Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
Power: 265hp, 248 lb.-ft.
Engine: 3.5 Liter V6
Fuel Consumption: 17 city, 22 highway
Price as Tested: $47,190
NissanUSA.com

In today’s time of heightened environmental responsibility, almost every new automotive release seems extremely purpose-built. Save for supercars, if it’s not cleaner or greener, it’s all about flexibility and function. Then there’s the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Notice how we said almost.

From the same company that recently introduced the polar bear-loving Nissan LEAF comes this daring design departure that love or hate, is hard to tear your gaze from. Industry insiders will tell you that the rumor of a convertible CUV from the Japanese manufacturer has been buzzing for some time, but like the BMW M3 convertible, nobody really took it seriously. But what could have been a drawn out set-up for a remarkable April Fool’s joke is realer than real. It’s not that bad, either.

At initial glance, the Murano CC already accomplishes what many soft-top ‘verts fail to do—it looks good with the top up. Sporty and chic, the covered-up crossover features a swooping back roofline similar to the BMW X6. Inside, the removable roof also accomplishes something else many of its peers fails to do. The absence of a B-pillar, combined with lengthy window space all but erases the typical over-the-shoulder blind spot for drivers. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the split rear windshield, which is very limiting and just plain confusing to look at. But you buy a crossover to drop the top any chance you can, right? Uhh...

As a girl-gone-wild, the CrossCabriolet is a strange pleasure to sit behind the wheel of. Void of any real obstruction, the cabin becomes extremely sun-kissed, with hardly a square-inch hiding in the shade. Combine that with the increased ride height of the Murano—already generous for its segment—and you’ll be sitting on top of the world, with all eyes on you, literally.

On the road, the car that is snapping every other neck on the road may not exactly jolt yours, but it’s far from a slouch. Equipped with a 265 hp, 248 lb.-ft. 3.5 Liter V6, the CC has a smooth, ample power band that feels solid though every gear of its CVT transmission. Thrown into a curve, its no GT-R, but for a CUV, it manages to stay extremely balanced and planted, with steering that still provides an adequate amount of feedback to the driver.

Back to the inner-conflict of its character, the convertible Murano is an enigma inside and out. The $500 camel leather option (incidentally the only option for the fully-loaded CUV) is rich and handsome, but not the kind of finish you’d want your kid, dog, or even bum of a friend sitting on. The rear seats fit two, not three, and the trunk space? Fuhgeddaboudit. For all intents and purposes, it may as well coin its own classification of CV, as any true utility is hard to argue.

Still, the Murano CrossCabriolet represents something that’s been missing from today’s world of wedge-shaped hybrids and bulbous, bland crossovers—originality. Nobody will seriously argue its versatility or purpose, unless that purpose is to just have fun—and get stared at. Hard.