It’s been 7 years since Nissan came out with the original Quest and it was overdue for a redesign. They’ve had a history of having forward-thinking design with their minivans—no stuffy styling here.  And the Nissan engineers have continued in that tradition with sporty styling that says “Outta my way!”  I’ll be honest: I wasn’t all that impressed with the appearance of the 2011 Quest by what I saw on their website.  It was very 2-dimensional (and yes, I’m aware they haven’t come out with a 3-D home computer yet ;) ), even as I dragged the slider around to spin the virtual van every which way and back.  I just didn’t see the lines that were supposedly there.  So, first impressions were dim.

But, I was excited to get away—an overnight mini-vacation in an awesome hotel—L’Auberge Del Mar!  For the rest of the journalists there covering the “ride,” it was yet another day away from home.  I don’t get out much evidently.  When my driver pulled up in front of the hotel, there was a Quest parked right there in front for all guests to see.  I was impressed!  It looked *so* much nicer in person than on the website.  It looks small, but the length is within a half-inch of the new Sienna.  Perhaps it’s the shininess that caught my eye, the newness.  It is a very different-looking van from all the competition, and that is what Nissan is known for doing with the styling on its mini-vans. 

Inside, the fit and finish were nicely done.  There were no rattles in the 2 vans my partner and I drove.  These were nice, classy vans that, once you drop the kids off at school, you’re not afraid to take your friends who drive Mercedes out to coffee in.

So, what is the new Quest?  Well, to start, it has 4 trim levels: S, SV, SL, and LE.  It shares the same platform as the Maxima, Altima, and Murano.

All trim levels have:

  • Push-button start
  • 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V6 engine with
    • 260 hp
    • 240 lb-ft torque
  • A preliminary estimated 18/24 mpg
  • Wood trim
  • Deep, hidden rear storage well behind 3rd row

That’s where the similarities end.  While the base model does have some nice features, you really do have to upgrade to at least the next level, SV, to benefit from power sliding doors—a must-have if you are going to purchase a van.

Safety Features

  • Side curtain airbags with rollover sensor for all 3 rows: These are standard for all trim levels. (Of course!  Who offers them as an option anymore?  Yugo?)
  • Backup cameras:  Standard in all trim levels but the base.  These are a fantastic safety feature that all vehicles should have. 
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with Easy Fill Tire Alert: The tires not only have a sensor that tells you when the pressure is low, but there’s a notification alarm when you’re filling them up with air as well.  As you’re filling the tire, the horn will beep when the correct pressure is reached.  All vans have it.  That’s nice! 
  • Driver’s side mirror: It’s taller than normal size, which gives you a larger field of view as you drive, though the view is a bit distorted.
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control and Traction Control System: Standard on all trim levels
  • Blind Spot Warning system: This feature is available only on the top LE trim and warns you with an auditory warning and a visual warning on the mirror when there’s a vehicle in your blind spot.

Mom Likes (and Dad too!)

  • Let’s get real.  The LE has standard an Advanced Climate Control System with Plasmacluster™ air purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter to scrub the air clean of nasty odors.  This mom likes ;).
  • Cup holders, cup holders, cup holders!  16 of them!  What do you use yours for?  Mine holds my cell phone and sometimes my wallet, oftentimes a bottle of water, but rarely a cup.
  • As I mentioned, the interior is pretty, comfortable, and it’s family-friendlyThe dash is a nice mixture of light-colored leather and wood. 

