Nissan Quest is First Produced
The Nissan Quest is a minivan produced by Nissan since 1993.
There have been three generations of this model. The first generation Quest was a collaboration with Ford, which marketed a rebadged variant as the Mercury Villager. The vans debuted at the 1992 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Both vehicles were initially powered by the 3.0 L Nissan VG30E V6 until 1999, when the Quest received the 3.3 L version of the same engine. The Quest was completely redesigned for 2004, while the Villager was discontinued and replaced with the Freestar-based Mercury Monterey. The current model is built on the FF-L platform, which it shares with the Altima, Maxima, and Murano. It also shares the award-winning 3.5 L VQ engine with those cars.
The Nissan Quest was a new model made by Nissan to compete in the minivan segment. The Quest was a successor to the Axxess, which was sold in the United States in 1990 only and in Canada from 1990-1995. It also replaced the rear-wheel drive Vanette, also discontinued in 1990. The Quest was initially powered by Nissan's 3.0 L VG30E SOHC engine that made 151 hp and 182 ft·lb. Ford required that Nissan make some design changes to the VG30E before they would agree to use it in the Villager and Quest. One of the requirements from Ford was that the engine was to be modified to become a non-interference or free-running engine. (Thus if the timing belt breaks, there would be no damage to the valves). Other changes included the addition of an oil level sensor and relocating the oil filter assembly for better access. The Quest was available as XE or GXE models. Because of manufacturing issues, Nissan had an arrangement for Ford to assemble the minivan in North America, and in turn they were allowed to rebadge it and sell it under the Mercury brand as the Villager. Many of the interior parts, including the radio, heater controls and power windows controls were adapted from Ford, and were similar to the Ford Aerostar. This generation of the Quest minivan was built in Tokyo, Japan, The Villager was built in Avon Lake, Ohio. The van shared the modified version of the VG30E from the U11, and early J30 Maximas, as well as the 4-speed automatic transmission from the Maxima.
The Quest is distinguishable from the Mercury Villager by a grille and headlights that are slightly shorter top to bottom than those on the Villager.
Seating was for 7, with a removable 2-seater bench in the middle, allowing the third row bench of 3 seats to slide up (either folded up for more room or down for passengers) behind the front for more rear cargo room. 1994 the first year for the driver's side airbag, with a passenger airbag added in 1996. That year saw the introduction of changes to the front and rear fascias, as well as headlights and tail lamps and the elimination of the motorized shoulder belts.
Identical to the Mercury Villager except for minor styling details and varying levels of standard equipment, Nissan's front-drive minivan was its first since its slow-selling midengine, rear-drive model of the late '80s. Two models were initially available--the base XE and the premium GXE. The XE came with either seating for five or seven passengers, and the GXE was available only with seating for seven. Both are propelled by Nissan's 151-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6, coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel antilock brakes were standard.
Nissan arrived nearly a decade late to the minivan party when it brought out its Quest in the early '90s. A successor to the Axxess (a people mover that was more of a small, tall wagon than a true minivan in terms of passenger and cargo capacity), the Nissan Quest didn't break any new ground as it followed the established minivan formula of V6 power, front-wheel drive and seven-passenger capacity.
The first two generations of the Quest were rather anonymous and subpar, but the current, third-generation Nissan Quest made a huge leap ahead in terms of styling and performance. But the cabin was criticized for its oddball design (which placed the instruments in the center and many too-similar buttons on a large pillar-style center stack), flat seats, abundance of hard plastic and inconsistent build quality. Thankfully, a recent midcycle refresh brought about significant interior improvement via a redesigned dash and center stack, and upgraded materials.
In general, the Nissan Quest remains a mid-pack choice for a minivan, as it's never been able to match top vans like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna in terms of quality, refinement or reputation for reliability. The first- and second-generation vans are mediocre picks on the used car market, while the current Quest, though improved, has never quite caught on with consumers.
Current Nissan Quest
The current Nissan Quest is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 235 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. Four trim levels are available -- from the base 3.5, to the 3.5 S, 3.5 SL and 3.5 SE -- each with an increasing number of features and conveniences. Oddly enough, none of these trim levels include rear seats -- forcing customers to cough up extra cash for the seat package for second-row captain's chairs and a flat-folding rear bench.
The current Quest has a few things in its favor, including a roomy interior and handling that's a cut above most other minivan competitors. However, downsides are numerous, including a third-row seat that isn't split, a relative lack of cargo capacity and limited availability of stability control. Overall, minivan shoppers will be better served by other top choices in this segment.
Past Nissan Quest Models
The current- (third) generation Nissan Quest debuted in 2004, shaking the minivan world up with its avant-garde body styling, unique cabin design and a marketing campaign that did its best to disassociate the van from its soccer mom image. The Quest's pillar-style center stack was certainly distinctive, but the multitude of similar buttons made operating often-used functions a hassle. Thankfully, the busy enter stack was replaced by a much more user-friendly layout in a 2007 refresh.
The second generation of the Nissan Quest debuted for 1999. Offered in base GXE, midlevel SE and leather-lined GLE trims, this Quest featured a 3.3-liter V6 with 170 hp, as well as a unique sliding (but not removable) third-row seat that could be stowed right behind the front seats -- after the second-row seats were taken out. However, the van's questionable ergonomics, iffy build quality and poor crash test scores made for a last-place finish in an Edmunds minivan comparison test. The model run continued through the 2002 model year, but there was no Quest sold for the 2003 model year.
