Nissan Emerges From The Kitchen With Something New
You can get vanilla ice cream in an array of varieties. There's New York Vanilla (the classic flavor), French Vanilla, Vanilla Bean, Homestyle Vanilla, Creamy Vanilla and Country Vanilla. Regardless of the subtle differences, each frozen delight is only a mild modification of the same mixture of milk, cream, sugar and vanilla beans. While generally bland and lackluster when compared to Rocky Road, Carmel Ribbon and Mint Chip, good old-fashioned vanilla ice cream enjoys an enormous following and offends few, making it the best-selling flavor in the freezer section. If you make ice cream and want to sell in volume, get on the horn to your friends in Madagascar.
Minivans are a lot like vanilla ice cream.
No matter how hard the automakers try to differentiate their product, all of today's minivans are essentially mildly altered concoctions blending seven-passenger, front-engine, front-wheel drive, six-cylinder, highly-utilitarian ingredients. Yet, like vanilla ice cream, they are part of a segment that cannot be ignored, and they do surprisingly well at satisfying a broad degree of palates. In the case of nearly every automaker, if you're building family vehicles, you offer a minivan.
Nissan has released its all-new 2011 Quest and it's a minivan formulated with today's all-too familiar ingredients, but unlike the rest of the vanilla troop, the Quest could leave a unique taste in your mouth. Has Nissan broken new ground with its new family transport, or are they just offering consumers the same dessert with just a different label? Read on for the answer.
Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL, Nissan
The Nissan Quest has been around for nearly two decades. Originally introduced in 1992, the first- and second-generation models offered six-cylinder front-wheel drive powertrains and seven-passenger interiors. Both models were manufactured in Ford's Avon Lake, Ohio assembly plant, allowing the American automaker rights to re-brand and sell Quests as the now-forgotten Mercury Villager. Unfortunately, the Quest's short wheelbase made it tough to compete in a segment with the long-wheelbase Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler/Dodge twins. That changed dramatically when the third-generation model debuted in 2004. Assembled in Nissan's then-new Canton, Mississippi plant, the Quest returned with a traditional powertrain and passenger configuration and a much longer wheelbase. It also appeared with avant-garde sheetmetal and a radical center-mounted instrument pod that was bold - so bold the automaker redesigned the dashboard for the 2007 model year. Plagued with early quality issues and tough competition, sales fell from nearly 50,000 annual units in 2004, to under 9,000 units in 2009, with the Quest opting out of the competition for 2010.
Nissan introduced an all-new 2011 Quest for the North American market at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show (the Japanese-market Nissan Elgrand, wearing only slightly different cosmetics, debuted in Japan several months earlier). Compared to its predecessor, the 2011 Quest is four inches shorter in length, one inch taller, yet the same width as the 2009 model. Its wheelbase is down nearly six inches. The base curb weight of 4,367 pounds (it tops out at 4,548 pounds for the loaded LE model) is up about 60 pounds across the model range, but weight distribution has improved to 55/45 compared to 60/40 on its predecessor. The fuel tank (20 gallons) and towing capacity (3,500 pounds) remain identical.
Nissan's tabling for the Quest: "Gets Parenting." Meaning, in general terms, that the automaker believes that seven-passenger minivans are used by both mothers and fathers and is up to the task. Taking the pitch a bit further, Nissan says minivans must deliver style, performance and utility that appeals to everyone in the family. A minivan must make travel fun, regardless of the situation. To address this, Nissan says its 2011 Quest offers bold exterior styling with an interior that's both comfortable and flexible.
As promised, the exterior styling of the 2011 Nissan Quest is interesting. The automaker has dropped most all of the design cues from the last model (thankfully, as it was never one to win any beauty contests) and delivered a rather boxy minivan that will be most remembered for its full-surround privacy glass out back and bold front grille. There are new front triangle windows to improve outward visibility, but the sliding door rails remain visible at waist height. The overall look is distinctive and functional, rather than sleek and stylish. If anything, it's unique.
The seven-passenger cabin of the 2011 Nissan Quest is much less polarizing. Traditionally configured, it features a standard instrument cluster (yes, behind the steering wheel) and a center console with the transmission shifter mounted slightly to the left. The HVAC vents are high on the dashboard, on each side of the optional navigation screen. Climate controls are above the infotainment controls, both to the right of the shifter.
