Nissan's superb VQ 3.5-liter V-6 powers all Quest variants. Fitted with variable valve timing, this alloy twin-cammer makes 240-hp and 242 lb-ft of torque when fed premium unleaded gasoline, 230 and 238 on regular. It's paired with a four-speed automatic transmission in the 3.5 and 3.5S, and mated to a five-speed autoshifter in 3.5SL and 3.5SE. All Quests come with traction control, and the SE also has Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control stability system.
Behind the Wheel
Boasting one of the best V-6s in the world and an electronically controlled transmission that excels in seamless gear changes with minimal "hunting" on grades, the Quest is more than a match for virtually every traffic situation. It's off-the-line quickness slips into mere respectability under heavy loads, where the 3.5SE's 4,209-lb curb weight comes to the forefront. But it can still hit 60 mph in less than nine seconds, and tote a 3,500-lb trailer with an optional tow package. A long wheelbase plus a well-sorted suspension with standard traction and stability controls give the Quest decent ride compliance and help it remain poised when the roads do get more challenging. Body roll is modest, and the tires audibly forewarn of the predictable push that accompanies enthusiastic cornering. Steering effort is a trifle high, but offers positive feel. And despite a 40.0-foot turning circle, the Quest maneuvers quite capably in tighter confines. The brakes--vented discs at all corners with ABS abetted by Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution--are well modulated and bleed speed with reassuring consistency.
Nissan's precocious people mover is dynamically capable, impressively accommodating, and offers features that can make it a true home away from home for practical modernists of any age. However, its concept-car-like interior does raise some design issues in addition to meriting kudos for overall space and utility. The center-mounted instrument cluster heads the list, doing nothing to improve a driver's ability to monitor speed, rev count, or warning lights. Undersized LCD readouts for fuel and water temperature are prone to wash out in bright sun, and the dash itself creates major reflections across the entire windshield under certain lighting conditions. Despite good accessibility, the horizontal orientation of the controls on the center pedestal can make adjustment somewhat awkward. Firmish yet comfortable, the Quest's front seats are light on lateral support. Ditto the captain's chairs, although with three inches of fore/aft travel, they make the third-row a viable alternative for two adults. The rear bench can be rotated 90 degrees for use as a tailgate party perch, but its single-piece design and weight detract from its utility and increases the effort required to reconfigure. Admittedly iconoclastic, all Quest models save for the feature-rich but somewhat pricey SE earn better-than-average value marks from IntelliChoice. A prudently optioned SL would likely deliver the most bang for the buck.
A mobile bastion of room and relaxation for discerning free-thinkers, the Quest could well be the ideal minivan for those who not only dare to be--but live to be--different.