Test Drive: Seven-passenger Quest blends power, comfort

Test Drive: Seven-passenger Quest blends power, comfort

May 11th, 2013 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

The Nissan Quest is a seven-passenger mini-van with some of the best road manners in the class. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

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FAST FACTS

• Model: 2013 Quest 3.5 SV

• Exterior color: Brilliant Silver

• Interior color: Gray

• Engine: 3.5 liter, six-cylinder

• Horsepower: 260

• Transmission: Xtronic CVT

• Fuel economy: 25 mpg highway, 19 mpg city

• Dealer: Hunt Nissan

• Price (as tested): $33,435

Going down my performance check-list, I decided to punch the gas on my Quest mini-van tester from Hunt Nissan. The sensation was instant power, delivered through one the industry's smoothest transmissions, the Nissan Xtronic CVT.

While I was still savoring the velvety power train, I glanced down at the speedometer. Oops, 80 mph. The Quest is sneaky fast, yet so quiet and smooth that I thought I was only going 65 mph.

And therein lies the highest virtue of this Nissan family hauler. A machine that seats seven adults in comfort is not often a driver's delight. But the Quest breaks the mold.

The knock on the Quest is that it doesn't have a cavernous cargo area. But, seriously, how many times do you actually fold down two rows of seats and attempt to haul a baby-grand piano or a pet Rhinoceros.

Not often? I thought so.

DESIGN AND FEATURES

The exterior of the Quest is rather nondescript, which is another way of saying simple and clean. This fits the no-nonsense persona of minivan class.

The front-end architecture is dictated by a semi-circular hood that blends into a chrome accent bar on the facia. Fog lights and headlamps are nicely integrated into the swept-back design.

The most visually interesting feature is a flat roofline that falls off like a cliff at the rear, giving the Quest a squared-off backside that bears a family resemblance to the quirky Nissan Cube. The reason for this becomes clear when you size up the third-row seats, which have enough headroom for three-fifths of a high-school basketball team. The Quest's dimensions stretch up, not out.

Inside, the Quest's layout features two captain's chairs in row two, and the aforementioned spacious third-row seats. Our test vehicle is fitted with leather-clad seat surfaces, a worthwhile $1,500 option that also includes heated front seats, an 8-way power driver's seat and lumbar support.

It's easy to find a comfortable driving position in the Quest, which will also satisfy drivers who want an elevated perch. Like most new cars, the Quest features a dash layout with horizontal lines that taper into the front doors. I counted 12 cup holders for seven passengers. Go figure.

In general the Quest interior feels upscale, well thought out and built durably for everyday family use. From the leather-covered steering wheel and shifter knob, to the contrasting piping on the leather seats, the Quest is well finished. Hands-free door locks and push button start are also nice touches at this price point.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

All Nissan Quests are powered by a silky 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine that makes 260 horsepower. Motor Trend has clocked the Quest's 0-60 mph time at 8 seconds flat, which is quick for a vehicle with a curb weight of more than 2 tons.

Nissans "Xtronic" CVT is acknowledged by most automotive journalists to be one of the most refined on the market. As I have noted in this space before, readers who traverse mountain roads around Chattanooga will especially treasure a CVT setup, which never has to hunt for the right gear.

The cabin of the Quest is extremely quiet, but you may not notice if your daily driving includes car-pooling with six kids. Steering is well-weighted and the stock Bridgestone all-season tires are nice and grippy.

BOTTOM LINE

For reasons that have to do with design trends and personal tastes, many families who would benefit from a minivan instead choose a full-size SUV.

But highly-evolved vans like the Nissan Quest -- which first hit the road 20 years ago -- are actually more comfortable and practical. Of course, if you plan to go bouldering in your vehicle while pulling a bass boat and transporting a youth soccer team, by all means pick a big 4X4 SUV.

Our test Quest seemed reasonably priced, with a sticker of $33,435 before discounts. Its road manners and impressive performance -- along with 25 mpg highway fuel rating -- add up to a solid value that's worth a look.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOL UMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedy

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