Just 30 years ago, if a family of more than six wanted to go on a road trip, the only cars available were station wagons. Nowadays, new-car buyers have plenty of family-friendly vehicles from which to choose including crossovers, station wagons, SUVs and, of course, minivans. After booming in the early to mid 1990s, the minivan is the car that everyone loves to hate, but it is hard come up with a vehicle design that delivers better space, fuel economy and versatility all in one package. Following a brief respite, the Nissan Quest is back for 2011 with a new look to go with the same generous size that was a staple of the previous model. The 2011 Nissan Quest kicks off the fourth generation of Nissan’s minivan, and after spending a week in the Quest for this road test and review, it’s clear that Nissan has made improvements in everything from luxury and styling to ride quality and passenger comfort.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review
Nissan's quest for the perfect minivan
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Kyushu, Japan, the 2011 Nissan Quest is available in four trim levels (S, SV, SL and LE) with a starting MSRP of $27,750. Stepping up to the SV and SL trim levels bumps the price up to $30,900 and $34,350, respectively, but the top-of-the-line Quest LE – the model used for this weeklong review – shows its luxury presence with a $41,350 starting price. Of course, this price includes plenty of standard equipment that are pricey options on lower trim levels, but our car added also a few extra features that bumped the bottom line even higher to an as-tested price of $43,750 including destination. Surprisingly, this price point is getting to be pretty common in the minivan segment as competitors look to go up against luxury suvs and crossovers. Most of the standard equipment on the LE trim level is also available on the SL trim level.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Competition
Just like the 2011 Nissan Quest, most of the competition in the minivan segment is new or heavily updated for the 2011 model year including the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country; the Kia Sedona and Volkswagen Routan round out the rest of the 2011 minivan offerings. So far this year, the 5,192 Nissan Quest vans sold through June pale in comparison to the Town & Country and Odyssey (which sell more than that each month), but Nissan is managing to increase its market share among minivans as the two biggest names in the segment have seen sales drops of almost 25 percent through the first half of the year. Instead of being a volume leader for sales, Nissan should be able to continuing to grow its share in this market by delivering a vehicle with class-leading interior size, a sporty drivetrain and probably one of the most unique exterior designs of any other family vehicle.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Exterior
Dating back to the previous design, the Nissan Quest has attempted to stand out from its rivals with a styling that is anything but safe, and this continues to be the case for the newest model. When compared to the Nissan Juke or Nissan LEAF, the all-new 2011 Nissan Quest looks surprisingly mainstream, but when compared to the other minivans on the market, the new Quest has a look that is part family sedan and part SUV. The styling of the new Quest might be completely unique from anything else on the market, but the frowning grille and full-width trim between the headlights are a bit of a throwback to the second-generation (1999-2002) design. Speaking of a familiar look, the upright D-pillars and wraparound rear windows are reminiscent of the old Dodge B-Series full-size vans while also giving the Quest a tall, boxy roofline hints at the large cabin dimensions. From just about every angle, the new Quest exudes a sporty look not common in the minivan segment, but the plastic lower body cladding on the side doors cheapen the styling and would probably make any 1990s Pontiac model happy.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Interior
Since minivans are expected to tote around families and their cargo, the interior is probably the most crucial element, and the 2011 Nissan Quest delivers seating for up to seven passengers with enough cabin technology to keep kids and adults occupied on long road trips. One of the biggest disadvantages of the Quest compared to other minivans is the lack of an eight-passenger seating configuration, but it is doubtful many middle-row passengers will complain about the extra space afforded by the captain’s chairs. These second-row chairs fold and slide forward allowing gracious space for ingress and egress to the third-row seat. The rear seats no longer feel claustrophobic thanks to the tall, square rear windows, but the best part is that the third-row seats are adult friendly with the Quest having more legroom in the “way back” than other minivans and even more than some popular full-size SUVs on the market including the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Suburban.
