History is riddled with stories of eventual successes that were initially ignored.
For example, the automotive concept we currently know as the minivan was pitched to the Ford Motor Company in 1974 and summarily rejected by its upper-level management team. The progenitors of that idea eventually all wound up working at Chrysler, where the idea was enthusiastically received, and went on to become one of the best selling automobiles of all time for the company. Because of that, Chrysler is frequently credited with inventing the minivan, but that honor actually goes to a company called Stout, which offered its Scarab minivan way back in 1936.
Minivans today are a genre of automobile falling into the category of one of life’s necessities. In other words, nobody’s buying a minivan anymore because they think it’s cool; with the ascent of the SUV as family transportation, minivans are bought now because they are needed.
Thus, sales in this segment have cooled considerably since Chrysler reintroduced the concept back in the 1980’s. So much so that years ago, nearly every mainstream manufacturer was offering a minivan. Today, there are but five manufacturers building minivans, with those from Chrysler being the sole American offerings.
Which brings us to the Nissan Quest.
Debuting at the height of the minivan’s popularity, the Nissan Quest was first shown at the 1992 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. From MY’93 to MY’02, the Nissan Quest and the Mercury Villager were essentially the same vehicles, as the Villager was a rebadged Quest until Mercury dropped it in 2002. To date, there have been four generations of the Nissan Quest offered. This article picks up with the second generation of Nissan’s minivan, built between 1999 and 2002.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 1999
Powered by a 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 engine, capable of 200 ft.-lbs. of torque, the new-for-1999 Nissan Quest used a four-speed automatic transmission to route power to the front wheels.
Three trim lines were offered, GXE, SE and GLE. The base GXE model offered fifteen-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, a full power package, heated outside rearview mirrors, cruise control, ABS, airbags for the driver and front passenger, a rear window wiper, a roof rack, and an AM/FM/Cassette-based Audio System. Optional were a CD changer, rear seat air conditioning, leather trim, and audio controls on the steering wheel.
Moving up to the SE made pretty much everything on the GXE’s options list standard fare. It also bought four Captain’s chairs, a sliding door on the driver’s side, a sport suspension system, and sixteen-inch alloy wheels. SE options included leather upholstery for the seats, power-actuated driver and front passenger seats, a moonroof, an AM/FM/Cassette/CD Audio System, and an integrated garage door opener.
GLE came stocked with fifteen-inch alloy wheels, plus all the SE’s options as standard—except the CD audio system, and the moonroof. The GLE model also featured Nissan’s Quest Trac flexible seating system. The second row seats would fold flat to become a table, or they could be removed altogether. The third row seat would also fold to form a table, slide forward to permit more cargo capacity, or with the second-row Captain’s chairs removed, slide all the way forward to behind the driver and front passenger’s seat to open up the interior into a massive cargo hold.
Optional for all ‘99 Quest models was a camper/towing package.
The 1999 Nissan Quest offered 31 storage compartments and 13 cupholders. Safety features included ABS, airbags for the driver and front passenger, and an anti-theft alarm system.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2000
For 2000, Nissan’s product planners added video entertainment systems to all trim lines. Automatic headlights were fitted to SE models and GLE models got a suspension tweak in the form of a rear stabilizer bar.
A mild facelift was performed, endowing the Quest with new front and rear styling. The stabilizer bar from the 2000 GLE was also fitted to the GXE for 2001. The SE got a strut tower brace, as well as strut valving calibrated to reduce squat under acceleration. The instrument panel was treated to a new gauge cluster and the fabric interiors were revised with new patterns. GLE and SE got a new premium audio system, capable of 130 watts, with a six-disc in-dash CD changer for GLE models. To underscore the luxury intentions of the 2001 Quest GLE, a combination wood and leather steering wheel was also installed. New on the safety features list was a set of pre-tensioners for the seatbelts.
The last year of GEN2 Quest with complete redesign due in 2004, changes to the 2002 model were cosmetic only.
Quest production was suspended. Anybody tries to sell you a 2003 Nissan Quest, walk away, they don’t exist.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2004 – 2009
By 2002, Nissan’s product planners had come to the conclusion the second generation Quest was thoroughly uncompetitive. Based heavily on the first generation model, by the time the second-generation model was in its second year, rivaling models had thoroughly passed it by. So for 2004, the Quest got a complete ground-up redesign, this time based on the platform underpinning the Maxima and the Altima.
