Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Big-boy Quest has perks to soften price

Sacramento, California – I remember when the Nissan Quest was the smallish alternative in the minivan segment.

Boy, did that train leave the station!

The current Quest is huge. It wasn’t just me. Volunteer passengers said the same thing.

And the price of my tester, the top-level 2012 Quest 3.5 LE, rang in at $41,350 (insert low whistle here).

Wow, my senses were overwhelmed before I even hit the ignition. Looking back to the van’s rear window, it appeared to be two blocks down the street from my position in the cockpit.

Once I fired the mega-mini up, however, my opinions began to soften.

Thankfully, for your $41k-plus starting fare, you get a super-lengthy list of standard comfort/convenience features. Eight-way power in the driver’s seat, second-row/sliding captain’s chairs, leather surfaces, a top-flight DVD entertainment system and two headsets with wireless remote were just a few of the goodies. Safety/security features also filled up numerous pages in the owner’s manual.

Consider this current-generation Quest the mommy/daddy van of your dreams. You’re basically taking a miniature version of your house with you on the road, with all the entertainment necessary to keep the kids occupied in the back seats. Plan carefully with your seat folding, and you can stuff enough cargo in the back end to live off the land for a month.

On the roll, the Quest was luxury limo smooth, and the 3.5-liter, 260-horsepower V-6 handled most of the driving chores with ease, although there was some engine stress on steep uphill runs. The minivan handled twisty roads more like a sedan than what you’d expect from such a boxy-looking vehicle. Four-wheel vented disc brakes did excellent work.

Personally, I’d have preferred a few more angular touches on the bodywork, but again, the target audience here is the family/junior athletic team on the move, so stylish sculpting probably ranked low on the designers’ list of goals.

As big as the Quest looks at first glance, it still has that low step-in height, a welcome touch when youngsters and other short folks are piling into the back.

An annoyance: the Blind Spot Warning system, another standard perk on the LE, flashes a warning in the exterior mirror and sends out an audible alert if you hit the turn signal to turn into a blind spot where a car is hiding. Trouble is, the warning still goes off when you’re zooming well past the prospective blind-spot offender. I could do without that jolting false alarm.

Cool surprise: The Easy Fill Tire Alert system honks the horn when the desired tire-inflation pressure is reached.

So, there you have it: Here’s the perfect vehicle for a large, active family involved in a lot of activities and extended road trips, a family that will likely wring plentiful happy moments out of this minivan over eight years or more. That timeline tends to justify the pricey sticker.

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