Introduced in 1993 and sold through 1998, the first-generation Nissan Quest had a 151-hp, 3.0-liter V6. Base XE and uplevel GXE trims were offered and seven-passenger seating was standard. The biggest change for this generation occurred in 1996 when a minor face-lift yielded a new grille, bumpers, headlights, taillights and dashboard.
The first two generations of the Quest were rather anonymous and subpar. It might also be helpful during the shopping process to know that these Quests were also nearly identical to the Mercury Villager from the same time period. With either variant, however, minivan shoppers are still advised to consider better-ranking minivans first.
Chrysler claims its Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan minivans are the ''gold standard'' of the industry.
OK, I agree.
No automaker, despite a decade of trying, has been able to match Chrysler's minivans in sales.
But that may be about to change.
You see, Nissan and Ford have done Chrysler one better. The No. 2 American and Japanese automakers have teamed up to produce the new Nissan Quest/
Mercury Villager - and I would call it the platinum standard of the industry.
Briefly, Ford and Nissan engineers huddled for a couple of years and did what they call ''benchmarking.'' That's where an automaker buys vehicles from the competition and tears them apart.
The engineers find the best part of each competitive vehicle and design their vehicle to be better.
After talking to owners of both Mercury Villagers and Nissan Quests and putting in a week and about 450 miles on a Quest, a few fairly minor gripes did emerge. But overall, it looks as if Chrysler now has some real competition.
With the 1993 model year about to get the checkered flag, I would have to rank this week's test vehicle, the Nissan Quest GXE, as the best all-round vehicle I've driven this year.
The Quest is powered with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine that delivers 151 of the smoothest, quietest horsepower you'll find in a minivan.
In fact, Quest sets the standard that Chrysler and the others will have to meet or beat in their next-generation minivans. The engine's low noise and vibration are not totally muffled - you wouldn't want it that way - but most times you must make the effort to listen for the engine if you want to hear it.
The engine, a derivative of the one powering the Nissan Maxima sports sedan, is lively and responsive all the way up to 65 mph. From a stop, the Quest accelerates quickly and very easily. Unlike some minivans, passing slower traffic presents no problem at, say, 35 mph.
Our test vehicle, like all Quests,came with an exceptionally well-refined computer-controlled, four-speed, overdrive automatic transmission. A switch to operate the overdrive is located at the end of the shift lever on the steering column. It can be operated by the light touch of the driver's thumb.
If ever there was a vehicle that came with a drivetrain perfectly matched to the suspension, steering and brakes, the Quest is it.
Fuel mileage in city driving using the air conditioner averaged about 18 miles per gallon. On a road trip, that figure climbed to about 24 mpg of regular unleaded.
The Quest's handling is the best you'll find in a minivan.
The last time I drove a Chrysler minivan - a Dodge Caravan - I discovered it really couldn't be driven very aggressively without provoking a racket from the tires.
But you can drive the Quest as hard as you please. The body is stiff, firm and able to handle all sorts of maneuvers that would leave lesser vehicles in the dust.
Not many people would drive a minivan like they would a sports car, but I did. I pushed the Quest and pushed it hard.
No matter how good a driver you are, it is reassuring to know that if you find yourself in a situation that calls for a quick accident avoidance maneuver, such as a sharp, fast turn with the brakes applied, the Quest will see you through with no problem.
Smooth and balanced are the two words that best sum up the performance of the Quest's suspension, steering and brake systems.
A 39-foot turning radius makes the Quest easy to steer in tight places, like a supermarket parking lot. The front disc/rear drum brakes have an anti-lock system that stops the Quest quickly and without undue theatrics. A MacPherson strut front suspension and rear live axle help give the Quest a soft but sporty ride.
One of the engineers' goals in designing the Quest was to make it carlike in its handling. They not only accomplished that mission but raised the standards for everyone else.
FIT AND FINISH
From its smooth and easy-to-use sliding side door to the incredible versatility of its seats, the Quest is the most user-friendly and most intelligently engineered minivan I have yet to test.
The Quest seats seven. From the outside, the Quest doesn't appear as big as other minivans. But on the inside, no one is left wanting for legroom, headroom or foot room.
The rear bench seat folds and slides on a track to increase the storage room. Or it can easily be lifted out. The middle also can be configured numerous ways, or taken out with the quick flick of a lever.
Our test vehicle came with everything but a CD player. It had a rear air-conditioning system, a rear control panel for the radio, power sunroof, electric windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, leather seating and many other luxury items.
One or two minor improvements would make the Quest a bit better. For instance, you have to use the key to open the rear glass from the tailgate, even when the vehicle is unlocked. A latch that would unlock it from the driver's seat would have been nice. And several times I accidently turned on the windshield wipers when I pressed down on the turn signal lever.
The 1994 models have arrived at Nissan dealers, and the biggest complaint buyers have voiced has been addressed - the vehicles now have a driver's air bag.
Truett's tip: The Nissan Quest and its fraternal twin, the Mercury Villager, are the best minivans money can buy. Pleasing performance, a terrific interior, attractive styling and flawless assembly are just a few of their highlights.