The driver and front passenger sit in individual bucket seats split by a fixed center console, while the second row also features two individual bucket seats, but with a removable floor-mounted center console between them (there is no bench option). The second-row seats fold forward, but aren't designed to be removed. The third row is a bench, split 60/40, with belts for three passengers and the ability to fold forward, but it too can't be removed. There is a permanent, generously sized hidden storage area in the rear well behind the third row.
The competition allows the second rows to come out, and the third rows to "tumble" or fold out of the way (into that recessed area in the back). Nissan's approach is much more convenient, but it does compromise overall cargo volume as the folded seats take up space.
The all-new 2011 Nissan Quest is built in Kyushu, Japan, on the automaker's "D" platform, shared with the Maxima, Altima and Murano. The front-engine, front-wheel drive unibody platform utilizes a standard four-wheel independent suspension setup. Up front, it features struts with coil springs and stabilizer bar, while the rear is fitted with a multi-link design. There are disc brakes at all four corners, and the steering rack is a vehicle-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion design.
Under every hood is the automaker's "VQ" six-cylinder engine. Featuring Nissan's twin Variable Induction Control System (NICS), digital knock control, micro-finished camshaft and crankshaft surfaces, DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coated valve lifters, forged crankshaft and a lightweight intake manifold, the all-aluminum six-cylinder engine displaces 3.5-liters and is rated at 253 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Mated to the engine is Nissan's Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with Adaptive Shift Control (ASC). The automaker doesn't quote acceleration figures, but we estimate the Quest will hit 60 mph in about eight seconds.
While official EPA mileage figures haven't been released, Nissan is quoting 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Those figures are identical to the 2011 Toyota Sienna (3.5-liter FWD 6AT), but fall short of the 2011 Honda Odyssey (3.5-liter 6AT) which delivers 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
Nissan is offering its 2011 Quest in four different flavors: Quest S, Quest SV, Quest SL and Quest LE. All share the same engine and transmission, but the standard equipment levels differ on each:
- Quest S: Standard 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers; rear roof spoiler; six-way adjustable driver's seat; front door map pockets, wood-tone trim (instrument panel, front doors, and sliding door window switch); fold-flat second and third row seats, permanent rear storage well; first and second row center consoles (second row removable); Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition; and AM/FM/6CD audio system with four speakers.
- Quest SV: Standard one-touch power sliding doors; 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; Tri-Zone Auto Temperature Control; power driver's seat lumbar adjustment; six speakers; fog lights; Conversation Mirror; 4.3-inch color audio display; USB port with iPod connectivity; Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System with steering wheel controls; RearView Monitor; and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
- Quest SL: Standard leather-appointed seating and door trim; 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; power liftgate; eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat; Quick Comfort heated front seats; HomeLink Universal Transceiver; auto-dimming inside mirror with compass; roof rails; auto on/off headlights; leather-wrapped shift knob; Quick Release fold flat third row; and heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals.
- Quest LE: Standard Nissan Navigation System; Bose Audio System with 13 speakers; XM Satellite Radio; memory system for driver's seat and outside mirrors; auto tilt-in-reverse outside mirrors; second and third row manual sun blinds; four-way power-adjustable front passenger's seat; eight-inch VGA color display (dash mounted); DVD Entertainment System with two wireless headphones and remote control; rear 11-inch 16:9 aspect ratio display for DVD Entertainment; Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with auto recirculation feature; Blind Spot Warning (BSW) system; and High Intensity Discharge (HID) xenon headlights.
With the standard Intelligent Key stored in our pocket, the six-cylinder VQ under the hood of our top-of-the-line Quest LE test model spins to life with a quick push of the start/stop button. The driving position is commanding, much like other minivans, and outward vision is good (the front triangle windows are useful). The seats are supportive and comfortable, and all controls are within easy reach. However, from our tall vantage point, when the transmission shifter (PRNDL) is dropped into Drive, the wide, leather-covered lever hides some of the HVAC and audio controls - a mild annoyance.
On the road, the 2011 Nissan Quest reminds us of a heavier and less-nimble Murano (it should, as both share platforms and a powertrain). We're fans of the VQ engine, for its grunt rather than smoothness, and it moves the minivan off the line with authority. The standard CVT works well in this application, as it's incredibly fluid and efficient (being enthusiasts, we do miss the 2009 model's stepped automatic transmission as it allowed the engine to spin the tachometer around the dial). Handling is competent and safe, even up to about six-tenths of its capability. Push harder and the tires will scream long before the chassis throws in the towel.
