Calgary Herald

Nissan Quest: it’s simply what minivans are all about

- HOWARD J. ELMER

RSAN DIEGO, CALIF. ecently, my minivan died rather unexpected­ly. While that may sound traumatic, it really wasn’t, at least not for me.

Yes, after 10 years of service, the Elmer family truckster gave up the ghost. My wife shed a tear at its loss, but for me, its death simply coincided with the end of the little kids phase in my life and I was glad to see the minivan head to the boneyard.

For most men, I believe, that’s about the appropriat­e sentiment where minivans are concerned — we know they are great while we need them, but when those intense family activity years are over, we are happy to crush ’em.

I think Nissan gets this, because the new Quest’s design is all straight-up utility without any pretence at being more than what it is — a comfortabl­e, usable box on wheels meant to transport families.

Built on the D platform that also carries vehicles such as the Altima and Murano, the new Quest features four-wheel independen­t suspension, a tight turning radius and one of the lowest step-in heights in the van industry.

The Quest was designed in Japan — where it is also built and sold — with a new design language called “fluid sculpture.” It sounds a bit like a wet juice box. However, it has some nice touches such as full surround privacy glass, black sash moulding and chrome trim accents. The shape is square, and while not unpleasant, this Nissan is utilitymin­ded. But, as Nissan points out, vans are bought from the inside and that’s where a great deal of its design time was spent.

The new interior is a rich, warm space — nicely finished and comfortabl­e — but, again, practical in all regards. When I drove the Quest, I could easily imagine doing road trips in it. This van offers comfort for up to seven people with plenty of cargo space and legroom, entertainm­ent and excellent HVAC air flow throughout. The theatre-style seating ensures rear occupants have a clear view to the front.

To change configurat­ions, no seats have to be removed and nothing goes into the floor. Still, a flat cargo surface is achieved using the hard-surfaced (folded) seatbacks, and in-floor cargo spaces are preserved in either seat up or down usage.

Other features found on the new Quest include: one-touch power sliding side doors that open with a single touch; dual glass sunroofs that both open; second-row power windows; new Quick Comfort heated front seats; removable second-row console with cupholders and lid; Plasmaclus­ter air purifier; a rear-view monitor and an 11-inch colour monitor with wireless headphones.

Power comes from the veteran 3.5-litre V-6 Nissan engine that makes 260 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque. This motor is more than enough to move the Quest. Nissan says the new engine architectu­re also nets as much as a 10 per cent improvemen­t in fuel economy. This front-wheeldrive van is driven by the Xtronic CVT transmissi­on with adaptive shift control. In operation, this continuous variable transmissi­on is quiet, does not whine at higher revolution­s and the adaptive feature means the computer module “learns” how you drive and varies the power points accordingl­y, further creating a seamless transfer of power.

Safety is very important to minivan buyers and for the first time Nissan is offering a Blind Spot Warning feature. Using sidemounte­d radar, the van alerts the driver (visually and audibly) if during a lane change another vehicle is in its blind spot. At the same time, its low, long chassis offers a very stable, firm ride and its adaptive power steering gives precise feedback. The Quest also has a surprising­ly tight turning radius and I also noted the front triangle windows in the A pillars for enhanced visibility.

In case you were wondering, there was no 2010 model-year Quest in Canada.

This didn’t surprise me, since several manufactur­ers have fled the minivan business in recent years. What did surprise me is that the Quest is back.

Obviously, Nissan feels strongly enough about this new van that it’s taking another stab at the family minivan market. After all, this market represents more than 80,000 units a year in Canada.

And this time, I think Nissan has it right. The new Quest doesn’t look like a spaceship and it doesn’t claim to restore your hairline. Instead, the Quest carries your family in comfort, safely and with all your stuff neatly stowed. That’s what the minivan years are about.

 ??  ?? The 2011 Nissan Quest is a practical vehicle meant to transport families. However, it has some nice touches, such as full surround privacy glass, black sash moulding and chrome trim accents.
The 2011 Nissan Quest is a practical vehicle meant to transport families. However, it has some nice touches, such as full surround privacy glass, black sash moulding and chrome trim accents.
 ??  ?? The Quest’s interior is rich and warm, but also practical.
The Quest’s interior is rich and warm, but also practical.

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