Archive for November, 2011

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet Review

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

What’s wrong with this picture?  I’m in an SUV, but the roof is missing. At the same time, I’m in a convertible, but I’m really high off the ground. Weird.

Indeed, the 2011 Nissan Murano Cross-Cabriolet is a weird car.  It’s a two-door Murano SUV with a ragtop and a coupe-like trunk.  This radical concept comes from the same folks at Nissan who brought us the Cube and the Juke.  Of course, Nissan has also designed some of the best sports cars, like the Z and the GT-R, as well as solid sedans like the Altima and the Maxima.   Either the Nissan design team is schizophrenic, or they have a mad scientist division made up of engineers who have watched too many episodes of Top Gear while stoned.

That being said, the CrossCab is not a bad car.  It’s actually quite comfortable.  You won’t find this much legroom in the backseat of any other convertible except the half-million dollar Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.  The doors are ginormous, making it easy to get in and out of the vehicle – except in the grocery store parking lot.  The truck is comparable to that of a medium-sized sedan, even with the top down, so you should be able to squeeze in a couple of sets of golf clubs.  You also get that commanding view of the road that is a top selling point of SUVs.  It’s also very well equipped, with luxury options like leather, heated seats, a backup camera and navigation as standard features.

Unfortunately, it also comes standard with a $47,000 sticker price.  With only one trim level, you also get automatic xenon headlights, foglights, heated mirrors, a fully powered soft top and keyless ignition/entry, automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise control, power/memory seats, Bluetooth, and a seven-speaker Bose sound system with an iPod interface, CD player, satellite radio and 9.3GB of digital music storage space.  You are also stuck with the ridiculous 20” rims and the mostly pointless AWD.

The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.  This means that despite it’s heavier weight, the CrossCab has just about as much “umph” as the regular Murano, and Nissan’s CVT transmission does a good job of keeping you in the ideal powerband.  We clocked a naught to 60 time in just over 8 seconds, which isn’t too shabby for an SUV.  The CrossCab also stopped from 60 mph in less than 130 feet, which is also respectable.

Handling is very similar to that of the regular Murano, with appropriately tight steering and decent feedback to the driver.  The reinforced structure of the topless CrossCab combined with the overkill 20” rims make for a slightly bumpier ride.  Yet, despite the stiffer suspension, the CrossCab corners with the grace and elegance of an inebriated elephant.  And you certainly won’t be taking it off-road.

Safety-wise, the as-yet-unrated CrossCab comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, pop-up roll bars, and a cocoon of airbags mounted in every nook and crannie.   Fuel economy is unsurprisingly mediocre at 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway, and it drinks premium gas.

The new Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is definitely different.  If you want a convertible, but you still need to haul four adults and two golf bags, then buy this car.  If you want the neighbors to gaze into your driveway and say, “what the #$%&?”, then go for it.  It’s a nice car, pleasant to drive, and certainly the most practical convertible on the market.  But, should a convertible be practical?  Isn’t that the point of having a mid-life crisis?  Nissan is trying to do too much with one vehicle and at too high a price point.  For $50,000, you can buy a small SUV AND a nice, used convertible.  Nissan doesn’t break out the Cross-Cab sales from its overall Murano sales numbers, so we don’t know how many have sold so far.  The fact that Nissan has dropped the sticker price by nearly $2,000 for the 2012 model year tells us that they are not exactly flying off the lots.  And what happens when the novelty wears off?  Well, ask Chevy about their short-lived SSR convertible pickup truck idea.

Five Fall Car Maintenance Items You Can Do Yourself

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

With shorter days and cooler temperatures upon us, now is a good time to get your car ready for the upcoming winter driving season. Although some seasonal car maintenance will require the skills of a qualified mechanic, here are five, easy maintenance items that you can do yourself (and save some cash).

1. Change your wipers – You generally use your wipers more frequently in the fall and winter. They’ll also be taking a lot more abuse from road grime and windshield-washer solvent, so it’s best to have a fresh set. Don’t forget the 3rd wiper for the rear window if you have a hatchback, wagon, van or SUV!

2. Top-off windshield wiper fluid – We also tend to use more windshield wiper fluid in the fall and winter, so be sure your reservoir is full. If you live in the mountains or other colder climates, change to a wiper fluid that contains anti-freeze.

3. Check your tire pressures – Temperatures have dropped in the last couple of days, and so have your tire pressures. Tire pressures can drop as much as 10psi or more as the weather cools down! Don’t forget to check the spare tire too!

4. Check your engine air filter – In the South, our air filters tend to get dirty in the spring and summer with all the dirt and pollen in the air. So fall is a good time to check the filter and replace it if necessary, so your car can breathe easily going into winter.

5. Check your battery – for dirt and corrosion on the posts and cable connectors, and clean them with a damp rag and mild detergent if needed. Consider having the battery tested to make sure it has enough charge left to last you through the winter.