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The Nissan Quest has been on the market in its current form since 2004 and has not met with much sales success. Given the Quest's solid performance and competitive list of features for its price, the public's tepid reaction is likely due to the minivan's odd design quirks.
The Nissan Quest's considerable length and ungainly shape are emphasized by the wheel placement at the far corners of its body. Inside, an unconventional dash layout and ergonomic shortcomings tread the line between being quirky and alien, and many drivers will find it a challenge to feel at home in such unconventional surroundings.
The 2007 Nissan Quest will offer Bluetooth and larger (8-inch) rear-seat DVD screens among other updates, but our 2006 tester made do without phone integration and featured a pair of 7-inch screens in back as part of the $1,900 DVD entertainment package. Other options on our Quest included XM Satellite Radio ($350, including three months' subscription), a navigation system ($1,800), a run-flat tire package with 19-inch alloy wheels ($850), a seat package with second-row captain's chairs and a flat-folding third-row bench ($750), and floor mats ($160).
With the base price of $33,500 for the SE and a $605 destination charge, our 2006 Nissan Quest's bottom line came to $39,915. At this price, a minivan needs to perform all basic tasks and avoid offending aesthetic sensibilities if it is to compete for family buyers. The Quest doesn't cover all its bases well enough, and with its bizarre appearance, it will face a challenge in winning over a discerning and conservative market segment.
First impressions can be tough to shake, and the 2006 Nissan Quest makes a strange opening statement. An initially favorable open view from the driver's seat is soured by the realization that, without a gauge cluster in front of the driver, almost all cars could benefit from better visibility. In the Quest's case, the speedometer and tachometer are nestled together with the main 7-inch navigation display under a hood in the center of the dashboard. This quickly proves bothersome, especially as these particular gauges seem relatively small, given their distance from the driver; they also overlap slightly and are difficult to discern at a glance. Digital displays of engine temperature and fuel level are embedded in the lower part of the tach, so the driver is required to turn his or head away from the road for any check on engine diagnostics.
In the free space in front of the steering wheel, Nissan has placed a lidded, terraced storage well. The shape of the hole doesn't seem quite right for anything one stores in cars or that couldn't be more easily housed elsewhere in the cabin, so the unconventional gauge placement pays no real dividend in packaging. While this layout probably simplifies construction of both left- and right-hand-drive cars (we bet an air bag module would fit nicely in that odd-shaped storage bin), it is too large a usability concession. Nissan has realized this and remedied the situation in the 2007 Quest.
The placement of the instrument panel in a pod mounted in the center of the dash makes the dials difficult to read at a glance.
Set to the right of the two main gauges, the front display screen also seems too small, and we weren't impressed with the resolution of its map displays. Computing power for navigation functions was strong, however, and once en route, the voice instructions and split-screen turn/map display were well timed and helpful. Programming destinations was possible with only a small joystick and the usual error-producing consequences despite predictive text entry. A nice touch in the system's bird's-eye mode is the use of small visual representations of some landmarks and municipal buildings, including icons that can be assigned to preprogrammed destinations.
All seven of the Quest's seats are supportive and comfortable, although adults in the third row will need the middle seats moved forward. The four captain's chairs in the first two rows are adjustable. In front, the driver gets eight-way power adjustment with lumbar, while the passenger has four-way power; both seats are also heated. Also, there's manual fore-aft and seat-back adjustment for the middle row. The steering wheel tilts, and the pedal cluster is power adjustable.
For increased cargo space, the rear two rows of seats fold down almost flat. Though the middle row lays folded on the floor instead of disappearing, it can be tilted forward easily for better access to the third row. The Quest has power sliding doors on both sides and a power tailgate as standard. The front doors are cut very low into the body and come close to scraping even average curbs.
The Quest's distinctive oval center tower is another questionable design effort. While freeing up space for the floor and between the front seats, it leaves only a flimsy flip-up center tray to hold drinks and small items. The lack of a center console with concealable storage space is our main beef with this setup, although having bags on the floor under the tray can be nice. Stereo, climate, and navigation controls atop the tower are all within easy reach, thanks to the nearly flat surface, but the buttons offer little tactile differentiation, and the upright gear selector blocks some of the controls when in the Drive position. Steering wheel controls for audio and cruise control mitigate this somewhat.