  • The seats are supportive yet comfortable, not too firm like Japanese seats tend to be.  Cloth seats are standard on the lower 2 trim levels (S and SV) and leather on the upper trims (SL and LE).  The Quest is a 7-passenger van with no 8th seat available.  Nissan says they designed it that way for maximum 2nd row passenger comfort.  Access to the 3rd row is from the slide-forward 2nd row captain’s chairs.  Or do what we do in our van and crawl over everyone to go down the middle aisle.
  • Two, count ‘em 2, consoles: one for the front seats and one for 2nd row.  If you need that middle aisle to the 3rd row, just remove the 2nd row console.
  • Everything folds flat.  Yep, all the seats fold flat for cargo, even the 2nd row seats.  I don’t think the 1st row seats fold flat ‘cause that would make driving kind of hard, but I’m sure there’s someone out there who would be willing to do that while talking on a cell phone.  Having the all the seats fold flat trades convenience for space since the seats don’t fold into the floor or remove at all, though.  There’s a permanent cargo well behind the 3rd row for storage that doesn’t go away when the 3rd row is stowed (what, is there an echo in here?  I know I’ve mentioned that feature a time or two before ;). ).  Knowing me, I’d put something in there and totally forget about it (it’d also be a great place to hide Christmas presents!).  The 3rd row does return to upright position with the push of a button on the top LE trim level—a nice feature.

  • One-touch sliding doors and liftgate: What the heck does that mean?  It sounds intriguing!  Starting with the second-level trim (SV), when you’ve got the Intelligent Key fob in your pocket or in your purse and you’re near one of the sliding doors or liftgate, all you have to do to open them is touch the button on the outside of the handle and the door opens.  No grabbing the entire handle with your hand or lifting up on the liftgate to get it to open.  It’s awesome when your hands are full—a feature I wished I had earlier today at the grocery store!
  • A conversation mirror designed for a mom!  My experience with conversation mirrors is that they’re completely useless if you have anyone sitting in any position other than the passenger side 2nd row captain’s chair.  The engineer who designs them for vans typically drives with the driver’s seat pushed all the way back and adjusted to its lowest position.  That’s the way the seat has to be in order to see all the passengers of the van.  I was able to see all of the 2nd row and part of the 3rd row with the 2011 Quest’s mirror.  Put the mirror in with a ball and socket adjuster and you’d be golden, Nissan.
  • Heated leather seats—need I say more?  Actually, yes.  It heats your legs first, then your back so you feel warmer.  It’s a psychological thing, so Nissan says.  No ventilated seats, though, so prepare to be hot and sticky in the summer.
  • Shhhhhhh!  It’s quiet.  As we drove on all kinds of surfaces ranging from cobblestone-like roads to normal asphalt city streets with potholes to cement freeways, it was a quiet drive.  We drove next to 18-wheelers, we drove uphill and gunned the engine, we put the Quest through its paces and it performed nicely without us having to shout at each other.

Entertainment and Navigation

  • An 11” DVD display isn’t an option until the SL trim (just remember that DVDs and leather go hand-in-hand) and it’s standard on the LE trim level.  Unlike the Sienna and Ody vans, this 11” DVD display doesn’t do the split-screen thing and Nissan decontented a screen from earlier model years so there’s only 1 screen available for backseat riders (the 8” HDD navigation screen in the dashboard plays the movie when the vehicle is placed in Park—uh uh, no driver-watching movies in *this* van!).

  • The upper trim levels (SV, SL, LE) have the requisite iPod/USB connector and MP3/WMA playback ability.  There’s also a 120 V plug when you get the DVD player (see above for options).
  • XM Satellite Radio is an option for the SL trim and standard on the LE model.  Also available is the Nissan Hard-Drive Navigation System with a graphic interface, menu structure and search capabilities.  Remember that XM has a monthly fee, so that while the hardware is installed in the van, you’re in charge of buying the audio every month or you can listen to your local stations for free.
  • If you’ve got a phone, you need hands-free!  Use the Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System on all trim lines except the base.

Carseats and the Quest

LATCH positions: There are 3 LATCH positions.  Two in the 2nd row and one in the 3rd row on the passenger side.  There’s a 4th tether anchor in the center position of the 3rd row.

LATCH access: Hidden.  I felt it was difficult to access in the bight; my partner didn’t think so.  I had trouble shoving a deluxe LATCH connector onto a LATCH anchor.

