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Go Quest, Young Van

The 2011 Nissan Quest

The minivan isn’t dead. It’s not even mortally wounded.

Okay, so maybe Ford and General Motors have given up on the ultimate “soccer mom” vehicle, but it’s alive and well at Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and, the subject of this week’s column, Nissan. Over the years, Nissan has marched to a different minivan drummer. The first and second generation Quests, manufactured from 1993-2002, were built at Ford’s assembly plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, and were also badged as the Mercury Villager. These generally drew good reviews from the automotive press, but sales never came close to the numbers of the big players like the Dodge Caravan or Toyota Sienna. For the 2003 model year, Nissan did a total makeover of the Quest, basing it on the Altima platform, and built it at its own new plant in Mississippi. Nissan opted to give this third generation Quest an “un-minivan” look which—to me anyway—was unflattering from just about any angle.

And now we have the fourth generation, 2011 Nissan Quest. This time around, Nissan is building the Quest in Japan, and exporting it to North America. It’s been a confusing roadmap for the Quest; the last generation wasn’t even sold in Japan. This newest one is similar to many seen on Japanese roads, but is wider than most of the vans over there. I’ve always wondered how some of those tall, skinny vans in Japan corner without tipping over. Nissan describes the new Quest’s styling as unique, “including a ‘fluid sculpture’ body with full surround glass treatment.” I guess it’s unique as far as the domestic minivan market goes. It has that “tall, Japanese” minivan look to it without the severity of an actual tall Japanese minivan. It kind of looks like the packing crate a Nissan Cube might get shipped in. The squareness of it all makes for a roomy interior. And getting in there is easy with the one-touch power sliding doors. Got a kid under each arm? No problem, as the push of a button opens the door on either side. Once in there you’ll be greeted by two front seats, and second- and third-row “theater seating,” where each row gets a little higher as you go towards the back of the van. Anyone who has ever sat in a third row without this feature knows how annoying it can be staring at the back of the head of the person in front of you (maybe all the way to Florida—ugh!) can be. The second and third rows of seats fold down quickly to make a flat load floor for either carrying large items or corralling your brood at the drive-in. They still have drive-ins, right?

All 2011 Quests are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 260 horsepower, and are driven by a continuously variable transmission with Adaptive Shift Control. Stopping is done with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, while steering is aided by a speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion system. For handling, traction control, and vehicle dynamic control, systems are standard, while the tire pressure monitoring system includes a feature which flashes the hazard warning lights while you’re adding air to your tire, and beeps the horn when the correct pressure is reached.

Other features include: push-button ignition; AM/FM/6-CD audio system; rear roof spoiler; and a rear storage well. Moving up to the SV model adds (among other things) the one-touch power sliding doors; alloy wheels; tri-zone automatic temperature control; fog lights; USB port with iPod connectivity; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The SL adds leather seating surfaces; heated front seats; auto-dim mirror; and heated outside mirrors. And the top-line LE upgrades the HVAC and audio systems; and adds: memory driver seat settings; HID xenon headlights; and a bunch of other stuff too numerous to mention here. Pricing starts at $27,750 for the base Quest S minivan.

It’ll certainly be easy to find in the mall parking lot.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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