that my wife will at least want to look at this thing. She’s a woman of sophistication and taste, but once in a while she gets fixated on an odd automotive choice, for some reason.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Chevy needs to make a Tahoe convertible.  That’ll take all the air out of this Murano balloon and if we’re lucky, kill this emerging segment like the 350 diesel killed the diesel car market in the U.S.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Easily mistaken for a Sebring Convertible.

  • avatar
    Kosher Polack

    So is there some kind of roll-deploying hoop stowed behind the seats, so all your passengers don’t, ah, die?
    Also, convertibles just aren’t any good if the beltline is so high that you can’t leisurely hang your arm out the side.
    Still though, like many others, I at least praise Nissan for doing unexpected things these days, even though ergonomically challenged (I sat in the back seat of my manager’s Juke the other day, and at 5-11 I was wearing the headliner as a hat).

  • avatar

    Honest question that I would like y’all to answer. Why is the X6 bashed as a high, impractical CUV when everyone likes the Juke, which is also a high, impractical CUV with NO cargo space and a cramped back? Get a Nissan Versa for more space and save 5k? Is a commanding view and slightly easier entry worth more than a month’s worth of pay? The darn thing doesn’t even have center arm rests.
    Nissan Murano CC’s novelty will wear off. This is like for girls who really want an adult sized Barbie Jeep. Ugh. Nissan, you want to get more sales? Invest your $$$ in Altima and Rogue CUV or something?

    • 0 avatar

      Who is this ‘everyone’ that likes the Juke? I’ve yet to meet a single human being that doesn’t think it is one of the worst designs every deffecated into production. Aaron Robinson fluffs for it at Car and Driver, but he has zero credibility when it comes to Nissan products. I know someone who knows someone who loves their X6, attrocity that it is, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t point in horror when they see a Juke. Fortunately, it almost never happens.

      This Murano CrossDresser is for confused artistic types who may have pretensions about ecology. That is why leather is a cheap option in a $48K tribute to selfishness. A meaningful percentage of the target flakes are vegans.

    • 0 avatar


      I like the Juke. I also understand this Murano though I wouldn’t buy it. I think the Murano CC is for beach and little place eslse does it go well. But Juke is great little car for city and elsewhere. Needless to say, if I wasn’t in family building mode I could go for one.

      They should get the Juke or Captur (Renault’s version) to Brazil. It’d do well and help build the brand.

    • 0 avatar

      I also like the Juke, as I’ve stated here more often that many people would probably like to hear. In fact, it is very high on my list of possible replacements for my current 03 Jetta wagon ‘commuter.’ I actually like it’s quirky exterior. In fact, it is the very ‘quirkiness’ of the thing that makes it attractive to me as a potential long-term keeper (though there are other things, like the turbo, that make me question whether it would be reliable enough to become a long-term keeper)

  • avatar

    i agree with the above, this is the Avantime 2.0.
    or the result of an X-90 mating with an Allante.

  • avatar

    Ok, so this idea started out as the original Jeep CJ2A, at least as it appealed to people who just thought it was “fun” and “cute”, not the backwoods hunters and snowplow operators.
    And it evolved into the FSJ Wagoneer/Blazer/Bronco/Scout (generically known as “Jeeps” to the uninformed). What a great lifestyle accoutrement for our weekends at the lodge!
    Which begat the XJ Cherokee/4Runner/Explorer (all still thought of as “Jeeps” by some part of the public). Hey, mom can drive this as the family car!
    Which begat the Murano/Equinox/Edge/ML320 (still sustaining something of the “Jeep” halo). This is like a Jeep but it gets better mileage, and we don’t go offroad anyway.
    But the original CJ2A didn’t even come with a top as standard equipment. It was an open-air experience. How fun to cruise around in our Jeep with the top down!
    So this is coming full-circle in a way.
    It’s a CJ2A for people who hate everything that makes a Jeep a Jeep but want one anyway.

  • avatar

    The “overgrown version of a little French C-segment convertible” comment is spot on. In terms of proportions it looks exactly like the small cabriolets we have over here (even the size of the rear light clusters is fitting). To me it doesn’t look weird at all in those pictures, I really wonder how it fares in the flesh.

  • avatar

    While it wasn’t exactly a luxury crossover, Toyota has already made a 2 door convertible CUV, back in the early 90’s!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    This thing looks like a 90’s VW Cabrio on roids. An Altima coupe made into a convert would have made much more sense. It’s lines and proportion are much better and it would compete with Solara and Chrysler 200 boulevard cruiser converts.  

  • avatar

    If Audi made Q5 CC, Niedermeyer will be ejaculating hand over fist.

  • avatar

    What a revolting piece of crap.   It looks bad with the roof down, and comically bad with the roof up.
    Only good thing I can say is that green is a really, really nice colour.

    There’s a nice 72 Buick Centurion convertible for sale near here. I’d buy that and get a new interior instead.

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch

    Fess up..
    Did ya take a ’10 Lexus SC, and jack it up somehow?
    God damn this is an awful fuckin car. I’m sorry. I have the ability to look at design and go, “OH GOD PUT IT BACK!” Ntm, the feasibility of this. Its practically as incapable of driving and or “having fun as its inspired Lexus SC.
    There is a market and a lease for every idiot who think they need.

  • avatar

    I’m speechless. Take a porky, top heavy SUV with a high center of gravity and cut the roof off of it. I wonder how many rollover deaths this rig is going to cause, especially after its 55 year old female realtor first owners trade it in after the lease is up and it ends up in the hands of hoochy ghetto mamas from da ‘hood. Shudder.

  • avatar

    Just got this one! Very happy with it! I have/had everything from RR , Btl., BMW, etc … various rare cars. This one is lovely and veeeery $ reasonable! These couple of days people see this car on the road… keep stopping and asking “wow..this is gorgeous.what is it?”, …not too many of these cars are out on the road yet..still new…and…just as lady Duff Christian Louboutin double platform shoes are too much for someone (I mean style, obviously)…this is similar… not for a regular, used to “safe/ middle/traditional” cars cliental. This is a very inexpensive car also, but offers lots for the $. And it is different! Fun, fun, fun and looks beautiful. Go to the dealer and see it yourself, with your own eyes. I did not even plan to buy it…just saw it, loved it, bought it.

  • avatar

    After all the different driving conditions we put the Murano through, it still made 20.6 mpg. That’s not bad, considering the EPA range is 18 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.

  • avatar
    Top Off

    Nissan must have thought of me when designing this car. I’m 6’4″ and have been looking for a reliable, family convertible for about 15 years. I think the Murano CC fills a niche that will prove to be quite popular with families and individuals who want the fun of a convertible with the practicality of a cross-over.

    Let’s put it this way, it certainly outshines the Toyota Versa, I mean Venza. Now, that car is boredom defined.

    If the front leg and head room are anywhere near the standard Murano, then I’ll fit just fine.

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