We’re in the pit garage at Texas Motor Speedway, part of a regional media event focused on all that’s new in the automotive world. And while Nissan’s Murano-based CrossCabriolet may not be the most recent intro available for demonstration, it’s getting more attention from the assembled press than Lindsay Lohan’s going-to-jail video. That’s been the case since its controversial reveal at last fall’s Los Angeles Auto Show, and try as we might to come to the CrossCab with an open mind, that open mind is often at ‘cross’ purposes with the Murano’s folding top and oh-so-unique architecture.
When Nissan first released details of a proposed convertible crossover, the skeptics came out in droves. Sure, the premise – a droptop with day-to-day practicality – makes sense, but only in the context of an automotive era when virtually every new introduction is preceded by ‘Crossover’ as both noun and adjective. More interior space? Check. More luggage room? Check. Some off-road capability? Uh, isn’t that what Jeep’s Wrangler is for?
With the day’s rain not abating, we take a moment for a product walkaround with Kelly MacDonald, Nissan’s senior manager for all things Murano. Ms. MacDonald describes it as offering consumers “the functionality, utility and safety of a crossover and the fun and excitement of a convertible. Regardless of weather, Murano CrossCabriolet will get you to your destination in style and comfort, top up or top down.” And Kelly makes a not-so-salient point regarding the advantages of adding top-down convertibility to Nissan’s Murano platform. Obviously, the conversion provides the high hip point many drivers currently prefer, along with advantages referenced above in seating and trunk space. And built, as it is, on the top-of-the-line Murano LE, its upscale spec is immediately apparent in its interior trim and detailing.
To the CrossCab’s credit, you certainly don’t have to crawl into it. Once behind the wheel, the view is commanding, despite the relatively high beltline and fairly restrictive top. The cloth top is made more visually expansive by the addition of a ‘skylight’ immediately above the rear window. Of course, a smaller top makes it easier to stow, and leaves more room for the aforementioned luggage when folded. And top operation couldn’t be easier: it’s one-touch and seamless, going (down) or coming (up).
Behind the wheel, on a rain-soaked lap around the Texas Motor Speedway grounds (and, pointedly, not on the track itself), the CrossCabriolet seems as composed as the normal Murano. Although TMS keeps its track-surface impossibly smooth, the pavement in the surrounding parking area is simply impossible, and yet there’s nary a wiggle from the Murano’s cowl area or (longish) doors. Its ride is composed, and steering well connected. And while you won’t mistake it for the Mazda Miata’s take on top-down motoring, neither do you feel disconnected from the driving process; this isn’t – thankfully – your grandfather’s Bonneville.
With comfortable seating for four, and enough room to stow at least some cargo, the CrossCabriolet has certainly generated interest, and may actually generate some buyers. At a suggested retail of over $46K those buyers will be well-heeled and, more significantly, open-minded.