July 22, 2014

2013 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE: Comfortable people-hauler

2013 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE

Perhaps by now, the Nissan Quest has found itself. Originally a smallish, inexpensive minivan with nondescript lines, it had a growth spurt, developed an aggressively, almost cartoonishly stylish personality, and then disappeared for the 2010 model year. When it came back for 2011, it looked like an early Scion xB on steroids — tall, slab-sided and relentlessly square. But the front end retains hints of the daring styling that marked the third-generation Quest, and the interior is a place of enticing curves.

So what does Nissan want the Quest to be? The 2013 version seems a good stopping-off place after years of tinkering, because this is far and away the best Quest we’ve driven, and it’s competitive with the industry leaders.

We test-drove a high-end Quest 3.5 LE that carried a sticker price of $43,675. The base model, the Quest S, starts at $25,990. That’s in line with minivans from Honda, Toyota and Chrysler; the Dodge Grand Caravan is less pricy, starting at under $20,000.

The Quest is much more enjoyable to drive than the Grand Caravan, the only other minivan we’ve tested recently, mainly because its continuously variable transmission performs much more smoothly and unobtrusively than the Caravan’s 6-speed automatic. The Quest’s 260-horsepower V-6 is strong enough to overcome the CVT’s inherent tendency to cause the engine to lug.

All Quests are equipped with the same engine-transmission combination. Higher trim levels mainly add convenience features. Our silver Quest’s standard-equipment list included a DVD entertainment system with 11-inch screen, tri-zone automatic temperature control, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, push-button ignition, power sliding back doors and a power liftgate, leather upholstery, navigation system, Sirius satellite radio and more.

The audio and climate controls are so simple and straightforward, we didn’t need to crack the owner’s manual.

Unlike the Grand Caravan, which has Stow ‘N Go seats that fold into the floor, the Quest’s seats simply fold flat. That means less cargo room than the Grand Caravan and other big minivans offer. But the Quest does have a deep, covered compartment behind the third seat, which is accessible under all seating configurations. And the second- and third-row seats fold down easily, in seconds, leaving a flat surface.

All Quests have second-row captain’s chairs, so they can seat no more than seven. Other minivans can be equipped with a second-row bench seat; they can accommodate eight passengers.

The Quest is rated at 19 mpg city, 25 highway, on regular gasoline. Consumer Reports magazine owner surveys rate its reliability about average. On the safety front, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Quest its top crash-protection rating of “Good.”

For its driving qualities and people-moving capability, the Quest is among the best. Those who are buying a cargo van that sometimes will carry passengers may prefer a unit with a bigger box. But the Quest makes a lot of sense for weekend warriors who will keep the seats upright most of the time.

 

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

 

Price: $43,675

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 260 horsepower, 240 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: continuously variable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 4,568 lb.

Ground clearance: 6.6 in.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 18×7-in. alloy

Tires: P235/55R T all-season

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 25.7 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 108.4 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.

Fuel capacity: 20 gallons

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular