The familiar parts of the Quest include the things minivan buyers expect. Under the hood is Nissan's almighty 3.5L V6 kicking out 260 horsepower. No five- or six- or seven-speed automatic transmission here. Instead, we find the Jatco continuously variable transmission, which uses belts and adjustable pulleys to change the vehicle's speed. It makes for a smooth takeoff by eliminating the shifts and keeping the engine in a steady range. It also helps improve fuel economy, even if we had trouble getting 20 miles from a gallon of gas.
Before you get behind the wheel, push the start button, and feel that smooth transmission do its work, you need to see the styling. Here's where Nissan brings the minivan back to Tokyo. The boxy styling calls to mind the people carriers so popular on that island nation for years.
The whole idea of a minivan is to get as much interior space as possible into a garagable vehicle. Well, that was the original concept. Over the years, styling has taken precedence at the cost of ultimate utility. Tailgates and side windows angle in, taking cargo space and passenger room with them.
Nissan removed some of those sloping body parts and opened up the interior. When compared to the other minivans on the market (the Americanized ones), the 2011 Quest leads the way in room for the swelled heads of us Americans. It also sports a deep storage well behind the rear seat hidden by two removable panels--a cargo hold large enough for three children to hide from their mother. (Honest... It was their idea.)
With all this extra space, my passengers enjoyed the ride. Getting to the ride required some contortions though. Nice consoles are mounted between the front and the middle seats, providing cupholders and additional storage. While removable, the second-row console prevents simple pass through for those sitting in the third row, however the middle seats lean forward like a two-door coupe. Once back there, seating was very nice but eager kids attempted to leapfrog the middle row. When you're 10, this is fun. When you're a little older, it's annoying.
Aside from the ability to get seven passengers inside, a minivan is about utility. Since the category went mainstream, the ability to haul large amounts of stuff has become the measure of a minivan's greatness. Removing seats typically opens the interior from front to rear, but Nissan took another direction. The second and rear rows fold forward, creating one long floor even with the covered cargo hold in the back.
Simplicity is wonderful, but this system raises the floor well above that
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