After covering a couple hundred miles in the Quest, our overall impression is very favorable. Nissan's newest minivan offers an excellent ride with a quiet cabin. The steering delivers decent feedback, the brakes are solid, and the handling exactly what one would expect from a two-ton people mover.
Looking a bit closer, we even found a few cherries mixed into to the minivan.
Nissan's innovative, and standard, tire inflation system is pretty impressive. The hazard lamps are designed to flash when the tires are being inflated (with the ignition on). Once the tires reach the correct level of inflation - their OEM recommended pressures, we assume - the horn will honk briefly. While it's trick that the vehicle so accurately monitors tire pressure, it's a bummer that only drivers in high-level Quest LE models are able to view the pressures for each wheel on the eight-inch VGS navigation screen.
We also like Nissan's approach to the rear-seat DVD system. While the competition leans towards ultra-wide screens, in order to display two videos side-by-side, Nissan chooses to use one large 11-inch screen for one video at a time. The result is a much better picture when only one DVD is playing (plus the kids who ride in a Quest will learn the important skill of compromise at an early age).
The cabin itself is warm and inviting. We liked the expansive woodgrain across the dash, the quality of materials, the feel of the thick steering wheel and the overall driving position. Nissan has also worked hard to make the step-in low from the side sliding doors, and it makes a difference.
However, we also tasted some sour milk.
The powertrain, more specifically the continuously-variable transmission, lacks any type of electronic "hill hold" to prevent the minivan from rolling backwards on an incline (unlike traditional stepped gearboxes which hold a vehicle stable on all but the steepest hills when in gear, most CVTs will roll backwards even when in "drive"). Most other automakers have embraced the "hill hold" for basic safety reasons. Nissan should too.
We also didn't like the small (non-removable) console between the front two seats. That area is prime storage space, whether for a purse (um, murse?), laptop or six months worth of drive-through receipts. Whatever the case, it needs to be larger and preferably removable.
Those few quibbles aside, it looks like Nissan has finally delivered a world-class minivan – something it should have introduced a decade ago. In any other year, this would be stellar news. Unfortunately, 2011 is chock-full of minivan debuts and both of its primary Japanese competitors have introduced their own all-new offerings. We're not trying to melt Nissan's sundae, but the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are also incredibly fine vehicles that have set the class standard for the better part of a decade.
Rather than argue over which of the three is the sportiest (Honda or Toyota), the most luxurious (Nissan or Toyota), the most comfortable (Honda or Nissan), the most innovative (Toyota or Honda), the most child-friendly (Honda or Nissan), the quickest (Nissan or Toyota) or the most fuel efficient (Honda or Toyota), and make a recommendation from there, it's best to figure out your own needs and priorities. After all, with so many excellent variations, we can't choose your favorite flavor of vanilla.
Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL, Nissan
New Car Test Drive
Thoroughly revised model favors fun.
The 2011 Nissan Quest is the biggest departure from a previous model seen in recent van developments. Styling inside and out is neither controversial nor conventional, it feels more expensive without being more expensive feature-for-feature, and it merges performance and efficiency quite well.
Although many of the component parts have been proven in other Nissan and Infiniti products and Nissan has used the Quest name on vans before, consider the 2011 Quest a new model and not a new-face-and-bumpers update.
Four versions of the Quest are available, the range covering everything from steel wheels and air conditioning to piped leather, a host of electronic conveniences, and a screen as large as some laptops. With options limited, your most difficult decision may well be paint color.
In terms of what you can't see, envision the Quest as a three-row version of the Nissan Murano crossover. A 253-hp V6 has bones shared with everything from a Z-car to an Xterra four-wheel drive. The continuously variable transmission is one of the most efficient automatics around, as Nissan excels in CVT technology. And the suspension, steering and brakes hint at Nissan's more-sporty-than-average philosophy.
Beyond any cosmetic considerations what strikes you most about the Quest is the concession to sizing the arrangement to families with children who aren't ready to drive themselves. The third row is smaller than most but more than adequate for rug rats and yard apes, and the forward four seats are genuinely adult roomy; there is no eight-passenger, middle-row-bench-seat version. And the cargo area has a trunk beneath a floor level with the hatch opening that will be appreciated by anyone who's had to lift an expedition-size suitcase or big-box store case of drinks out of an 18-inch-deep well.
