First Drive: Nissan Quest

Nissa’s Ultimate “Familymobile”

Del Mar, Calif. — Minivans have had their share of ups and downs through the years, and the Nissan Quest has been beaten up on more than most. ?So the Nissan team went back to work a few years ago on a quest to reinvent the minivan with an emphasis on building the ultimate ?familymobile?.? Arriving at dealers early in 2011 is one of the best examples of a family friendly minivan I?ve driven.

The all-new Quest was developed on the same D-platform used for the Nissan Maxima and Altima sedans and the Murano crossover. ?What that means is the Quest has many of the same desirable characteristics as those vehicles including a rigid body structure, good ride and handling plus a tight 36-foot turning radius.? I find that especially satisfying on such a large vehicle.

The exterior design is fresh and distinctive from the bold grille to the rear full surround privacy glass.? The inside takes on the feeling of a ?great room? with a warm comfortable atmosphere and seating that actually fits up to seven passengers.?? The two top models include elegant leather seating and door trims.

When the ?to do? list requires switching from passengers to cargo, both the second and third row seats fold to a flat load floor and create a cargo space almost large enough (86.5 inches long) to carry the space gauging 4×8-foot sheets of building materials with the rear liftgate closed.

All Quest models are outfitted with the innovative Nissan Intelligent Key? system.? When someone carrying the I-Key in a pocket or bag arrives at the vehicle, a simple touch of the button on the sliding doors automatically opens that door.? LE and SL models have the same feature on the power rear liftgate.? Once inside the driver simply pressed the starter button to start the engine with no key needed.

Some of the other cool features are the windows that go down in the sliding doors, two glass moonroofs that open, fast heating front seats, a rear storage well and the tire pressure monitoring system that alerts you when the tire is full as it?s being filled.? The LE model even has a system that smells the air and blocks unwanted aromas from entering the Quest.? When the offending aroma passes, the system reactivates the outside air flow.

To make family travel more comfortable for all, the Quest is loaded with a high level of standard features at all four trim levels ? S, SV, SL and LE.? Even the base model S includes the fold-flat second and third row seats, wood tone trim, center console, I-Key and six disc CD changer at the base price of $28,550, including the destination charge.

At the top of the four model grouping, the LE has an amazing offering of standard equipment including navigation, a 9.3GB hard drive Music Box?, Bose audio, DVD rear entertainment system and enhanced safety equipment.? About the only options available on the LE are dual moon roofs and a towing package ? with a 3,500-pound towing capacity.

All Quest models get the Advanced Air Bag System that classifies the front occupant to adjust the response along with all electronic safety enhancements like stability control, traction control and speed sensing power door locks.? The LE model adds a blind spot warning system, which I think is a very important new safety feature.

All four trim levels are powered by Nissan?s award-winning 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine.? The 253-hp engine drives the front wheels through the Nissan Xtronic CVT? transmission with adaptive shift control.? While I am not normally a big fan of continuously variable transmissions, this one is the best I have driven.? It has a super smooth action and doesn?t sound like the transmission is slipping like some CVTs do. ?The Quest fuel economy is estimated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

The Quest door design allowed engineers to lower the step-in level making easier entry and also lowering the center of gravity for improved handling. ?And I like that the front doors have a solid ?thud? sound when closing.

Minivans are cool again, and the new Nissan displays that the company?s Quest to build a van the whole family can enjoy, was a success. ?It?s a must drive for any family that wants to be cool and practical again.