This one came way from left field. Or was it right field? Whichever way, for months we've known that some sort of Murano convertible was in the works.

The bathtub-like convertible, based on Nissan's stylish mid-size crossover, might very well be the world's first all-wheel drive crossover convertible, as the automaker claims.

But, the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, which is headed to production, is weird—and not, from initial pictures, necessarily in a good way. Just from this side profile, we're seeing a likeness to the PT Cruiser Convertible, or to the much-maligned, yet cult-followed Suzuki X90—though, of course, scaled up.

The automaker faced some serious challenges in making the CrossCabriolet—namely body rigidity. To keep the body tight, Nissan bolstered the A-pillars. And the doors for this two-door are longer than those of the four-door Murano, of course, to essentially keep the same profile as the regular Murano. Pop-up rollbars add a measure of rollover protection.

It's no surprise that the CrossCabriolet is powered by Nissan's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6, here making 265 hp. The Xtronic CVT automatic and all-wheel drive round out the package for this canvas-top convertible.

The CrossCabriolet has a bit more space than a typical convertible: 12.3 cubic feet with the top closed, or 7.6 cubic feet with the top down.

Expect the model to bow with a full roster of entry-luxury features, including heated seats, a heated steering wheel, Nissan's hard-drive based nav system, Bose premium sound, Bluetooth, HID bi-xenon headlamps, LED taillights, and flashy 21-inch titanium-finish wheels. Interior materials include diagonally quilted leather seats, wood-tone trim, and half-matte chrome finish.

Nissan even priced the 2011 CrossCabriolet; it will go on sale in early calendar-year 2011, at a starting MSRP of $46,390.

That, and the entire design, leaves us a little puzzled. But in a way, it's a softer, more comfortable alternative to the likes of the Jeep Wrangler, or even vehicles like that X90. And the CrossTourer makes just a little more sense for Florida retirees and Palm Springs types when you think about it: The higher seating position (or H-point, in industry lingo) will likely make it far easier to get into compared to low roadsters, while the higher sheetmetal might also give shoppers less of the sense of vulnerability that's always near and dear in a low drop-top.


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