2012 Nissan Quest

CARBARN  | 2012 Nissan Quest | In giant, full-line car companies, the product planners inevitably share one part among all the vehicles: the electronic key fob. Wha�? A VW Jetta?  It's ironic that the Nissan Quest minivan's smart fob looks just like the one that ignites the rather more awesome GT-R super sports car. The GT-R's key should be shaped like a Klingon batliff or the half-closed eyes of a contented concubine. The Quest key should be shaped like, I don't know, a pair of roomy pants.

If you're driving the Quest, you've chosen the path of car seats and slobbery binkies and school plays that seem to go on until 3 a.m. For you, provocative films subtitled from the original Mandarin have been replaced by "Yo Gabba Gabba." Minivans need to be awesome, plus 10%. Is the new Nissan Quest? While Honda and Toyota have attempted some compensatory sleekifying of their minivans the Honda Odyssey's Z-shaped sill line makes it the Aladdin Sane of kid movers Nissan has made its minivan challengingly, um, not sleek. The Quest's blockiness is exaggerated by the wraparound tinted glass in the rear, which disguises the roof pillars with the same visual trick used in the Nissan Cube.

The Quest is the latest kooky design from Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, Juke, Cube, etc and I have to tell you, I'm starting to get it. The cleaving away of Nissan design, the sheer otherness of these products is beginning to constitute a brand equity. Under the hood is Nissan's corporate 3.5-liter V6 (VQ35DE is the code name, trainspotters), a 24-valve unit outputting 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. This direct-injection engine drives a continuously variable transmission turning the front wheels. Typically in CVT-equipped vehicles the powertrain simpers and drones annoyingly as the vehicle accelerates, but there seems to be enough structure and soundproofing in the Quest to mute that.

This is a large vehicle 200.8 inches in length and 206 cubic feet of interior space, with the twin moon roofs. The Quest sounds damped, substantial, with a satisfying isolation from the road. The dash design echoes Nissan's current layouts, with the softly curved shapes in molded plastics and wood-like trim pouring into the center stack, where the gearshift lives. On the dash top is the rotary controller for vehicle and display functions and if equipped the navigation system. I was a little disappointed our $40,140 test car, in SL trim, didn't have Nissan's exemplary navigation system as standard equipment.

Out test car included the $2,100 ceiling-mounted DVD system (11-inch LCD screen), mounted between the moon roofs. Very nice Powered side doors and rear hatch come with the SL package, as do loads of cupholders. The biggest knock against the Quest and remember, this comes from a minivan Jedi knight is that the seating isn't all that versatile. This is a seven-passenger vehicle (rows configured 2/2/3), whereas the Honda has a clever three-seat midrow with a removable center unit, thus making an eight-seater (ditto the Toyota Sienna). Also, the Nissan's third-row seats fold down but don't fold under the load floor as do the Honda's or the Chrysler Town & Country's. And the Nissan midrow seats cannot be removed, only folded flat.


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