The Nissan Quest is very familiar to my family. In fact, the oldest of my two daughters became so acquainted with our 2007 Jetson-like minivan that she actually cried when it was time to turn it over to a new owner after five years of loyalty. It was like a pet to her, all she had known; protecting and entertaining her. My wife and I were never the minivan type. We actually call ourselves the “cosmo couple.” Yet, with a new family, we succumbed to the “family first” reality. We were, and still are, the mindset Nissan is going after. Did you see Nissan’s commercial where the father stretches his Maxima into a Quest? That is us!
Six to seven years ago the minivan segment produced 1 million units a year. Times have changed. For 2011 we will see that number cut in half due to the onslaught of 3-row crossovers and a lack of new minivan products. But now, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler and — of course — Nissan all have new products — so there is renewed interest in the segment. Why? Because people who buy minivans ultimately buy another. It’s a matter of adapting to their changing lifestyle. Kids grow fast but not that fast. But their needs do change. We sold our Quest after the warranty ended. Initially we wanted to keep it until the girls grew older, but quality issues left us with no choice but to sell. We thought it was the fate of all minivans after five years of ownership. We were wrong! This particular model was engineered by Nissan, yet assembled by Ford. So we purchased a Toyota Venza, which is okay but crossovers just don’t have the flexibility and utility of minivans. We can’t even haul our bikes because there is no tow hitch. Anyhow, Nissan got smarter and a new plant allowed for greater quality. Since minivans are about parenting, automakers have to cater to both the adults and the children. You need style, performance, seating convenience and innovation. So the Japanese brand decided to reintroduce the Quest and shock the minivan customer that still is loyal to the segment.
The all-new 2011 Quest is totally redesigned. It’s nothing like the prior generation. It’s tall, large and less galactic. Nissan says the polarizing style of the older models scared off many. The new Quest takes you back to the basics of what one would originally envision a minivan to look like. Definitely more rectangular with a rear that reminds me of the Nissan Cube.
The new Quest is fundamentally the same length as its competitors but does sit higher since the seats fold flat, but atop of the floorboard and not within as did the rear bench seat in the prior model. Now the seats can be laid flat to haul larger items without the worry of manually removing them like in the Honda Odyssey. A massive storage area is hidden behind the 3rd row. There’s also a one-touch switch for the seats as well as the doors and tailgate. Furthermore, Nissan equipped the Quest with humongous side view mirrors, Xenon headlights, fog lights, power windows, roof rails of course, a standard rear roof spoiler, and dual sunroofs that open independently of each other.
The Quest has a very close relationship with the Maxima, Altima and Murano. It shares the same platform as well as Nissan’s venerable 3.5-liter V6 engine, allowing it the performance and great turn radius as the sedans. This front-wheel drive only minivan features the Xtronic CVT V6 with Adaptive Shift Control that offers 253 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Does it feel good? Yes. Highway and city driving felt very adequate for a vehicle of its size. Mileage is estimated at 18/24 city/highway.
So let’s go inside where these vehicles excel. The seats are probably the number one determinant when narrowing down what minivan to buy. They need to be easily configurable, and of course fold flat for flexibility. The Quest’s 7-passenger standard seating passes with flying colors. Rear seats are also theater configured so back seat drivers can see above second row passengers. I label the Quest as a 6-passnger because I don’t envision three people squeezing in the claustrophobic third row. The second row consists of two buckets seats with armrests and a removable center console. New features include Quick Comfort heated leather seats, 16 cup holders, 11” DVD screen, Bose 13-speaker audio system, and available RearView Monitor. Up front the center stack is less space cadet and more formal, like most minivans where the shifter moves up and down. Technology enhancements include incredible graphics for the navigation which run off an 8” screen, Bluetooth, 120V AC outlet, 9.3 gig Music Box hard drive and much more.
How safe is it? The Quest is bred with 6 standard airbags, vehicle dynamic control with traction control system, active front headrests, tire pressure management system, blind spot warning system, and ABS with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. This should be enough for any parent’s natural instinct for protecting their children from harm.
Four different trim levels are available for the Quest with each featuring a mixture of the aforementioned amenities and conveniences. With seven hues to choose from — S, SV, SL, and LE models start at $27,750 and top out at $41,350. I especially like the 18” wheels that come with the SL and LE trims. Three option packages can be added for enhancement. Expect to see vehicles in dealers late January, 2011.
Yes folks, while many auto makers are leaving the unique minivan market, the Nissan Quest is still in the game.