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Nissan Quest

by Martha Hindes

Nissan Quest
Nissan Quest

You can call Nissan's Quest a minivan. But "mini" is a bit deceptive. This is one of the largest vehicles to populate the minivan field, even by U.S. standards. Even backing it into a parking spot can feel like a challenge until one gets used to the overall girth -- an advantage when it comes to carrying people or packages, but initially a bit daunting.

The front-drive Quest with car-like handling has been around for a couple of years now, long enough for its break-the-mold, undulating appearance and large butt to seem less arresting. As it did a year ago, Nissan has tweaked the Quest with refinements for 2006 rather than jumping into major changes. One addition, bringing the 3.5-liter, transverse-mounted, V-6 powered models to four, is a new 3.5 S Special Edition trim level with a flock of standard items: Power third row vent windows, power right hand door and liftgate, upgraded audio and six-disc, in-dash CD auto changer. The SL and top-of-the-line SE trims also get enhancements for '06, including a new exterior color called Red Brawn.

A seven-inch color screen with RearView Monitor is standard on the SE, optional on SL which also features a special edition upgrade. Michelin 125-mile flat-tire-range runflats are available for both models. Either XM and Sirius satellite radio can be added as a factory-installed option. And the SL adds heated seats to its Leather and Bose package.

When Quest first debuted in the 2004 model year, it was so attention-getting that drivers in the next lane at stoplights sometimes called over questions about its unusual center pod instrument cluster. Such questions are fewer with its familiarity on streets and highways. Benefits of its size remain, however, with the open-air feel of the SkyView glass panel roof and expansive access for loading when the oversized sliding doors are open. Illuminated steering wheel audio and cruise controls now wink back at the driver at night.

Nissan has kept price increases at a minimum for 2006, with the new S-level trim version's sticker at $25,300. Other prices range from a $24,000 base to a loaded SE at $33,500. But other factory, or port-installed options such as nav system, dual or single-screen DVD entertainment setups and the SkyView roof (at $1,500) can push those tallies considerably higher.