Pros: Open-air driving; sharp handling and steering; upscale cabin; good cargo space

Cons: Expensive; has cowl shake at highway speeds; styling is questionable

The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is one of the strangest vehicles available from any carmaker. It's basically a cross between a CUV and a sporty convertible, which means it has a practical side and a fun, sun-chasing side. The result is a strange-looking four-passenger, two-door utility-esque vehicle that may garner a lot of bewildered looks from bystanders, as well as your friends and family.

Like its fixed-roof Murano counterpart, the CrossCabriolet has a modern, but tough-looking outer shell. Its snub-nosed front end and sleek profile give it an athletic appeal that speaks to its performance intentions. At the same time, its large wheels and notable ground clearance give it a decidedly crossover-like personality. Much of its oddball charm comes from the power retractable fabric roof. With the top down, it looks like someone took a very sharp samurai sword and sheared off the top.

For 2012, the Murano CrossCabriolet remains virtually the same as last year. The only difference is that the navigation system has changed from standard to optional equipment.

The Murano CrossCabriolet is proof that carmakers are still thinking outside the box. Just when you thought every possible body style had been conceived, along comes a new one. For anyone who wants both utility and open-top motoring -and is interested in standing out in the crowd-the CrossCabriolet is worth a look.

Comfort & Utility

The Murano CrossCabriolet's cabin, which seats four, is upscale and tech-savvy. The high-quality dash is home to a sophisticated-looking instrument panel and features a well-designed and uncluttered control layout. As a whole, the Murano's interior is attractive, modern and plush. And the retractable top takes it from a cozy cabin to an open-air cruiser with the push of a button.

The CrossCabrio's front seats are supportive and comfortable. The seating position is nice and high, giving the driver good forward visibility. And there's plenty of head, hip and leg room, too.

The two-passenger rear seat is spacious, and the trunk is roomier than that of pretty much any other convertible out there.

The CrossCabriolet is available in only one trim level. It includes a long list of standard convenience features and creature comforts. The most notable are a power-retractable fabric top, push-button start, leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel and a premium seven-speaker stereo system.

Technology

The CrossCabriolet comes equipped with some standard advanced electronics features, but not as many as the Murano. Included are bi-xenon headlights, a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB interface. The only option is a touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic and Bluetooth audio streaming. The CrossCabriolet does not offer a rear DVD entertainment system.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The all-wheel-drive 2012 Nissan Murano gets its power from a robust 3.5-liter V6 making 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. It is managed by a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Nissan CrossCabriolet is 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway, which is a little lower than the standard all-wheel-drive Murano. Also, while the Murano takes regular unleaded gasoline, the CrossCabriolet runs on premium.

Safety

Standard safety features include ABS, stability control, traction control, six airbags and active front head restraints. Also, to protect occupants in the event of a rollover, the CrossCabriolet has pop-up roll bars, which automatically deploy if the vehicle was to flip.

Driving Impressions

Like the regular Nissan Murano, the CrossCabriolet displays a healthy dose of athleticism. It's an agile handler that stays well planted in corners thanks to a nicely balanced chassis. Also helping its cornering prowess is its wide stance and large, grippy tires. A responsive, well-weighted steering system means turn-ins are quick and nimble. The fixed-roof Murano may feel a little tighter in construction, but, for the most part, the two vehicles drive similarly.

The CrossCabriolet's ride is comfortable and composed. With the top up, it's smooth and quiet, with little interference from road noise. With the top down, it becomes a fun, sun cruiser with a well-encapsulated cabin that keeps occupants shielded from the wind. The one notable negative is an annoying cowl shake at highway speeds.

In terms of treading harsh road conditions or even unpaved terrain, the CrossCabriolet is capable enough. Large 20-inch wheels coupled with more than seven inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive combine to inspire confidence for virtually any driving or weather situation.

Other Cars to Consider

Chrysler 200 - The Chrysler 200 four-seat convertible offers a classic wind-in-your-hair droptop experience. But, compared with the CrossCabrio, the 200 falls short on standard amenities, trunk space and reliability. The CrossCabriolet is also plusher and sportier and has better build quality.

Jeep Wrangler - The Wranger, like the CrossCabrio, offers an open-air driving experience for up to four people. But while the Wrangler is geared more for tackling the rugged outdoors, the CrossCabriolet is an upscale cruiser with a refined personality and a much smoother ride.

AutoTrader Recommends

If you like what the Murano CrossCabriolet offers, you're all set, since it only comes in one configuration: virtually fully loaded, with standard all-wheel drive. The only two options are upgraded leather upholstery and a touchscreen navigation system. We definitely recommend the navigation system, especially for those who anticipate taking road trips in this convertible crossover. Since the CrossCabriolet already has leather upholstery, the upgraded leather seating surfaces seem like a needless add-on. Save your money on that one.

author photo

Shamit Choksey has a love for automobiles that worked into an early career writing and developing cop shows for network television. Later, diving even further into the world of wheels, he became a writer/producer for the Emmy-nominated PBS/Discovery Channel series "MotorWeek." These days, Shamit lives in Southern California, serving as a media consultant and journalist within the automotive industry. Incidentally, his wife and two sons are not impressed by any of this.

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