Nissan’s interior designers did a great job at making the new Quest warm and welcoming with a stylish layout and a good mix of colors and textures including the metallic and wood-grain trim of this test vehicle. As is the case with many top Nissan trim level vehicles, the cabin of the Quest LE could easily be mistaken for an Infiniti model thanks to its abundance of soft leather and standard technology. All of this technology leads to an overwhelming amount of buttons throughout the cabin (including no fewer than 38 not including the A/C and audio systems), but our biggest complaint about the Quest’s interior was that the center-stack-mounted shift lever actually blocks the driver’s view of many of the A/C and audio controls.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Interior Packages and Options
With standard equipment such as navigation, rear-seatDVDentertainment and Bose audio, options on the 2011 Nissan Quest LE are limited. As far as factory options are concerned, the only one available on the LE is the $1,350 dual opening glass moonroof which came on this test vehicle. Easily one of the best sunroof/moonroof applications on the market, the Quest has two large glass panels (one above the front row and one above the second row) which both are able to tilt up or slide back independently of each other. Despite the pair of moonroofs, there is still plenty of room for the ceiling-mounted rear-seat entertainment system which unlike the competitors only offers viewing for one input at a time instead of the wide, split screen displays available in the Odyssey and Sienna or the dual monitors in the Chrysler minivan twins. In addition to factory options, the Quest is also offered with various port-installed options ranging from floor mats and cargo net up to illuminated kick plates and a trailer tow package.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
All 2011 Nissan Quest models are powered by the 3.5-liter VQ35DE V-6 which is tuned to produce 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Yes, this is the same engine previously used in the Nissan Z car and Infiniti FX which gives this minivan surprising acceleration even when compared to the more powerful Town & Country. More important than acceleration, the 2011 Quest delivers the same fuel economy as the base 187-horsepower Sienna and better city mpg than the base Odyssey with EPA-rated estimates of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Helping to accomplish this, the Quest is equipped with Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). While CVTs are rarely fun in most cars, Nissan has come up with a transmission design that allows the new Quest minivan to balance decent fuel economy with a relatively good performance.
2011 Nissan Quest RoadTest and Review: Driving Impressions
Since the 2011 Nissan Quest shares Nissan’s D-platform with the Altima, Maxima and Murano, it wasn’t too surprising that this minivan delivered a ride quality that sits somewhere between a smooth family sedan and a sporty crossover. Being a family hauler, the Quest is neither too floaty nor overly stiff providing a “just right” suspension tuning that is comfortable on just about any road surface. As is the case with any CVT, the lack of shift points is intended to deliver a smoother ride, but at times the engine noise can be a little high as the rpms get into the upper ranges under heavy acceleration. Despite this occasional engine noise, Nissan has done a great job getting rid of any road or wind noise inside the cabin which equates to a refined, quiet cabin for the passengers.
Usually, parking a vehicle as large as the new Nissan Quest can prove to be challenging, but the speed-sensitive steering has been tuned to provide easier low-speed operation, and all models except for the base Quest S come standard with the RearView Monitor backup camera. The Quest LE also adds Nissan’s Blind Spot Warning (BSW) system more as a luxury rather than as a necessity since the large side window area provides plenty of visibility for the driver.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Safety
Tasked with transporting families on neighborhood trips or cross country excursions, the 2011 Nissan Quest offers plenty of safety devices. These standard safety features in all 2011 Quest models include six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, traction control, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) stability control system and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). One of the most innovative applications of TPMS on the market, Nissan makes airing up tires an easy task. With the ignition on, the hazard lights flash when the tires are being inflated to warn nearby motorists, but the coolest feature is that when the recommended pressure is reach in the tire, the horn will chirp to alert the driver. This latter feature eliminates the need for a tire pressure gauge and should help make airing up tires a quicker task.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to rate the 2011 Quest for passenger protection, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has only given it “Good” ratings in frontal- and side-impact protection; IIHS roof strength and rear-impact protection scores have yet to be rated.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Although it can be hard to get excited about a minivan, those looking for a large family vehicle with plenty of space, technology and fuel economy might have a hard time finding anything better than the new 2011 Nissan Quest. With an aggressive styling and a spacious interior, Nissan has upped the ante in the minivan segment by delivering a new model that truly sets this van apart from its rivals. After a yearlong hiatus, the Nissan Quest is back with improvements in just about every aspect compared to its predecessor.
This new Quest is a great choice for new-car shoppers looking for a versatile, family-friendly vehicle with a styling that makes it stand out from other minivans. Owners looking to add plenty of luxury into the mix should be sure to check out the top-of-the-line Nissan Quest LE which adds everything from soft leather to a flip-down entertainment system for the rear occupants. Nissan has finally managed to give the Quest a unique styling without making it polarizing and an interior that is class-leading in terms of comfort and size.
2011 Nissan Quest Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- SUV-like interior space
- plenty of high-end luxury features on LE trim level
- smooth ride and powerful drivetrain
- no eight-passenger seating option
- plastic lower body cladding cheapens the styling
- shift lever blocks some A/C and audio controls
Nissan provided the vehicle this road test review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross