2012 Nissan Quest 3.5 LEPosted on October 24th, 2012
Room for seven passengers and 200 bagels
By Nina Russin
For 51 weeks out of the year, I’m not much of a minivan person. My husband and I don’t have children, and our cat fits into pretty much anything. But for one week, leading up to our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year finals, I am more about minivans than the queen of soccer moms.
During that week I haul people, signage, traffic barricades, trophies, fruit platters, coffee tureens, and enough bagels to feed a small army. There is no vehicle better fit for this sort of duty than a minivan.
Minivans tend to have a bad rep, which is a shame. While they aren’t hot rods, minivans have more versatile interiors than most crossovers, and get pretty good gas mileage to boot.
I like to think of them as pop-up tents on wheels. Who doesn’t love something that folds into a backpack and unfolds into a living room? Minivans can haul an entire household, and unlike pop-up tents, they come pre-wired.
When I test drove the Nissan Quest this week, I equipped it as I might for a camping expedition, with flats of water bottles, cartons of energy bars, duct tape, tarps, tie downs and first aid supplies. Add a pair of Oakleys and some good reggae, and the Quest becomes a vehicle befitting its name.
Room for seven passengers and 200 bagels
Lots of vehicles hold five passengers. Many fewer hold seven. Buyers are limited to full-sized sport-utility vehicles, three-row crossovers or minivans. Of the three, minivans offer the best fuel economy, and frequently, the best value.
The Quest LE test car comes with every comfort and convenience option imaginable: power driver’s and front passenger seats with position memory, keyless entry and start, power side and rear doors, dual-zone climate control, fold-flat second-row captain’s chairs, satellite radio, navigation, DVD entertainment, power return third-row seats, 12 and 120 volt outlets, and more. Total MSRP is $42,365 including delivery. Luxury sport-utility vehicles comparably equipped cost ten to twenty percent more.
The Quest’s limitation, as compared to full-sized trucks, is its lack of off-road capability. But it will handle the occasional dirt road just fine. The 3.5-liter aluminum V-6 engine on the test car has plenty of power. Peak torque of 240 foot-pounds is available from 4400 rpm: about half throttle. The continuously-variable automatic transmission is a bit soft, but acceleration from 20-to-50 miles-per-hour, the range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic, is more than adequate.
Two safety features on the test car, a rearview camera and blind spot monitoring, vastly improve visibility around the perimeter. The rearview camera projects a wide angle view to the back of the vehicle when the driver shifts into reverse. Lines superimposed over the image show the vehicle’s trajectory according to steering input. This eliminates blind spots under the rear glass and in the back corners, and makes it easier to see cross traffic in a parking lot.
Blind spot monitoring illuminates LEDs in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. If the driver signals to change lanes when another vehicle is in the way, the system emits an audible chime. On my numerous airport runs, the feature was a lifesaver.
A speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system provides more assist at low speeds for maneuverability. I didn’t expect much of a turning radius on a vehicle with a 118-inch wheelbase. The 36.7-foot turning circle was a pleasant surprise.
The four-wheel independent suspension includes a stabilizer bar on the drive axle to keep the chassis flat while cornering. In general, a 4500 minivan isn’t going to corner on rails. But the Quest certainly felt stable on cloverleaf exit ramps.
Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes stop the Quest in a firm, linear fashion
Inside, the Quest holds up to seven passengers, or in my case, five passengers, two hundred bagels, twenty pounds of fruit, plates, cups, a coffee tureen and three cases of office supplies. Second and third-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. With two rows of seats folded flat, the Quest can easily accommodate a couple of road bikes or some serious camping equipment.
Standard roof rails make it easy to add an extra carrier up top. The Quest tows up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum standard.
To list all of the safety, comfort and convenience features on the test car would add several pages to this review. But a few deserve special mention. Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without fishing the key fob out of his pocket.
Bi-xenon headlamps with auto-leveling project longer beams than halogen: closer in intensity to daylight. They make a big difference on poorly lit rural or suburban roads.
Second-row seats slide forward to ease access and egress to the third row. Adults sat in the third row during the test drive and felt relatively comfortable.
Release straps on the third-row seats fold them flat, while power buttons restore them to an upright position. The power liftgate comes in handy loading in armfuls of groceries or large cargo items.
The Nissan Quest comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and electronic stability control. Tire pressure monitoring with an easy-fill alert sounds an audible chime to let the driver know when he has exceeded the recommended tire pressure. The Quest is on display at Nissan dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A versatile minivan with very high levels of standard safety, comfort and convenience features. The Quest will carry a family of seven in style. For buyers with active lifestyles, the interior can hold several road bikes, skis, snowboards or camping equipment.
Dislike: Response from the continuously-variable automatic transmission is soft.
Model: Quest 3.5 LE
Base price: $41,350
As tested: $42,365
Horsepower: 260 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 240 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/24 mpg city/highway2012, Minivan 2012, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Nissan, performance, pricing, standard safety
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