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Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet: Hybrid Theory?

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On: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 4:54PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet:  Hybrid Theory?

Once every decade or so, one of these vehicles comes around; they aren't quite tough enough to be considered trucks or even SUVs, but somehow they don't display enough sedan DNA to be considered cars either. In the past, the most recent example was the 1999-2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS convertible that you can see in the 2000 film Mission to Mars (Gary Sinise rolls up several years in the future). Ten years before that, the Geo Tracker and Suzuki Sidekick showed up with the looks of a dwarfed SUV, but the driving characteristics of a tall compact car.  

It's been exactly a decade since the end of Isuzu's run in America with its VehiCross-over, and sure enough we have the newest addition to this group of misfit toys:  The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. It's an interesting vehicle to say the least, but to be honest; we are not entirely sure what purpose it serves, especially in this day and economic age. Sure, small SUV sales are up a bit in recent years, and everyone loves a convertible, but those two things don't necessarily go well together, kind of like honey mustard and Rice Krispies Treats. 

At face value, the CrossCabriolet looks essentially like a basic Murano with the top chopped off and replaced with magnesium and aluminum framed soft top. It has all the characteristics of a convertible, it is a bit heavier than the base Murano at 4413 pounds, and using the same 265 horsepower (and matching 248 pound feet of torque) 3.5 liter DOHC V6 engine as its easier-to-identify sibling, it is consequently slower due to the added heft. Sixty miles per hour comes up in a not terribly staggering 7.9 seconds, and the quarter mile jogs by at a leisurely 16.2 seconds @ 92 mph. Handling around a 200-foot skidpad is a truck-like 0.78g, So we can be sure the CrossCabriolet is not a sports car.

So, what is it? Well, technically it is an SUV, and Nissan seems to think that Jeep customers might take a gander at it when shopping around for that first (or next) Wrangler. So, because we can't think of anything else that comes close, we'll go with that. Performance-wise it matches up with the Wrangler, and in terms of fuel efficiency (deficiency?) it also is comparable to the perennial off-road all-star. Even with a trick continuously variable transmission and a gear ratio range from 2.37 to 0.44, due to its steep 5.17:1 final drive ratio, the CrossCabriolet comes in at 17 city and 22 highway while the 2011 Wrangler chimes in at 15/19 city/highway respectively. However, the Wrangler's recommended drink is good 'ole 87 octane while the Nissan goes for the top-shelf 91 octane, so the mileage comes to a push.

Braking from 70 mph for the drop-top Murano comes in at 185 feet, besting the Jeep by only three feet. The audio system is also comparable in the Murano CC, with a Bose seven-speaker, CD/DVD changer, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and XM Satellite Radio.

Now comes the big question, what does it cost? Even in the era of four dollar gas, some people still just want something different, something fun, and a getaway car that looks like nothing else on the road, and some of those people have money to burn. If they are interested in the CrossCabriolet, they had better bring matches and a stack of cash with them because the base price for the quirky convertible is $47,190 which is ten thousand dollars higher than the top end Murano, twenty grand more than the entry level Murano, and more than double the base price of the aforementioned Jeep.

So, on the surface, it seems that the new Nissan doesn't really have a place in the automotive world these days. However, what the Murano CrossCabriolet does offer is that it looks like nothing else on the road. For some, that alone will be enough, and there will be a few of these high-rise drop-tops rolling down highways here and there. How many? Well, the Isuzu VehiCROSS sold for two model years and then vanished into automotive history, while the Geo Tracker and Suzuki Sidekick each had fairly successful runs. So, will Nissan's newest hybrid theory become a fun-filled automotive phenom, or a four-wheeled Frankenstein? Only time will tell. We'll check back in about a decade or so.

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