Nissan Quest has unique touches

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Do buyers know there is a minivan again at Nissan?

The 2012 Nissan Quest minivan stretches into luxury territory when decked out, topping $42,000.  NISSAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
NISSAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The 2012 Nissan Quest minivan stretches into luxury territory when decked out, topping $42,000.

The Nissan Quest, which had been dropped for a couple years and re-emerged as a fourth-generation 2011 model, is back for 2012 with unique touches but is at the bottom of the sales charts.

Seats have special padding and front-seat heaters that are the fastest-acting in the business. An odor-avoidance system goes high-tech with grape polyphenol filtering.

There’s no tugging or fighting with electronic sliding side doors in this minivan, because they work without fuss. Nissan says the sliding door entryways also are lower than in other vans, which helps youngsters get inside and out. And no one risks a hernia taking a Quest seat out to make room for cargo. The seats are designed to stow in place and can’t be removed on a whim.

The Quest even looks a bit different from other minivans. It has a noticeably flat roof and styling that makes it look larger than it is.

In top-of-the-line LE form, it competes as a decked-out luxury van.

The starting price, including destination charge, is $28,560 for the base 2012 Quest S with 260-horsepower V-6 and continuously variable transmission. The Quest is the only minivan with a CVT, which is designed to maximize fuel economy.

The test LE averaged just 16.9 mpg in driving that was 70 percent city travel and 30 percent on the highways.

Nissan’s Quest can surprise drivers. It’s some 16 feet long, but the turning circle is on par with that of a sedan and makes U-turns easy.

The step inside the Quest is accommodatingly low for elderly and younger passengers, and fixed grab handles at the sliding door entryways are positioned just right to help steady passengers getting in and out.

Nissan’s tried-and-true 3.5-liter, double overhead cam V-6 delivers capable power for this 4,300-plus-pound vehicle. Drivers won’t compare the Quest to a sports car, but the vehicle isn’t slow and stodgy, either, as the engine delivers a good 240 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. In fact, the test Quest merged with vigor into traffic and maintained its pace in traffic without fuss. Throttle response was quick.

Nissan offers the Quest only with front-wheel drive, and during some startups, the strong engine power hit the front wheels with force. Drivers had best keep both hands on the steering wheel at these times, because the wheel can feel as if it’s tugging to one side or the other.

The tester, a top LE, impressed with its airy and spacious feel inside. It rode nicely on virtually all road surfaces. The front independent strut suspension and rear multi-link kept bumps away from passengers, with some vibration coming through now and then.

There is a sense of body mass and weight shifting when the 6-foot-tall van goes into curves and around corners, but the ride overall was well controlled and not wallowy.

The interior was quiet except on windy days, when wind noise was noticeable from around the outside mirrors.

The LE came with a 13-speaker, Bose sound system that delivered awesome tunes. But the radio volume button on the dashboard was located around the other side of the shift lever when it was in “Drive” in the center stack and was not visible to the driver. Good thing the radio volume also could be controlled by a button on the steering wheel.

With one, quick lift of a plastic lever, second-row seats fold flat. Third-row seats go down just as easily after a tug on each release strap. Even with these five seats folded down, there’s a lot more storage space in a cavity in the floor by the back bumper.

Access to the third-row bench seat could be better. The two separate middle seats – no second-row bench is offered – have seat backs that tilt forward and then the whole seat slides forward. But it can still be awkward as passengers step up and over the seat tracks to get into the third row.

SPECS

THE VEHICLE: 2012 Nissan Quest, a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, seven-passenger minivan

BASE PRICE: $27,750 for S model; $31,050 for SV; $34,500 for SL; $41,350 for LE (tested)

DESTINATION CHARGE: $810

PRICE AS TESTED: $42,365

ENGINE: 3.5-liter, double-overhead-cam V-6 with CVTC, producing 260 horsepower

TRANSMISSION: Continuously variable

EPA MILEAGE: 19 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway

LENGTH: 200.8 inches

WHEELBASE: 118.1 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 4,568 pounds

ASSEMBLED IN: Japan

OPTIONS: Carpeted floor mats in all three seating rows, $205


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