Quest and its competitors (Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Routan) are no longer minivans and have not been for quite some time. Roughly the same outside dimensions as full-size SUVs or crossovers (Chevrolet Tahoe and Traverse, Ford Expedition and Flex, as respective examples) the vans are generally superior people movers and only a moderate-to-heavy trailer or a need for low-gear four-wheel drive tilts the decision toward the others.
We think the Quest is a good choice for those who enjoy driving but have lots of passenger-ferrying requirements or more than two offspring who enjoy road trips.
The 2011 Nissan Quest arrives in four trim levels all with a 3.5-liter V6, continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive and seven-seat configuration.
Quest S ($27,750) includes air conditioning, cloth upholstery, power windows/locks/mirrors, manual front seats, second-row reclining captain's chairs, 60/40-split third row, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, fold-flat second and third-row seats, wood-grain trim, fixed front and removable second-row consoles, intelligent key/pushbutton start, AM/FM/6CD with Aux port, cruise control, rear privacy glass, 16-inch steel wheels, and rear spoiler. Roof rails ($300) are optional. Towing package ($535) is optional.
Quest SV ($30,900) upgrades with three-zone climate control, power sliding doors, power lumbar adjustment, iPod/USB input, steering wheel controls, 4.3-inch screen (audio and rearview monitor), leather-wrapped wheel, Bluetooth telephony, alloy wheels, fog lights, auto-dimming mirror, and conversation mirror. Roof rails are the sole factory option.
Quest SL ($34,350) features leather upholstery and heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, power liftgate, power driver's seat, HomeLink, heated outside mirrors with signal repeaters, auto on/off headlamps, roof rails and quick-release third-row seat. Options include 11-inch DVD entertainment ($2,100), Bose audio system ($1,300), and dual-opening glass moonroofs ($1,350).
Quest LE ($41,350) adds navigation with 8-inch screen, 9.3GB MusicBox hard drive, 13-speaker Bose audio and DVD entertainment, driver memory system, reverse-tilt mirrors, rear window shades, advanced climate control with air purification, blind-spot warning, HID low-beam headlamps, audio/video inputs and 120-VAC outlet. Only the moonroof pack is optional.
Safety features include dual front, front-side and three-row side-curtain airbags, active front head restraints, three LATCH anchors among 2nd/3rd rows, rear child door locks, electronic stability control incorporating antilock brakes, brake assist, traction control. Rearview camera is standard on all but Quest SE, and a blind-spot warning system comes on the Quest LE.
By design, vans are box-like with smoothed front ends to improve aerodynamics and driver visibility, and the Quest fits the mold. Roughly the same size as other midivans, it's within inches of the competition in virtually every measure. Nissan calls the styling fluid sculpture.
Quest is built on a lengthened structure that shares basics with the Murano crossover and Maxima and Altima sedans. However, on standard wheels the Quest needs no more space than an Altima to make a U-turn, and since it's less than six feet to the top of the roof the center of gravity isn't substantially higher than that of the Murano.
The front is smooth and clean, with a wide bumper section that cants upward at the edges below the headlights. All front lights except the fog lights are in the same housing, chrome is liberal, and the LE gets HID low-beam headlights. The front of the Quest is its most generic aspect, and like other vans could easily be confused with another were it not for the Nissan target front and center.
In side view the simple lines continue, the only trim piece used along the bottom of the doors. The window line dips down from the windshield to a low point behind the useful side mirrors, then sweeps upward and tapers to near horizontal at its aft edge. A character line beginning atop the front tire then approaches the window line, ending at the taillight, giving as much wedge as possible in a box.
What sets Quest apart most is the nearly vertical tail that maximizes cabin volume and dark pillars everywhere but the windshield. Combined with the tinted glass the windows appear as a black band all around the car with the roof almost floating on top of it, much like a Mini Clubman or Ford Flex with the alternate roof color. Dark colors don't show it off as well, but they hide the sliding door track in the rear quarter panels better. On models with the power sliding side doors they operate comparably quickly yet without the jerky stop/start of some.
