It’s official. Nissan has lost its collective mind. And the world is a better place because of it.
First, there was the Cube. Despite being the most literally-named car in history, it still manages to contain more curves and circles in its design than a gyroscope. It’s mad scientist-quality brilliance.
Then along came the Juke, a microscopic version of the Pontiac Aztek with a center console that looks like the gas tank of a motorcycle. Now that’s a hybrid.
I won’t even mention the Leaf.
But now comes one to rule them all: the Murano CrossCabriolet.
What is it?
Just read the name again. It’s a convertible version of the already odd-looking, but strong-selling Murano crossover with two fewer doors. Three if you count the hatch.
There is seating for only four passengers, and the seatbelts for the ones in the back are located in the middle of the car, above the armrest.
Mind blown yet?
The CrossCabriolet comes standard with all-wheel-drive and you have no choice in the matter, even if you live in West Palm Beach.
Did I mention that the soft top has a glass skylight?
This car – and I’ll call it a car because that’s as good of a description as any – has no peers. It is an island in a sea of same.
That’s not to say it’s for everyone. The color palette Nissan has chosen, which includes Caribbean, Glacier Pearl, Sunset Bronze, indicates that the target market enjoys its clothes, shoes and probably hair in the same hues.
Like any crossover, it’s easy to get into -- no step down necessary. The rear seats are actually seats and not just there to cut your insurance premium. The ride is buttery smooth, even with massive 20-inch wheels.
Yes, on rough roads it shakes like Betty White would after a week-long Red Bull binge, but the amount of steel that has been removed from the top is greater than that found on some cars, so that’s expected.
Some of it may have ended up in the doors, which feel as if they each weigh as much as a Nissan Versa. That’s not likely to be a plus for the aforementioned demographic, though it’s certainly necessary to give the car some semblance of rigidity.
Nevertheless, it’s a pretty lively space buggy. Once you get a little inertia behind you, the 260 hp 3.5-liter V6 moves the CrossCabriolet down the road with something approaching authority. I can honestly describe the handling as neutral, too, and I was as surprised as you to find that out. No, it’s not a sports car, but if you wanted one of them you’d have bought a 370Z Roadster.
For better or worse, the CrossCabriolet is the only Nissan product that doesn’t have the company’s signature, racy exhaust note. Even with the top down it’s hard to hear anything unless your foot is to the floor. At idle it might as well be electric.
Top up and on the move, the cabin is whisper quiet, too. The only time it gets noisy in there when it’s being pelted by rain, which could become an issue during hurricane season in its expected nesting grounds.
Plush doesn’t begin to describe the interior. It’s all tufted leather, heated seats, standard navigation, Bose audio, the works. There’s a switch on the driver’s side that remotely flips the passenger seat forward for access to the rear, and you get it all for $47,200. Plus, there’s room for a couple of golf bags in the trunk, if not much more. The only option is $500 worth of upgraded leather that’s available in certain color combinations. At that price, it’s the easiest decision you’ll make all year.
After spending some time in it, you realize that the CrossCabriolet is actually less of a car and more a road-going version of a Riva motorboat: Comfort, style and who really cares about the rest? The windowsill is so wide and flat, you’ll never use the armrest. Sitting up high this mobile throne, you are the center of attention and the king of all that you survey.
You’ll have no problem seeing any of it, either. The front window and pillarless side glass are the vehicular equivalent of a Cinerama theater. A backup camera keeps you from hitting those darn recycling bins on the way out of the driveway. Unfortunately, with an EPA highway rating of 22 mpg, that’s about as green as it gets with this one.
Sure, there are plenty of topless baubles you can drop forty-seven large on, but try to find one that is as comfy and conspicuous as the CrossCabriolet that can also steal the show at your local cruise night while carrying a bridge foursome.
And if you think I’m pigeonholing the type of people that are going to find the CrossCabriolet particularly appealing, when I stopped for a light in front of the local senior center, you would’ve thought Matlock showed up with Jessica Fletcher on his arm. It’s true. Nurse Jackie, or even Jackie Mason couldn’t have generated that kind of euphoria. The Greatest Generation deserves more than the Chrysler Sebring convertibles it’s been stuck with since the 20th Century, and it appears that they think this is it.
That’s not to say the CrossCabriolet doesn’t hold tons of cross-generational appeal. All told, it makes more sense as daily transportation than most convertibles out there, regardless of your age group. My bad back and I instantly found ourselves under its supple spell and, within five minutes of getting behind the wheel, was pulled over by an unmarked NYPD car so that the two 300-pound officers wearing vintage sports jerseys and Yankees hats could check it out. As they were, a group of high school girls on a class trip passed by and enough of them slowed down to say “nice car, mister” that I started to think I was in the middle of a sting.
The parking lots of history are littered with glorious failures as bizarre as this one – the Plymouth Prowler faux hot rod, Chevrolet SSR convertible pickup and Isuzu VehiCROSS, to name a few – but a tip of the mad hat goes to Nissan as it falls even further down the rabbit hole.
I’m not sure what’s going around at HQ, but I do hope that it is contagious. The automotive world needs as much color as it can get these days, even if it is Sunset Bronze.
2011 Nissan CrossCabriolet
Base Price: $47,200
Type: 4-passenger convertible CUV
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Power: 260 hp, 240 lb-ft torque
Transmission: CVT Automatic
MPG: 17 city/22 hwy