There were 2 carseats available for installation, but not a lot of time for play since the goal of the day was to drive.  I had a Graco Nautilus and Chicco KeyFit to install.  The Nauti was pre-installed with LATCH and the seatbelt behind the driver.  I could see that LATCH wasn’t going to be a problem; it was going to be the seatbelt—duh duh duhn!  The buckle is several inches forward of the bight, but that’s par for the minivan course these days.  The problem in the new Quest is the stiff metal buckle stalk (see in the picture just how far up the buckle goes).  The buckle is perfectly positioned for installing rear-facing seats, not forward-facing seats.  I did get the Nauti installed with the seatbelt, but it was ugly and I had to recline the vehicle seatback to get the belt pulled tightly enough.  One of the Nissan executives is checking current LATCH weight limits for me, but the 2009 LATCH handbook states that Nissan defers to the child restraint manufacturer for LATCH weight limits.  Graco says that LATCH use must be discontinued at 48 lbs. at which time the seat must be installed with the seatbelt.

The KeyFit installed behind the passenger seat beautifully using LATCH and the seatbelt (separately, of course!).

Third Row: I have a bad feeling about this.  OK, I’ve probably seen Star Wars 100 times too many (thanks ds!) and should come up with a different line, but I do predict there will be major incompatibilities with the 3rd row.  The buckles are placed high in the bight and I’m concerned that even kiddos in boosters might have improper lap belt placement because of it.  The Quest also has stadium seating in the 3rd row, so a high-back booster on its tallest setting might have problems fitting—speculation on my part since I didn’t have one available to me for trial.  The center position has 9″ of space between the buckles.

I hang my head in shame: you dangle something shiny and new in front of me and all my good sense takes leave.  I forgot to look for rear-facing tethering spots.  Next time I will have Kecia and Darren text me mid-evaluation to remind me of such key things.

It Sounds Great So Far . . .

The test drive to Balboa Park was great.  The van drove solidly: acceleration was smooth, quick, and powerful.  Braking was average new car: we weren’t on a driving course, so we couldn’t do any special maneuvers to test the brakes.  Steering was tight and had a sporty feel to it.  Nissan went with a feel-the-road steering concept rather than a more assisted steering concept because they wanted the driver to have a more fulfilling driving experience.  I did notice it but it wasn’t fatiguing in the way my dh’s Datsun 240 Z was that didn’t have power steering (talk about building some nice-looking arms by driving *that* car).

Yeah, you may have to search a bit to find carseats that will work, just like with the last iteration of the Quest.  As with *any* vehicle, you need to find a carseat that’s compatible with your vehicle.  And the van really was nice . . .

So, what’s not to like?

Geez, this is the part I don’t like.  There were a few things that just didn’t work for me.  Some were minor, some were major.

  • Front center console: It’s not big enough.  I’ve got stuff, man.  Sometimes I even shove my purse into my current console to get it out of the way.

  • GPS needs to be voice-activated: We’re at the point now where we should be hands-free when we drive.
  • Hidden LATCH anchors and stiff buckle stalks: I talked about these in the carseat section, but I’ll reiterate that these are problems for installation.  Parents need to be able to find the lower anchors without digging around in the bight.
  • Narrow entry into the 2nd row: The sliding doors don’t open as far as you think they should.  They look like they should, and I wanted them to, open another 8” or so.  It’s not a problem getting in or out, but it may become a problem if you have a rear-facer.

  • Dashboard layout: The gear shift is bulky and gets in the way of seeing some of the components on the dash.  If the push-button start had been placed closer to the steering wheel and the gear shift moved up and over, the problem would have been solved.

It’s noteworthy to mention that the Quest is made in Kyushu, Japan.  It’s a Japanese vehicle from a Japanese company.  Even though they have their American headquarters in Tennessee, these vans are from Japan.

Prices for the 2011 Quest start at:

S $27,750
SV $30,900
SL $34,350
LE $41,350

 

CarsDirect.com

 

Our test drive was provided courtesy of Nissan USA at a press launch event in December.  Please note: the opinions and content given are strictly those of CarseatBlog and were not submitted to us by Nissan or any other entity, except for certain photo content.  No compensation was accepted, beyond travel expenses to attend the media event. Thank you to Nissan USA and L’Auberge Del Mar for a great event!