Leading the list of changes was a new 3.5-liter V6 engine. Producing 240 horsepower and 242 ft.-lbs. of torque, this gave the Nissan Quest the power it needed to keep up with the other family haulers in its class. A four-speed automatic transmission routed the engine’s power to the front wheels. An all-independent suspension system ensured agile and responsive handling. The 2004 Quest’s tow rating was set at 3500 pounds.
Its revised styling brought a touch of Avant-garde to the minivan class, with its staggered beltline and squared off front and rear ends. The center-mounted instrument panel and its accompanying columnar center console particularly distinguished the interior. Rising from the floor, the cylinder-shaped apparition’s top housed HVAC vents and controls, as well as the transmission’s shift lever and switches for the audio system. Moving down its front, there was a slot for the CD player/changer, a drawer containing cupholders, and a drawer for storage.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2004
Offered in three states of trim; 3.5 S, 3.5 SL, and 3.5 SE; the 2004 Nissan Quest 3.5 S model ran on 16-inch steel wheels and featured a full complement of power accessories including doors, windows and outside mirrors. Windows could be raised and lowered using the remote key fob. Both the driver’s and front passenger seats were height adjustable—with a manually adjustable lumbar support for the driver. Cloth upholstered the seats and 12-volt outlets could be found in the front and rear passenger areas, as well as the cargo compartment.
Front and rear air conditioning ensured the comfort of all passengers, while an eight-speaker, 150-watt AM/FM in-dash single-disc CD player stereo audio system provided tunes. Privacy glass, a roof rack, a rear window wiper, and a manually operated rear liftgate door comprised the 3.5 S Quest’s outfitting.
The 3.5 SL used sixteen-inch wheels and offered a power rear liftgate. The driver’s seat was electrically adjustable, as were the pedals. Windows for the driver and the front passenger could be raised and lowered with one touch of their buttons. The speed proportional power steering system offered more stability at high speeds, yet maintained easy maneuverability at slow speeds and when parking. Wrapped in leather, the steering wheel also boasted switches for the audio system and cruise control. Side/Curtain airbags were optional.
The 3.5 SE got all of the above, plus seventeen-inch alloy wheels, a five-speed automatic transmission, traction control, a power-actuated sliding sunroof up front, and a fixed-position glass sunroof for the rear compartment. Only the driver’s seat was heated, but both front seats were electrically adjustable, and all seats were upholstered in leather.
The 2004 Nissan Quest 3.5 SE’s rear view mirrors tilted downward automatically to give the driver a view of the curb when reversing to aid parking, and parking sensors in the rear bumper warned of objects in the Quest’s reversing path. The SE’s audio system was a ten-speaker, 265-watt Bose design, driven by an AM/FM in-dash six-disc CD player. A subwoofer added extra bump to the Nissan’s rump. The automatic climate control system was separately selectable for three zones and an air filtration system kept noxious odors (from the outside at least) at bay. A navigation system was optional.
Third row seats, and a DVD–based video entertainment system were optional for all three trim levels.
Among the highlights of the Quest’s safety gear were ABS, traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution, head airbags in all three rows, emergency braking assist, ventilated disc brakes at all four wheels, and child safety locks for the rear doors.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2005
Satellite radio debuted, as did a lower-priced variant of the Quest, designated simply 3.5. Outfitted largely as the 2004 3.5 S-trimmed Quest had been, to differentiate the Quest S, it got a power-sliding passenger side door and rear liftgate—in addition to power actuated rear quarter windows and obstruction sensors in its rear bumper added to its standard features list. Quest 3.5 SL buyers could get the Bose audio system, and the five-speed automatic transmission trickled down to that trim level as well.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2006
For 2006, the S trim level’s designation got a suffix to become the 3.5 S Special Edition.
Thus, for 2006, the Quest’s outfitting went as follows; base 3.5 models came standard with sixteen-inch steel wheels, front and rear air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, and a CD-based stereo audio system, in addition to power windows, door locks and mirrors.
To that setup, the 3.5 S Special Edition added a power-operated rear liftgate, a power-sliding passenger-side door, audible rear parking assist sensors, and an in-dash CD changer.
To all of that, the 3.5 SL added alloy wheels, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, rear-seat audio controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and power-adjustable pedals.
