First Drive: 2011 Nissan Quest nissan first drives
2011 Nissan Quest. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2011 Nissan Quest

San Diego, California – After a year’s absence from the Canadian marketplace, the Nissan Quest returns as a fully redesigned family-hauler with an emphasis on practicality. Not that the previous generation Quest wasn’t roomy, but it was something of an anti-minivan, what with its avant-garde styling both inside and out.

Now, to paraphrase Nissan Canada’s Ian Forsyth (Director, Corporate and Product Planning), Nissan is focusing on people who want a minivan, rather than trying to convince people who don’t that they should buy one. The result is a vehicle that is more conventional in conception and appearance, targeted to families who need the space and interior flexibility that only a minivan provides.

Powered by a 260-horsepower version of Nissan’s VQ-series V6 engine (up 10 per cent compared with the outgoing model), and mated to a continuously variable (automatic) transmission, the front-wheel drive Quest is built on the same platform as the Murano crossover and Maxima and Altima midsize sedans, but with a wheelbase extended to 3,000 millimetres.

First Drive: 2011 Nissan Quest nissan first drives
First Drive: 2011 Nissan Quest nissan first drives
2011 Nissan Quest. Click image to enlarge

Its exterior design takes advantage of the two-box form, rather than trying to hide the minivan’s inherent size and shape. The hood is longer than the previous Quest, and from the windshield back, the cabin is evenly rectangular, but featuring tasteful character lines along the sides.

The most distinctive visual elements are the tinted glass that wraps around the Quest, and the upright liftgate with its “boomerang” lights that give the impression of a somewhat severe face at the rear. At the front, the grille may appear to some as looking more “SUV” than minivan, but the overall effect is appealing and easily identifiable.

As with the exterior, Nissan designers have started over with the Quest interior. Long gone are the unusual cylindrical centre stack with its flat workspace, centre-mounted instrument panel, hard plastic surfaces and dark grey panels of early Quests, to be replaced with a more conventional and familiar instrument panel and controls, more luxurious soft-touch surfaces and brighter, warmer colours for the fabrics and panels. Nissan says the interior is designed to recall a house’s “great room,” but it seems more like a tidy condo to me. Either way, it’s airy and pleasant.

The Quest is a standard seven-passenger minivan with raised “theatre-style” second and third-row seats that optimize outward visibility for passengers and fold flat when required. A hidden cargo well at the rear remains accessible regardless of whether the quick-release second and third-row seats are up or down.

First Drive: 2011 Nissan Quest nissan first drives
2011 Nissan Quest. Click image to enlarge

The front seats incorporate a “trilaminar” structure that uses three types of cushions to distribute body pressure more evenly than conventional padding, and on select models, power assist and the first application of Nissan’s new “Quick Comfort” front seat heaters.

The cabin includes six cupholders and six bottle holders, along with four coat hangers and two 12-volt power points. A removable second-row console is fitted between the captain’s style seats.

The available one-touch sliding doors open to present a low step-in height that will make entry and exit easy for both adults and children.




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).