Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet 2011

    Having been invited out to the seaside town of Del Mar in California for the presentation of the new Murano CrossCabriolet, we were intrigued at the chance to take Nissan's polarizing convertible out for a spin. That's right, the Murano convertible. How did things play out in California? Interesting, to say the least. 
    With the Murano CC, Nissan has gone outside the box to create its own niche. Looks aside, the Murano CC has done what it set out to do: garner interest, spur conversation, expand the model range, and change (not necessarily raise) the bar for mid-size crossovers. For all the ups and downs, read on.

    It's a crossover...convertible

    Nissan's Murano CC is a two-door convertible crossover that sits at the top of the Murano heap, creating a unique halo vehicle for the brand's crossover segment. While the CC's design is a love-it or hate-it affair, there's no doubt that we can all agree on one aspect: it doesn't come off nearly as badly as those photoshops which alluded to an aftermarket convertible conversion.
    This proper execution is thanks to a significant redesign of everything from the windscreen / A-pillar back, while keeping external dimensions similar to that of its hardtop counterpart. Nissan has also found a way to retain the Murano's "J-Motion" belt line that, with the top down, adds a sense of continuity when following the invisible roofline back from the A-pillar.
    Revisions to the standard Murano include cutting out the rear doors while infusing the front units with a healthy dose of Enzyte to the tune of 7.9 inches. Surprisingly, ingress and egress weren't too hampered even with more than half a foot of metal added on (although that may have simply been due to this writer’s lankiness). Losing all that rigidity meant that Nissan had to reinforce the body architecture...a lot. Locations deemed essential bracing points were the area formerly known as B-pillar, the floor, and the sills.
    The fully automatic top, available in black or beige, drops in approximately 25 seconds; however, unlike many modern drop-tops, it can only be operated when the vehicle is parked. That means no slow-rolling raising/lowering should rain decide to ruin your day while puttering in traffic.

    The Murano CC on the road 

    Under all the new fuss is Nissan's familiar 3.5-liter V6 - now rated at 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft - and an Xtronic CVT, both of which do their part to scuttle the all-wheel drive CC around with relative ease. It's no rocket, but then again it's not supposed to be.
    Under normal driving conditions, the CVT works like a dream, still prompting a grin at mankind's technological advances; unless putting the pedal to the proverbial metal, acceleration is smooth and uninterrupted.
    Ride quality may have been a tad fluttery when rolling over some of San Diego's not-so-well-paved roads in a convertible crossover on 20-inch alloys, but this is to be expected when lobbing off a vehicle's roof, B-, and C-pillars. On the boulevard, however, the ride was smooth and relaxing as expected.
    Top-up motoring is fairly standard for a convertible, meaning there are compromises to be made in sound quality due to the soft top and lack of bulletproof glass. With the top down, all that has to be said is this: turbulence mitigation is lacking. One cohort expressed that she was "swimming in [her] hair", but the most noticeable issue was the lack of rear seat belt retainers, which led to an unsophisticated flapping at highway speeds. Other than a bit of buffeting, though, sky-filled driving was a pleasure.
    Steering feedback is a different story. Even in the premium market, where ease of use and lack of effort are lauded incessantly, the electronically assisted steering of the CC was beyond feather-light. TOO beyond feather-light. When maneuvering around a parking lot, it was almost impossible to feel any communication between the driver and the tarmac. Not until reaching cruising speeds did it feel like anything was actually happening. Some would say that's the point, but what's steering without feedback?

    What's the point? 

    As Nissan puts it, the Murano is a car for empty-nesters. With the Murano CrossCabriolet, the brand hopes to appeal to higher income ($125,000+ / year) Murano-esque consumers who are slightly younger, "savvy" and adventurous, but with kids in high school.
    The CC is a crossover convertible, meaning this Murano looks to kill two birds with one stone: owning a convertible and maintaining utility, meaning offering a usable convertible as a second household car instead of a third. Whether or not that is truly the case, only time will tell.
    Either way, with over 900 pre-orders and significant interest, the response is there. As for whether or not we'll see another generation, well, that depends on if there are enough Beetle convertible owners and middle-age moms out there who want to keep their car, possibly get some sun, and increase utility.
    At $46,390 (plus $810 D&H) is it the car for me? No, but it could be for some people. The bottom line is this: nit-pickery and little flubs aside, kudos to Nissan for being brave enough to break the mold and then put the result into production. 


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