Moving up to the SE added seventeen-inch wheels, leather seating, a rearview camera and monitor, dual power-sliding doors on both sides of the minivan, automatic headlights, a power front-passenger seat, multi-zone automatic climate control, a ten-speaker Bose audio system, and fixed skylights over the rear-seating area.
Options included Michelin PAX run-flat tires with nineteen-inch wheels, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD-based entertainment system (with two screens in SE models), satellite radio, and a foldaway seat package.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2007
The distinctive center column and the center-mounted instrument panel were done away with in favor of a more conventional center console for 2007, as part of the interior’s redesign. While it still contained all of the same features, the center stack was integrated more into the dash. MP3 capability was added to the CD changer, and Bluetooth connectivity was added (as an option). The glovebox was enlarged, more storage was added, and the third row seat was revised to make it easier to fold.
Many of these features were incorporated into what Nissan’s product team called the “Seat Package”. This consisted of a fold flat third row seat, Captain’s chairs for the second row, satellite radio, Bluetooth navigation, and a DVD-based video entertainment system.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2008
After the 2007 interior redesign, 2008 was a year of no significant changes.
See 2008, with but one exception, the 2009 Quest was fitted with speed-sensitive, automatically locking doors.
Quest production was suspended once again. Anybody tries to sell you a 2010 Nissan Quest, walk away. Like a 2003 Nissan Quest, they don’t exist.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2011 – Current (2012)
A complete redesign for 2011 made the Quest more mainstream in appearance. The engine, while still displacing 3.5-liters, enjoyed an output of 260 horsepower and 240 ft.-lbs. of torque. A continuously variable unit replaced the traditional transmissions, but power was still routed to the front wheels.
Four trim levels were offered; S, SV, SL, and LE.
Nissan’s product planners equipped the 2011 S model with sixteen-inch steel wheels, cruise control, remote keyless entry, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a trip computer, ambient interior lighting, and a four-speaker stereo audio system driven by a six-disc CD changer and an auxiliary input jack for portable audio devices.
To all of that, the SV designation added sixteen-inch alloy wheels, a set of foglights, audio controls for the leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-sliding doors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an automatic tri-zone climate control system, a rearview camera, a center console between the front-seats, a conversation mirror to help parents keep tabs on the kids in the second and third rows, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker stereo system monitored by a four-inch color display. The SV’s audio system also incorporated an iPod/USB input jack.
The 2011 Nissan Quest SL rolled on eighteen-inch wheels and enjoyed heated mirrors, roof rails, a power-operated liftgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-operated driver’s seat, and one-touch fold-flat third-row seats.
To the SL’s equipment, the LE supplemented Xenon headlights, memory for the driver’s seat, power adjustments for the front passenger seat and third-row seats, which could be unfolded via power-return. More upscale touches included air filtration, a satellite navigation system, sunshades for the second- and third-rows, and a blind-spot warning system.
On the “keeping-the-kids-thoroughly-occupied’ side of the ledger, the 2011 Nissan Quest LE came with a DVD-based rear-seat video entertainment system, feeding an eleven-inch widescreen. Sound was piped through a thirteen-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with an eight-inch display. Oh, and satellite radio was included too
The dual-panel moonroof from the GEN3 Quest was made available as an option for the SL and LE models.
Safety features included ABS, brake assist, traction control, stability control, front-seat airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and a rearview camera.
Nissan Quest Minivan: 2012 (Current Model)
With the Nissan Quest an all-new model for 2011, the 2012 version wasn’t changed much. The only significant mention is the adoption of satellite radio as standard fare for Quest SV and SL.
Used Nissan Quest Minivan: Summary
For much of its lifetime, the Nissan Quest has largely been an also-ran in terms of sales. The 2004 redesign was the most aggressively different take ever on the minivan concept by any manufacturer. Unfortunately it wasn’t very well received, so Nissan retreated to more conservative territory with the 2011 and 2012 models.
However, anyone shopping the pre-owned minivan market looking to stand out from the crowd would do well to consider a good clean example of the GEN3 Quest. We’d avoid the second-generation models, if for no other reason, so many other minivans did what they did, but with more power and more space.
There were some quality issues with the first couple of years of the GEN3 models, which Nissan addressed with a number of technical service bulletins. If you’re captivated by the look of the 2004 through 2009 models, make sure you get a thorough pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic familiar enough with Nissan products to know about the updates. Similarly, you’ll want to run a vehicle history report to make sure you got as trauma-free a Quest as possible.