With the Quest, Nissan has applied its newfound flair for design to the
common minivan. After 20 years, the minivan is becoming humdrum, even to soccer moms. And,
there are many choices on the market, including the popular sport utility vehicles. Now we
have the new Nissan Quest to add to the minivan mix.
Knowing this, Nissan replaced their old, ordinary Quest with a brand
new vehicle. This time, the Quest gets a lowered nose, for a more car like look and feel.
The sides swoop up from the hood, while the rear panel leans forward, more like an old
fashioned station wagon. Beveled edges and clean lines with strategically placed folds
give the Quest a taut look filled with kinetic energy, ready to pounce.
The face wears a slim, textured grille flanked by multi-lens
lighting units that rise up dramatically to meet an arcing front pillar. It is all very
unlike anything called a minivan before.
Inside, the drama and excitement continue. The dash looks like it
came out of a concept car. All gauges are mounted in a stylish binnacle in the middle of
the front panel. Below it is certainly the most radical center console to be seen in
America. More like a table, its working surface is resembles an obliquely sliced log, with
the automatic shift lever on the left and the climate and entertainment knobs and buttons
neatly arrayed to the right. The surfaces and materials are high tech, if perhaps a little
subject to wear. Placement of the CD player, thanks to the angle of the consoles
base, is hard to see, but the changer grabs CDs out of your hand without any undue
Nissan is proud that what once was a slightly smaller than normal
minivan is now one of the biggest. It certainly feels spacious inside, as its got 44
cubic feet more room than its predecessor. And Nissan claims the widest opening sliding
side doors in the market segment.
The Quest comes with one engine, and its a good one,
Nissans 3.5-liter V6. This engine has won the Wards Auto World 10 Best Engine
awards for nine years in a row, and it is shared with Nissans other quite popular
cars such as the 350Z, Maxima, Altima, and cousin Infiniti G35. With 240 horsepower and
242 lb.-ft. of torque, it sends the Quest along with assurance and poise. Fuel mileage is
posted as 19 city, 26 highway; I averaged 19.7 over my commuting week.
Transmission choices are a four-speed or a five-speed automatic,
depending on model. Nissan offers three Quest models, dubbed S, SL, and SE, in ascending
order. My SL tester, in Autumn Red, featured 16-inch alloy wheels. As an example of
levels, the S has steel wheels and the SE gets 17-inch alloys. Also, the SL and SE have a
power liftgate and the SL has a power right side sliding door. The SE has power sliding
doors on both sides. With the S model, you do your own lifting and opening.
Minivans are made for carrying families, so safety is a big
priority. All Quests come with body crush zones and a sophisticated front passenger airbag
that knows if theres a passenger sitting there. Side curtain airbags for all three
rows are standard. Perhaps the best safety feature of all, though, is the cars quick
reflexes, supported by four-wheel vented disk brakes with four channel antilock, brake
assist, and electronic brake force distribution. The ABS helps prevent skids, brake assist
makes sure you get maximum braking when you need it, and electronic brake force
distribution makes sure the stopping power goes where its needed, automatically.
Sometimes you need to haul something substantial. The Quests
second and third row seats fold flat into the floor, so if you happen to spot a table and
chairs at a garage sale one Saturday morning on your way to Starbucks, you can just flop
down the seats and load up the bargains. If your cargo happens to be a weeks worth
of groceries for a family then the built in bag hooks on the seat backs really help keep
them from rolling around on the way home.
You can get a Quest 3.5 S starting at $24,240. Even that starting
model has a tire pressure monitor, an eight-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system, and an
information center in the dash. The SL starts at $26,740 and the SE, at the top of the
order, begins at $32,240.
My SL tester had some desirable extras, including a DVD
entertainment center with wireless headphones for the rear passengers ($1,500), a seat
upgrade ($350), Nissans navigation system with CD in-dash changer ($2,300), and the
3.5 SL Upgrade Package, with front side-impact airbags, heated front seats and rear sonar
system ($750). The bottom line was $32,330.
If you have always believed that a minivan was too boring, too
plain, or a pain to drive, visit your Nissan retailer to have your consciousness raised.