The radically redesigned 2004 Nissan Quest minivan holds out a tantalizing promise for beleaguered soccer moms and dads who often felt condemned to driving a minivan for purely practical reasons. Nissan Motor Co. claims the new Quest, with its broad shoulders and bold new cabin look, adds the "missing emotional elements" to minivan ownership. We beg to differ, especially on the feminine side of the equation. Our test vehicle was an amply equipped Quest 3.5 SE with an optional $1,500 DVD entertainment system and $2,000 navigation system. It was priced at $36,940. Nissan tells us that it expects 75 percent of Quest sales to be models priced under $30,000. SHE: Why do the Nissan press materials on the Quest read like Oprah magazine? There's all this gushing about how the new Quest is going to fill the holes in my pathetic emotional life. Instead, driving the Quest -- both in Mississippi, where it is built, and back home -- made me feel as if I were on the verge of a panic attack. The unfamiliar interior is not refreshing, it's a shock to the system. Give me my old Dodge Caravan any day of the week. Moms want a no-brainer in a minivan, not something that requires a manual for everyday operation. HE: You know, honey, that's the beauty of Maxim magazine -- not only all those highbrow literary features, but you never see a single minivan ad, not even for the new Quest. Maybe you should quit reading Oprah. SHE: Well, how did you feel about that strange instrument panel in our test vehicle? The gauges are gone from behind the steering wheel. In their place are a potentially distracting pop-up glove box and a clip to hold a family photo. All the gauges and the shift lever have been relocated to what looks like a tall center pillar jutting out of the floor. The jumble of controls, levers and a joystick for the navigation system are difficult to get used to. I found myself taking my eyes off the road to try to comprehend the confusing setup. All drivers benefit most from simplicity in a minivan, especially when they are hauling kids. I would never recommend the Quest to any of my friends. I'd tell them if they want state-of-the-art in a minivan they should check out the new Toyota Sienna. HE: Whew! You're tough. I don't recall Oprah being so critical. I have to agree with you about the distractions, especially the center-mounted speedometer. I think it's actually a hazard, and never did get used to it. That is also some of the most hideous interior material I've seen on any vehicle, van or otherwise. Is that what Nissan meant by "design innovation?" Barf. But what a fresh-looking people mover on the outside. The new Quest really is eye-catching. Problem is, most minivan owners care more about the inside environment, and that's where the Quest comes up considerably short of competitors, from the Sienna to the Chrysler Town & Country. SHE: I didn't dismiss the Quest entirely. In fact, I gave it two stars for two main reasons: seats and safety features. The Quest includes standard side curtain air bag protection for all three rows, standard power adjustable pedals on all but the base model, along with standard anti-lock brakes and traction control. It also has a standard tire-pressure monitoring system, but it doesn't let the driver know which of the four tires is low. In addition, the seats are easy to use. The third row folds down into the floor in two quick motions. The second-row seats don't fold into the floor, but they fold relatively flat when you pull a couple of levers. Very convenient for spur-of-the-moment big purchases. I like that. HE: If you could somehow drive the Quest blindfolded, you'd probably be amazed by the vehicle's great dynamics. The twin-cam 3.5-liter V-6, which powers the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission in the SE model, is really lively, producing 240 horsepower while returning up to 26 miles per gallon on the highway. The chassis uses lots of pieces from the Altima and Maxima sedans and the Murano utility vehicle, so the Quest feels much more like a car than a truck under most driving conditions. That said, you still can't escape the feeling of being in a minivan once you open your eyes. SHE: My point exactly. And that's why Nissan should've resisted monkeying with the formula. Most people aren't seeking fulfillment when they shop in this segment. They just want a vehicle that makes sense. 2004 Nissan Quest SE Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, seven-passenger minivanPrice (Includes $540 destination charge): $32,900; as tested, $36,490 Engine: 3.5-liter V-6; 240-hp; 242 lb-ft torqueEPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway Key competitors: Chevrolet Venture, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Town & Country, Chrysler Voyager, Dodge Caravan, Ford Windstar, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Mazda MPV, Oldsmobile Silhouette, Pontiac Montana, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen EuroVan 12-month insurance cost (Estimated by AAA Michigan. Rates may vary depending on coverage and driving record.): $1,505Where built: Canton, Miss. Paul's rating: Acceptable Likes: Refreshing exterior styling. Great power from 3.5L V-6. Smooth ride. Dislikes: Hideous-looking seat fabric. Center speedometer forces your eyes off road. Interior trim pieces did not fit well on this early production model. Priced like a luxury car, but doesn't feel like one. Anita's rating: Sub par Likes: Clever twin sunroofs over rear seats. Power tailgate and sliding doors on SE. Flexible seating is easy to operate. Two rear DVD screens (but can't play different movies on both). Excellent standard safety features on SE, including vehicle dynamic control, side air bags. Dislikes: Pop-up glove box ahead of steering wheel is distracting. Center console/pillar is confusing. Cheap-feeling controls and materials. Garish two-tone interior. A little difficult to determine vehicle's outside dimensions when parking.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||February 19, 2004|
|Kristin Varela||Mother Proof||April 4, 2004|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||December 27, 2003|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||September 7, 2003|
|Matt Nauman||TheMercuryNews.com||September 5, 2003|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||July 23, 2003|
|Anita Lienert||The Detroit News||June 11, 2003|
|Jason Stein||October 26, 2003|
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