Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet: Creating a New Category

There are convertibles.

There are convertibles. And there are crossovers. This is both.

The Nissan Murano is now in its second generation. Gen One began in December 2002, when it went on sale as a 2003 model. Even then, this was a crossover that had the sort of styling which was atypical of all other models out there. Whereas others tended toward the “let’s-take-a-shape-reminiscent-of-a-Jeep-and-make-it-somewhat-less-angular” approach, the Nissan design team threw out their T-squares. Then when the Gen Two appeared in showrooms in January 2008 as a model year 2009 vehicle, the styling—particularly the front end—was so radically different, it seemed as though it was the official crossover of the Silver Surfer.

And now in 2011, they are pushing things still further, with the Murano CrossCabriolet.

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Now here’s the thing to understand. The Murano CrossCabrio is by no means a small vehicle. Specifically, it has a 111.2-in. wheel base, an overall length of 190.1 in., a width of 74.5 in., and a height of 66.2 in. (These dimensions are close to those of the hardtop Murano, which are, respectively, 111.2, 189.9, 74.1, and 67 in.) This is conceivably the largest vehicle on the market with a convertible top (although the Maybach Landaulet is significantly bigger, with a wheelbase of 150.7 in., a length of 242.7 in., a width of 78 in., and a height of 62 in., but its convertible top is just for the second row, and it has an MSRP of $1,382,750, so. . . ).

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This is a big convertible, too.  A Maybach.

 

Kelly McDonald, senior manager, Nissan Marketing is certainly correct when she calls it “the world’s first all-wheel-drive crossover convertible, a new genre of vehicles.”

When you consider the CrossCabrio, which is fundamentally a roof-less Murano, a question arises: Is this something that product planners simply figured after-the-fact, as in, “Gee, the Murano sells well”—in 2010 Nissan sold 53,999 units in the U.S., which was a 2.8% increase over the previous year, and although the Armada is a pricier vehicle, there were 19,344 Armadas sold in the same period, so the Murano is certainly an important vehicle vis-à-vis Nissan sales—“so why don’t we simply take one and chop off the top. . .?”

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That was not the case. McDonald, who has been with the present-generation Murano since program start, says that the convertible was always in the plans, so this is not a marketing afterthought.

And it wasn’t just a matter of chopping off the top, either. That’s because when it comes to unibody construction, removing structure like the roof can result in a decided lack of structural stiffness. So, to build the convertible CUV they:

· Added B-pillar reinforcements

· Added a dual-floor panel structure

· Added a vertical reinforcement wall in the rear seat area

· Reinforced the cross member

· Strengthened the underfloor area

· Added a sill cross member

· Added a joint bar between the side member and the side sill

· Expanded the reinforcement bracket

What’s more, from the A-pillar rearward (and there is no B-pillar), the sheet metal on the vehicle is different from the hardtop. Whereas the hardtop is a four-door, the convertible has two. The doors on the convertible are 7.9-in. longer than those on the four-door. The body form, such as what they describe as the “J-motion waistline,” is retained from the hardtop, so it looks similar. Just different.

The Murano is on the Nissan D platform, which it shares with the Maxima and Altima sedans. So not only is Nissan leveraging the existing Murano model, but it is also further extending the use of a platform, thereby further amortizing engineering development costs. The powertrain—a 265-hp 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V6 is available in the standard Murano; it also has the second-generation Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission).

Another means by which they are controlling costs on the CrossCabriolet is by offering it in a single fully equipped model, thereby reducing the manufacturing complexity in the assembly plant that’s located in Kyushu, Japan.

Inside there is a big change. It has been converted from a five-passenger vehicle to a four, which means that the seats are different than what is ordinarily found in a Murano. For one thing, the front leather seats are engineered so there is simple access to the rear seats. The trim level for the CrossCabrio is the standard Murano LE trim, which is the top-of-the-line.

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For purposes of retaining storage in the truck, they opted for a soft top rather than a mechanical hard top. The frame structure primarily consists of both aluminum and magnesium die castings for weight minimization. The backlight is glass, as is a skylight above the second row. There is hydraulic actuation of the top; it requires about 25 seconds to put it up and down; there are no latches; it is a pushbutton operation.

When the top is up, there is 12.3-cu-ft of storage space; when down it is 7.6-cu-ft. This does fulfill the requirement of a de facto metric: with the top down the trunk will handle two sets of golf clubs.