Even though the American public is currently horribly in love with the SUV, there is still no denying the incredible and intelligent transport capabilities of the van. Born in the 1980s, the segment was created with the goal of being a member of the family and things have only gotten better since then. Nissan may have seven crossovers and SUVs to satisfy all types of households, but their one and only minivan is here to fight in a rather crowded segment. For this reason, the Quest has to be able to do a lot of things and do them pretty well as a minivan usually serves as a single vehicle for either mom or dad. Using just one thing to pull, haul, load, entertain and move day in and day out doesn’t have to be difficult, so the 2012 Nissan Quest is here to prove that owning a minivan is just plain easy.
Created as a joint venture vehicle with Ford in the early 1990s, the Quest took two generations to become strictly a Nissan. The current fourth-generation model debuted in 2011 when it brought a real taste of Japan to the American world of minivans. Designed like no other competitor in the segment, the Quest borrows many clues from the oddly popular modified van culture found outside of the United States. The signature diamond-shaped grille sits nicely between the sculpted, angular headlights, while the profile is so flat that it borders on two dimensions. On the back side, the Quest appears to have been sketched with a ruler as it adds to everything else so that a truly unique minivan can exist. It may sound strange to some, but the Nissan will never be confused with a Toyota, Dodge or Honda.
The Quest comes in four trim levels, from S base to loaded LE. Last year we drove an unprecedented SL and missed out on features like blind navigation and sports monitoring. This time around our tester rolled out of the Los Angeles factory as a full 2012 LE. With a base MSRP of $ 41,350, the LE is a surprising $ 6,000 more than the base price of the SL. For that extra money, buyers get standard features such as leather seats with heated power fronts, wood trim, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Bose supplied stereo, satellite radio, and rear DVD entertainment, advanced climate control and navigation with real traffic and weather. The only extra cost option offered on the LE is the $ 1,350 double moonroof that the tester is equipped with. Add some $ 250 of carpet floor mats and with destination charges, our 2012 Quest’s final MSRP was $ 43,715. That’s about $ 4,000 more than the SL we tested in 2011.
Much like the last Quest we drove and every other fourth generation model on the road, our 2012 test model uses the proven, award-winning and extremely reliable VQ V6 engine. With a displacement of 3.5 liters, the double overhead cam block uses variable valve timing and single-port fuel injection, allowing it to perform tasks for miles. The rotation of the front wheels through Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) produces 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. By no means a brake light drag racer, the Quest manages to stray out of its way and does so with enough enthusiasm to never feel undernourished. While the CVT may have its reliable certainty in the air, Nissan has been using these gearless transmissions for the longest time and if a manufacturer can get it right, those are the people who put the Quest together. The responsiveness of the drivetrain is surprising and miles ahead of any other manufacturing attempt. Even still, the Quest can get a bit stuck and manages to lack the fun, dashing arrogance found in Chrysler LLC’s Pentastar-infused offerings.
It may seem like it tips over if you sneeze near it, the Quest is surprisingly nimble on its four feet. Sharing the DNA with other quick-witted front-wheel-drive Nissan’s such as the Maxima and Altima certainly helps the van’s case, as the cornering is quick and almost spring-loaded. Grip is good for a minivan, and the Quest will tell you when it’s time to slow down. Ride quality produces minimal jerking and shaking while road noise is not as big of an issue as its tall shape suggests. What is becoming known is the VQ, which is not the quietest engine on the market today; especially in the form of 3.5 liters.
Just like the 2011 Quest we tested, the 2012 raised eyebrows the most in terms of carrying capacity. Last year, we said the only charge that could challenge the Quest wouldn’t even be considered without a heavy pickup truck. This year, we still believe that to be true because in less than a minute, the Nissan offers completely flat cargo space. Nothing has to be taken out, nothing has to be put away and nothing has to be twisted for a wealth of space to become available. Even with all the seats up, the interior space is very generous in all rows, including the rear which does not have to be reserved for children. Inside our LE equipped tester, the Quest manages to be both flexible and spacious. The leather seats are top-notch, the transparent double sunroofs are quirky and entertaining while the navigation is Nissan’s best job to date. If the steering wheel badge were to be replaced with an Infiniti logo, no one would know the wisest way.
Nissan brought the fourth generation Quest to market with a purpose. Instead of being a placeholder for the automaker’s lineup, they wanted it to be a seller as well as an overall smart buy. On the surface, the Quest can follow the rules of every other successful MPV, but it does things in a weirdly unique way. It doesn’t look like a rebadged remake and its appearance is so innovative that it sometimes doesn’t even look like a Nissan. Add to that the hauling capability of a pickup with the comfort of a car, and the Quest should be the pride of every minivan icon. Other rivals may be cheaper, sportier and better looking, but the Nissan has plenty of strengths that should put it on any minivan buyer’s “research” list. It’s a continuing rationale for the segment and does everything that makes these vehicles so smart for family use. If it landed in a driveway, the 2012 Nissan Quest would make a great addition to any American home.
Photos: © Copyright 2011 Ossamah Shabbir