The rear end bears strong resemblance to sister-division Infiniti's big QX56 utility and gets its fair share of chromium; the deep bumper also reminds of smaller boxes like Nissan's Cube or the original Scion xB. The big hatch cinches itself shut on all models, is powered open and close on some, but the top of the bumper (like most vans) has no protection to prevent scratching from hauling cargo in and out.
Optional dual moonroofs open independently; three small curb-like protuberances on the closed front moonroof aid airflow over the open rear moonroof to avoid any fuel economy penalty. The rear switch for the rear moonroof is disabled by the window lock on the driver's door.
Quest's cabin is a major advance from the previous version, primarily because it appears more car-like, even luxurious on upper models, where the previous Quest seemed to stop at fully functional. Apart from the Nissan logo we couldn't find a single part or finish that didn't speak better quality than before.
Seven-seat is the only configuration offered on the Quest, with two individual seats in the first two rows and a three-seat arrangement for kids in the last row. The Quest feels very open and is quite roomy if used this way, the generous 204 cubic feet of volume tilted in favor of adult comfort; if you frequently put adults in the third row the Honda Odyssey is better. But who does that?
The four forward seats are very comfortable, have good-to-best competitive dimensions and are just as good for short jaunts in the school Grand Prix or interstate cruising. We spent as much time hollering, 'Are we there yet?' from the middle row as sitting in front and, apart from adjustments and the middle seats folding, didn't note a significant change in support in either; the middle-row chairs one-up the front with an individual armrest on each side. Standard cloth upholstery on the lower two trims gives way to heated leather on upper trims, and the leather is piped for the high-end look.
Sliding side doors are typical but there is a step just inside them so there's less climbing or halfway-in kids falling back out. It also tends to keep that accumulation of junk on shoes from dirtying the carpet as quickly. Rear-seat entry/exit is decent and the second-row console is easily removed (cupholders remain nearby) for walk-through access.
The third row is split 40/60 with the wide side curbside. It partially reclines, moving the cushion slightly in the process and you could two adults back there for short trips. Most models have three-zone climate control with overhead vents outboard and the LE has four side-window shades.
But it's behind the seat that Quest defies the norm. Rather than the fold-into-floor last row there is a cargo floor level with the opening at the back. A cover on each side is rated for 220 pounds per, so fertilizer and backpacks can be tossed in but cement or masonry treated more gently. Beneath this cargo floor is open space about the size of a midsize car's trunk, and with the covers out a 35-cubic-foot area behind the third row. With the back two seat rows folded flat, maximum cargo height or volume isn't as much as most competitors but you can still get the ubiquitous 4x8 sheet of plywood inside and keep the concealed cubic-footage under the back. The spare tire is underneath where it has no effect on cargo loading, or unloading to change a flat.
The instrument panel has dropped the center-mounted gauges for a more conventional, clearly Nissan layout, but it would be easy for some to mistake an SL or LE dash as from an Infiniti. Gauges are lit white while all controls and console ambient lighting are amber. There is a mood-light option with different colors and highlights (cupholders, footwells, etc.) though we have not experienced one in the dark.
Analog gauges give the usual information, framed by controls on its ears for dash lighting and trip computer. Power side-door controls are up high driver's left with other vehicle controls below. Steering wheel stalks handle lights and wipers (front and rear) and the wheel itself has redundant controls for the audio system. The key can stay in your pocket because every Quest is pushbutton start. We prefer a traditional key, but that's not an option.
Everyone has a good view out and the driver has few blind spots; a warning system is optional and effective but no substitute for an over-the-shoulder glance. As is often the case, the small triangular front side windows are more useful on the far side.
The shifter is on the left side of the center panel abutment but unlike that in the Odyssey it doesn't impinge on taller drivers' right knee space. The audio system and climate controls are to the right of it, controls for the navigation and such at about 45-degrees to horizontal above the shifter, and everything works as you'd expect. On the lower face are seat heater controls, two beverage holders and a disc-drive below; the drive is recessed so your Big Gulp might not immediately become a big glitch but you'd still have to reach under the cupholders to load it.
Quest forgoes the ultra-wide screen rear entertainment in favor of an 11-inch screen, the largest 16:9 perspective screen in the business; and somehow they did it without the driver losing rear view when the screen is being used. There are only a couple of features the competition offer the Quest does not: The widescreen/dual-image arrangement, ventilated front seats, middle-row lounge chairs, and a coolbox. Quest does have an audio-mute button for addressing unruly passengers. Attention, Munchkins! Also, when refilling the tires the pressure monitor system will chirp the horn when the pressure is correct.
