"Oh, boy," testing director Kim Reynolds said upon seeing it.

"It looks like some weird mechanical mutant," a friend mentioned.

"There's something oddly charming about the CrossCabriolet," noted senior editor Jonny Lieberman. "Nissan might just be onto something here..."

This multifaceted, range-topping Murano is an attention-getter devised to fill a void you never knew existed, and that marketers hope to successfully tap.

Wait, this thing occupies a segment with actual buyers?

Nissan believes it does CrossCabriolet customers will likely call California, Texas, and Florida home; be predominantly female, well-educated, and 40 to 45 years old; and make roughly $125,000 annually. They'll need that money because losing a metal top adds $7220 to the Murano LE AWD's base price, making the CrossCabriolet the most expensive trim in the lineup.

Product gurus also foresee strong sales in the Northeast and Midwest,where convertible owners might cherish sunshine more than their Southern counterparts do. When inclement weather forces tops shut for months at a time, a luxurious crossover with 12.3 cubic feet of cargo room should be useful, Nissan hopes. Some 800-plus buyers want one already, and more than 5000 people have requested information. Quirkiness is becoming more attractive to a growing consumer population. Color us amazed.

Although it could come across as a left-field sort of project, the CrossCabriolet is nothing of the sort. Designers at Nissan's Atsugi center first toyed with the study in 2006. But it wasn't until Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn saw primitive sketches that it became something real. (Industry rumors persist that it was Ghosn's wife who showed a keen interest in the model's production.)

With the green light ablaze, the engineers heavily modified their existing D-platform. Ahead of the raked A-pillar resides a 3.5-liter VQ35DE V-6 making 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to an Xtronic CVT and returns an EPA rated 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway. An independent front-strut, multilink rear suspension underpins the CrossCabriolet as it does in other Muranos, which means the ride remains well-controlled. It also employs an Intuitive All-Wheel Drive system for traction in a variety of settings.