Convertible Crossovers Have Always Been A Thing — Sort Of…

You see these every once in awhile and you have to long has this been a thing?

convertible crossover
The original Toyota RAV4 not only came in a two-door variant, but some thought it would be great to turn it into a convertible, for, you know…reasons. (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota, Nissan and Land Rover toyed with the idea, even Honda thought about convertible crossovers.

Remember the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet? How about the Range Rover Evoque Convertible? Believe it or not, a convertible crossover was sold in the United States dating back to 1996, but few of you cared. Starting with the short-lived three door 1996 Toyota RAV4, it had a folding rear roof. While the Toyota RAV4 rocketed to huge sales, the three-door was not very popular. The five-door (on the other hand) gave birth to the crossover movement, which is one of the biggest segments today.

convertible crossover
Honda did it too! (Photos: Honda)

A year after the Toyota RAV4’s debut, the Honda CR-V hit the market. A one-off five-door Honda CR-V convertible concept debuted at the 1998 Geneva Motor Show. This CR-V was engineered by Valmet and…well, few seemed to care. It’s not that it was a terrible idea, it’s just not what people were looking for in a family-friendly conveyance.

Unlike the RAV4, the CR-V concept kept the same wheelbase and beefed up the structure Drop with a roll bar.

Another convertible crossover: Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet

Much later, in 2011, the Nissan Murano convertible entered the market. It was called the Murano Cross Cabriolet. At the time, it was considered the only all-wheel-drive (AWD) crossover convertible on the market. Rumor has it that the CEO, Carlos Ghosn was inspired to build it for his wife. Whether that’s true or not, he gave it the green light – and a rolling calamity was born.

It was terrible in just about every measurable way. The Cross Cabriolet handled poorly, the top occasionally malfunctioned, it had little storage and it shook terribly on uneven pavement. It was pricy too. Nissan engineers had to completely revise the Murano’s architecture to make it work, which cost a ton, and its pricing reflected those expenses.

Among journalists (and consumers who balked) the Nissan Cross Cabriolet was considered one of the automaker’s biggest failures. Mercifully, the Cross Cabriolet was killed off in 2014.

Range Rover Evoque Convertible

Ranger Rover Evoque convertible

A few years later, Ranger Rover decided to put their concept of the Range Rover Evoque convertible into production. The 2017 Range Rover Evoque convertible was (and is) a more successful example of a convertible crossover. I dubbed it the “Strange Rover,” as I was baffled about the reasoning behind building such a vehicle. This was especially confounding coming so soon after Nissan’s folly.

It wasn’t terrible to drive, and the overall execution of the package was better than the Nissan. Still, it is not exactly a sales juggernaut, nor is it a media darling. Still, it gives people who want a unique, AWD take on a convertible an interesting option.

Other than ground clearance, I honestly don’t see why one would consider a crossover convertible over a coupe-based AWD car. In my book, a BMW or Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet make a lot more sense.

What do you think?