Nissan derived the Quest from sporty sedans and a sporty crossover and that paid dividends in driving characteristics. The Quest comes across as relatively light on its feet. It isn't light by any stretch, though it's among the lighter in vans and feels and drives smaller than it is.
Nissan's superb V6 engine has been proven in a variety of sizes; Quest uses the 3.5-liter size. Rated at 253 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque (using regular unleaded fuel) it is the mildest 3.5-liter Nissan makes, but don't equate that to slow. A Sienna V6 has 266 hp and Chrysler's newest Town & Country 283 but both use a conventional 6-speed automatic transmission; Honda's Odyssey has 248 hp and more torque but uses conventional 5- and 6-speed automatics.
The Quest uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), dubbed Xtronic, proven in other Nissan V6 products. Rather than six gears to choose from it has an infinite range and can therefore ideally match performance and efficiency parameters for any demand. Floor the pedal at an on-ramp and the engine speed will rise near 5000 rpm, where the engine makes peak power, and stay there until you lift off the gas pedal or reach maximum speed. It's much like a powerboat getting on plane, but instead of the prop slipping the transmission is constantly changing its ratio.
Conversely, around town the CVT uses only the minimum engine revs needed to get the job done. At highway speeds it lopes along barely 2000 rpm showing at 75 mph and if you need to accelerate there is no gear change felt. The CVT has an Overdrive Off switch but that only locks out the highest range for more sprightly response or controlling speed on long downgrades. If you select Low, the transmission uses engine braking to slow the Quest better than virtually any other van. On the minus side the CVT is very loose at idle and it will not hold the van on a hill without using the brake pedal.
EPA ratings are 18/24 mpg City/Highway for the Quest, matching the Sienna V6. Town & Country gets 17/25, and the Odyssey rates a bit higher at 18/27 mpg (19/28 with the top-line 6-speed model). However, it's been our experience with Nissan and other CVTs that their real-world mileage is often better than EPA calculations, and we expect the Quest to be fully competitive in this regard. Our trip computer showed 22.4 mpg average after a couple of hours of primarily urban driving.
Electric-assist steering is used on the Quest and the feel and operation are on par with conventional systems. Quest is quite maneuverable and requires less than 37 feet to make a U-turn. A three-row SUV or crossover with roughly the same exterior dimensions, smaller cabin and cargo space, and only half-an-inch more ground clearance needs more than 40 feet.
Ride quality is very nice, regardless of what row you're sitting in. Although the Sienna is the only van rated to carry more weight, the Quest doesn't feel overly stiff with just one occupant nor like a tub of Jell-O when it's loaded down. A sporty Sienna SE or Odyssey Touring might handle better than the Quest, but we like the blend of ride comfort, grip, and directional stability Nissan's calibrated here.
We made no observations on braking, which means pedal feel and the van's reaction are both appropriate. With the CVT's ability to control or retard downhill speed, we expect Quest would be the least likely van to have brake issues.
In terms of performance, the upper models enjoy only the slightest, often immeasurable, advantage in steering crispness, minimum braking distance and cornering speeds because they have one-size wider 18-inch wheels but weigh more. On the other hand, the 16-inch wheels will be less-expensive to replace tires, could be used for a set of winter tires if you upgrade, and might make chain-fitting easier. Ride quality should be a little better with the taller sidewalls of the 16-inch tires, also.
A Quest may be configured to tow 3500 pounds maximum, right in line with other vans. The tow limit is one reason you'd have to step up to an SUV and take a fuel economy hit; the other is if you need four-wheel drive for trail adventures. Otherwise, the van makes more sense than an SUV.
The 2011 Nissan Quest does everything a family-transport van should with no shortcomings in performance, efficiency, comfort or environmental features. The styling differentiation among SUVs, vans and crossovers is getting smaller all the time and there's nothing mini about this van, so avoid any minivan connotations by calling it a Quest and letting actions speak louder than words.
G.R. Whale filed this NewCarTestDrive.com reporter after his test drive of the Quest around Del Mar, California.
Nissan Quest S ($27,750); Quest SV ($30,900); Quest SL ($34,350); Quest LE ($41,350).
Options As Tested
dual-opening power moonroofs ($1,350).
Nissan Quest LE ($41,350).
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