An oval tower acts as the central stack, housing the shifter and the controls for the stereo and air conditioning.
The rear rows of seats will seem capacious to children, all the more so for the SkyView roof (standard on the SE), which consists of two nonopening longitudinal glass panels with retracting shades. The optional DVD system plays on two 7-inch screens, tilting down from the middle of the roof, airline-style. Discs go into a dedicated player under the passenger seat, where the controls on its face are only readable with one's own face on the floor. The system's dedicated full-featured remote is much handier. The two sets of wireless headphones have their own power and volume controls, and they turn themselves off after a while if no signal is received.
The standard climate-control system offers dual zones up front and a separate rear fan and temperature controls mounted opposite the entertainment system on the roof for those in the middle row. Power tilt-out rear side windows allow further rear-seat ventilation. Front windows have a one-touch feature and can be lowered with the security fob when unlocking the car.
The Quest's rear-seat entertainment system comprises two drop-down screens attached to the ceiling, giving both second- and third-row passengers a decent view.
Sound is full from the 10-speaker, 265-watt Bose audio system. The main front controls and the roof-mounted rear audio component each have a simple button to turn off the rear speakers while the headphones are in use. However, the Quest's in-dash six-CD changer and its load and eject buttons are invisible from our preferred seating position, and the system is not compatible with MP3 or WMA discs. The rear-seat system offers auxiliary A/V inputs, but the main system will play only its own sources.
The 2006 Nissan Quest aims to deliver carlike handling in a long-wheelbase minivan, and it generally succeeds. The driving position is certainly higher and the view more commanding than in most cars, but the benign front-drive behavior and compliant ride make the Quest seem smaller than it is. While the Quest is just an average performer in the grand scheme of things, as a minivan, it accelerates better than most of its competition, thanks to the all-aluminum V-6. Highway cruising is very pleasant, with the long wheelbase aiding stability and the engine offering plenty of power for passing and climbing grades. Throttle response was good both from rest and in kicking down gears at speed.
A 3.5-liter, variable valve-timed V-6 gives the Quest good acceleration.
The Quest's two-ton curb weight is handled admirably by the all-independent suspension and 240-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6. Vehicle Dynamic Control (standard on the SE) helps keep the Quest moving on its intended path if wheel slippage is detected. The engine uses continuously variable valve timing to keep output, consumption, and emissions in balance. EPA ratings for the Quest SE with its five-speed automatic are 18mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway.
The Michelin PAX run-flat tire package on our Quest included nice five-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels. The tires themselves responded predictably to being pushed by the heavy front-drive Quest, understeering in slow corners, but over potholes and rough pavement, they seemed no harsher than standard tires. Given the ludicrous location of the spare tire for non-run-flat Quests (under the center of the vehicle, accessed from inside), the Michelins are a worthwhile option that will enable drivers to get to a tire-change garage without having to dismantle the car.
The 2006 Nissan Quest comes with the expected full-air-bag treatment: dual-stage front air bags with passenger-seat occupant detection, front side-impact bags, and curtain side-impact bags for all three rows. NHTSA crash ratings are five stars for front and side impacts, with a four-star rating for rollover protection. On the electronic safety front, the Quest features standard traction control and four-wheel ABS with brake assist and brake-force distribution in addition to the VDC system. Parking assistance is standard, with audio warnings and a rear-facing camera showing helpful distance markings overlaid onto the main nav screen's view out back.
The SE comes with a backup camera, which facilitates parking its bulky mass.
Also standard is a tire-pressure monitoring system, a welcome feature as the run-flat package means there is no spare tire on board. Current pressures are accessed through the main screen along with trip computer and calculator functions.
The Quest's basic factory warranty is good for three years or 36,000 miles. Power train coverage extends to five years or 60,000 miles and corrosion protection to five years with unlimited mileage.