no longer a reason to accept a boring, ho-hum, almost commodity-like vehicle.
this year's introduction of the 2004 Nissan Quest for the change. This new minivan
has a space-age, Jetson-family feel on the interior and exterior styling that looks almost
like a concept car plucked from an auto show stage.
the Quest can be especially eye-catching when painted Nissan's bright copper color.
Not surprisingly, Nissan officials estimate women will figure prominently among
the new Quest buyers, at 80 percent.
Median household income is projected
at $88,000 a year, with buyers being anywhere from 34 to 45 years of age, college
grads in professional and managerial jobs.
children will be in the family.
also found during my test drive that some older folks, found the Quest intriguing and wanted to know about it.
than many other minivans
a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge,
of just under $25,000, the new Quest isn't a bargain-basement offering among minivans.
Its starting price is about on par with a Honda Odyssey. The Kia Sedona, Mazda
MPV, Dodge Grand Caravan and even Toyota Sienna all have lower starting prices.
many competitors also have a bit less horsepower than the 240 in the V6-powered
Quest. They're also a bit shorter in overall length than this 204.1-inch-long,
newly engineered Nissan van.
This length and the Quest's impressive, 124 inches
of length from front to rear wheels on each side, known as wheelbase, help provide
for the widest-opening side sliding doors in this class, according to the automaker.
So, it's easier
to climb inside or push large boxes or other cargo in through the side doors of
also enjoyed the low floor of the Quest. It seemed as if the step into this minivan
was minor, making this a very practical vehicle to transport youngsters and elderly, both of whom can sometimes struggle and trip as they try to climb
up into today's vehicles.
fact, at 5 feet 4, I found I actually dropped down just a bit as I turned to sit
down on the driver or front-passenger seat in the Quest test vehicle. Yet, from
the Quest seats, I was still able to see over cars in front of me and through
some other vans' windows in order to gauge the traffic ahead.
front-wheel-drive Quest ride is nicely damped over bumps.
There's not a floaty,
cushioned ride here, but the worst I ever felt as I went over rough pavement was
some modest vibration. In those instances, I heard a bit of a ba-bump, too.
Steering control remained steady even then, and there was no feeling of the van flexing or rattling its way over potholes or cracked asphalt. The Quest's long wheelbase helped reduce any bounciness over highway expansion cracks, too.
Nissan uses an independent strut suspension with coil springs up front and an independent multi-link configuration at the back.
Tires are 16-inchers on the base trim level — the S model — and 17-inchers on the uplevel SL and SE models.
I'd prefer a bit fancier wheels on the Quest. The wheels on the test SE didn't add much to an otherwise expressive vehicle.
Nissan does not offer an all-wheel-drive version of this van. But competitors such as the Pontiac Montana and Dodge Grand Caravan can be had with all-wheel drive.
Many safety items
Automakers know safety is a crucial quality in the minivan market, so it's no surprise the 2004 Quest comes with a number of standard safety features. Curtain airbags in the ceiling are standard on all Quest models. So are antilock brakes (ABS), Brake Assist and Brake Force Distribution.
ABS gives a driver the ability to continue to steer the vehicle while in a panic stop, because the system works to prevent wheels from locking up. Brake Assist detects if the brake actuation is sudden and interprets this as an emergency situation and helps increase brake pressure quickly to reduce braking distance. Brake Force Distribution helps even out the braking among the wheels for a steadier, more controlled stop.
Traction control which works to reduce wheelspin, say, during a quick startup at a traffic light, is standard on the SL model and includes a whole vehicle stability control system in the top-of-the-line Quest SE.And I have to say I appreciated and really used the reverse sensing system that was on the Quest tester to help guide me while I was backing up in parking situations.
The Quest comes with one engine only, and a fine one it is.
Nissan's 3.5-liter, double overhead cam V6, which also capably powers other Nissan vehicles, is mated to a four-speed automatic in the S and SL models. It has a five-speed automatic in the SE.
I could, on occasion, feel shift points, but they weren't jerky.
Power came on strongly each time I demanded more via the accelerator, and even on a long uphill climb on a highway, the Quest kept up its pace without acting as if it was being flogged.
In city traffic, the Quest tester easily zipped into traffic and got up to speed quickly and efficiently.
Torque is 242 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm — on a par with Toyota's 230-horsepower Sienna and the 240-horsepower Honda Odyssey.
I didn't do too well in fuel usage, however, averaging just 19.7 miles a gallon in 50-50 city/highway driving in the Quest
Odds and ends
The Quest's seats are nicely done. They look wide and ample for even wide-girth passengers. They provide some cushion as well as support.Best of all, the styling is a bit different from what is found in other minivans. The seats have a bit mod look, nothing outlandish just different. The test Quest had fabric on the seats. Leather is optional.
Women will appreciate the drop-into-the-floor third-row seating that goes down flat into a cavity in the cargo area, so you don't need to haul the seat out and leave it somewhere. This is an innovation pioneered some years ago by Honda in the Odyssey and quickly copied by other automakers.
In the Quest tester, though, I found I had to basically climb into the cavity in order to get enough "oomph" going to pull the rather heavy, full bench seat back and into the cavity. I didn't exactly look graceful. Note the Sienna offers split third-row seats that fold down, one at a time, into a cargo area cavity.
The Quest offers fun features — some standard, some optional.
I liked the large, flat pod that dominates the center of the dashboard on every Quest. It's space age in its looks, incorporates the gear shifter and offers a nice resting spot for your palm as you tune the radio or work the optional navigation system.
A rear-seat entertainment center with a 7-inch screen mounted to the ceiling provides clear pictures and hours of distraction for young and old alike. A power-operating tailgate was a godsend on the tester when I approached with hands full of shopping bags.
I just wish the gaps between the hood and the other front body panels of the Quest weren't so prominent.
And I wonder why Nissan officials didn't hide the sliding door tracks by tucking them under the rearmost side windows as many other automakers have done on their vans.
Click here for more information on the Nissan Quest.
For the Nissan 2004 Model Guide: Click Here