A redo of a nameplate that has seen more than its share of ups and downs, the 2012 Nissan Quest
is certainly unconventional.
A favorite of soccer moms, traveling moms and grand moms, too, its reputation was, like most of its rivals, a little heavy on the estrogen dosage.
Has the new model managed to sneak a tab of testosterone in there as well? Hop in with us as we take a look.
What is it?
Nissan has offered up the new Quest as a "reward for parenting" (which we think is one of the lamest ad campaigns ever devised.). First of all, parenting is on a whole different plane; it's not something we would reward ourselves for by buying a certain type of minivan. To us, a trip to Europe without the kids, perhaps, would be an appropriate reward for most harried parents.
On the other hand, the Quest is a state of the art vehicle, incorporating some of the latest technologies that enable it to carry a wide variety of occupants, cargo or both. Now in its fourth generation, it has gone through several changes ranging from a short-lived joint venture with Ford's Mercury division to an angular example that looked as though Pablo Picasso had a hand at drawing it whilst in his cubist era.
Quests are built on what the brand calls its D-platform, which is also used by such stalwarts as the Maxima, the outgoing Altima and the Murano crossover. Its wheelbase of 118.1-inches and overall length of 200.8-inches will let it fit nicely in most garages, although care must be taken when opening the rear liftgate.
Available in a seven-passenger model, from a base S version which starts at $27,750 and escalates through the ranks to a lofty $42,365 seen in our LE luxo-barge. O
Premium touches included one 120V AC outlet, two 12V DC outlets and 13 Bose-branded speakers that made the most of a DVD entertainment system. Finally, our favorite added touch was the "conversation mirror" which allowed parents a wide-angle view of their charges in the backseat, for those "don't make me stop this car" moments.
What's it up against?
In this segment, Quest competes against the Honda Odyssey
, Toyota Sienna
, Chrysler Town & Country
and Dodge Caravan.
Two notable shortcomings cropped up in our time with the Quest that might make one consider a rival. The seats do not disappear into the floor as in other minivans, instead folding forward for a flat load surface. If cargo capacity holds sway over passenger capacity, you might consider some of the Quest's competition.
How does it look?
The fourth generation Quest is in the second year of its new skin. On first glance, we get the impression of a nose similar to the old Disneyland monorails in Anaheim, California. Except this time they have a ground effects package going along for the ride. Using a style almost like Hyundai's Fluidic Design language, Nissan managed some intriguing details including a "wrap-around" glass treatment (with privacy glass) that appears to extend from the driver's side mirror all the way around the vehicle to the passenger side.
A tallish nose, thanks to perhaps excessive pedestrian safety rules, leads things off and presents a fairly squatty stance. The large slab-sided, high-waisted expanse of side metal reminds us of your old uncle who always seemed to wear his pants just a tad too high. The automatic side and rear door functions are a welcome addition by way of the "smart key" fob that opened passenger and cargo loading doors before we actually reached the vehicle.
Between the alloy wheels and just the right amount of bright work trim around the vehicle, Nissan has managed to accent the appearance nicely.
And on the inside?
The interior of the Quest LE is filled with all the familiar Nissan DNA design cues. The typical T-Bar style, two-stage dashboard is the first thing noticeable inside, with its familiar command controls for the eight-inch navigation screen and audio system. There seems to be a lot of everything inside, from faux wood that makes you think of the depletion of a faux forest, to more storage space than can ever be fully occupied by an adult, although kids will no doubt find plenty of homes for juice boxes.
Think of the concept of a "great room." Comfortable chairs all around, with the added benefit of "trilaminar" seats in front, with three types of cushioning that adapt to specific parts of the body. Then, there's the DVD system with an 11-inch monitor. Wireless headphones. Electrical outlets. The only things missing are a refrigerator and Internet connectivity, both mere technicalities that can be added later from the aftermarket.
Our tester was equipped with not one, but two pairs of captain's chairs for the front and middle rows. A removable second row center console was included to help prevent the "mommy, he's touching me" exercise that children use to try a parent's last nerve. The second row also featured easy access slide and tilt functions that enabled quick access to the three-passenger rear seat. That rear seat, in turn, featured a 60/40 split of fold-flat functionality, with the added convenience of a power return button.
Although there is a storage-well in back, there are no easily removable seats as found in other brands. Instead, Nissan used easy-fold seats that convert to cargo usage on-the-fly rather than have a user choose whether to remove a middle or rear seat in order to accommodate a run to the local big box store for the monthly supply of water and toilet paper.
Materials are among the better in the minivan class, although some detailing is a let down compared to the rather impressively refreshed last year Chrysler lineup.
But does it go?
Nissan's VQ Series 3.5-liter V6 engine makes an appearance, this time with 260-horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque over the 253 ponies and 236 lb-ft found in last year's model. Improvements in fuel economy now yield 19/24 mpg. Power is transmitted to the front drive system through Nissan's Xtronic automatic CVT with adaptive shift control.
Power came on progressively and despite the weight (4,568 lbs.) and size of the Quest, which had us cruising in no time. Passing on the highway was child's play as the 3.5-liter made quick work of getting around stragglers. Through the use of the adaptive shift control, the transmission takes on a smoother role in its operation. Face it, people, continuously variable slushers are here to stay.
We observed combined mileage about one mpg less than the EPA average of 21.
The ride in the Quest LE is both surefooted and quiet thanks to a four-wheel independent suspension with a pair of MacPherson struts at the leading edge and a multi-link kit trailing behind. Fluid-filled engine mounts helped keep vibrations at bay. The speed sensitive, power-assisted rack and pinion steering offered us good road feedback with no sloppiness or side to side wallowing that comes from an overly boosted tiller. Road noise was kept to a minimum through the use of sound deadening material and standard profile tires.
Our LE was standard with Nissan's blind spot warning system, which is an available option on the lesser trim levels. Lighting up in the corner of our eyes when a car was in the blind spot, it managed to sound an alert if we put on our turn signal indicating our intentions to merge right or left. The Quest is not a corner-cutting hot-rod in the BMW sense, or even in the Mazda5 sense. But at the end of the day, the steering did make sense, offering a confident ride where it matters most""in day to day driving situations.
Why you would buy it:
You appreciate a living room on wheels that can be converted from a people hauler to moving van with the push of a button.
Why you wouldn't:
The competition is awfully stiff, too.
Leftlane's bottom line
Now in its second year, Nissan's Quest LE continues to offer more refinement in an innovative minivan, which offers many different types of features that would be desired by a wide variety of users.
Though it does not offer some of the capabilities found in other examples, we think it is an excellent alternative to those who seek comfort over total utility.
2012 Nissan Quest LE
base price, $42,350. As tested, $43,380.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.