2011 Nissan Quest 3.5SL Minivan

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Nissan’s re-done Quest serves up high gloss, high utility and lots of value.

WHEN TWO of the big three from Japan completely re-do their minivans, you know the third one won’t be far behind. And that soon it will arrive at my house, even if I leave the grass uncut, pull the curtains and let the papers pile up on the doorstep. (Yes, I still read newspapers.)

Sensible mass transport they may be, but minivans are hardly the acme of male desire.

“Unrivaled family mobility” is how Nissan headlines its new Quest maxi-minivan. So, as I trundle around in it, I try to imagine a road trip with my family, circa 1985 . . .

The second–row seats slide aft far enough that my son’s little legs can’t kick the back of my seat, and the second row is wide enough that his sister couldn’t have reached over to torment him.

The third row of seats would have been folded away into the floor—unless our offspring had friends along, heaven forbid—so our baggage, together with the dog, would be rattling around in that space like the last peas in the can.

(Someone must remember canned peas.) ome to think of it, the cars we had then might have fit inside this bus. Tranquility would have descended as I deployed the rear video screen, cued up Danger Mouse in the DVD player and handed out the headsets.

No more counting cows or out-of-state license plates, or dire threats from the front seat. (Cows? How retro.)

Kids and adults both would have appreciated the powered side doors and liftgate, and the countless storage bins. The built-in phone and computer, the airbags, anti-lock brakes and braking assist, the anti-skid technology and the backup camera would have been science fiction come to life.

Satellite radio would have floored me; satellite navigation would have left me wondering if the KGB knew about this. My wife would have luxuriated in her adjustable, heated captain’s chair, and both of us would nod in approval of the thick carpeting, tasteful décor and huge greenhouse, and the apparent quality.

The term “user-friendliness” hadn’t been coined yet, but it would have applied to the Quest.

As the official driver, I would have been (and am now) astonished by the output of this 3.5-liter six—fully 75 more aitch-pee than my demonic Saab Turbo of 26 years ago.

Also by the front-wheel-drive torque-yanking and tire-chirping, if you put your foot in it. Back then I would have thought that a continuously variable transmission belonged on a lawn tractor, but there’s no arguing with its positive, smooth shifting here.

(Nissan sensibly left away any manual-shift “sport” option; this is a personnel carrier, not a speed sled.) The numb steering, latent wallowing and occasional creaks would have been miles ahead of anything else in ’85, and 22 miles per gallon wouldn’t have meant as much then as now.

Today the leering grille and glossy, towering slab sides project a ton of presence, even if the Quest looks much like the box it came in.

Back in ’85, Hollywood would have cast it in a sci-fi cop movie opposite Sly Stallone. Today, we look over the competitive landscape and think, Oh, this is a lot of van for forty grand! That was more than the house we lived in then.



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