Nissan's CVT is the best in the business, and is the saving grace of the Murano CrossCabriolet's drivetrain. The incredibly smooth power delivery makes for comfortable acceleration, unmarred by harsh gear changes. Although some Nissan models have virtual shift points programmed into the CVT, the company did not bother with that for the Murano CrossCabriolet. Instead, it offers a low range for engine braking.
The soft suspension smoothes out the rough patches, and the standard 20-inch wheels mean a near-luxury ride. The Murano CrossCabriolet trundles along easily, although wind noise intrudes on the cabin even with the top up.
As it's a special vehicle, Nissan offers the Murano CrossCabriolet in only one, fully loaded trim. That means all-wheel drive comes standard, which should help it retain grip in slippery conditions. Nissan also includes a differential lock in this system, so with a push of a button you can ensure that power is going to all wheels.
Fully loaded also describes Nissan's array of cabin electronics. A touch-screen LCD in the center of the dashboard shows navigation, audio, and phone systems. At its base is a very usable controller, a wide dial with directional buttons mounted on top. This system makes it very easy to enter menu items or alphanumeric addresses.
The hard-drive-based navigation system is old stock for Nissan, but is still ahead of much of the competition. The maps show good resolution, and in perspective view feature a few 3D-rendered buildings and landmarks for urban areas. Route guidance works well, but the system lacks lane guidance for freeway ramps and junctions.
The points-of-interest database includes Zagat ratings for restaurants, a nice feature, although the system only lists Zagat restaurants by city in alphabetical order, making it tedious to find those in your immediate location. The maps show traffic conditions, and dynamically suggest routes based on this data. Weather information is also available on the LCD, and the system will even give pop-up alerts for severe weather close by.
The stereo offers a solid set of audio sources, including iPod integration, Bluetooth audio streaming, and music from CDs that you've ripped to the onboard hard drive. XM Satellite Radio has a feature that lets you save currently playing artists, and will alert you when songs by that artist are playing on another channel. Nissan has yet to integrate Pandora or other online music apps.
The eight-speaker Bose audio system sounded particularly good, with excellent definition. Listening to a track with a single acoustic guitar, we could hear each string bending. But this audio system does not seem tailored for a convertible, and gets overwhelmed by road noise with the top down. The system could use speakers mounted on the seat shoulders to improve the audio production, something Bose did for the.
The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet relies on technology refined by the automaker over the past five years, including the solid VQ-series engine, CVT, and cabin tech suite. This technology, while generally very good, is beginning to get stale, the engine in particular falling behind those of other automakers pushing efficiency.
But what's most difficult to get over about the Murano CrossCabriolet is the way it looks. Some people might like it, and more will succumb to the pleasures of open-top driving. But don't expect it to open the floodgates for convertible crossovers from other manufacturers. The Murano CrossCabriolet is a blip on the automotive design radar, a one-off that probably won't see too many years of production.
|Model||2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet|
|Power train||3.5-liter V-6, continuously variable transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||17 mpg city/22 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||17.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard, with hard drive and traffic data|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard, with address book and voice command|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth streaming audio, onboard hard drive, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose 8-speaker audio system|
|Driver aids||Rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$47,335|