The 2011 Nissan Quest is the biggest departure from a previous model seen in recent van developments. Styling inside and out is neither controversial nor conventional, it feels more expensive without being more expensive feature-for-feature, and it merges performance and efficiency quite well.
Although many of the component parts have been proven in other Nissan and Infiniti products and Nissan has used the Quest name on vans before, consider the 2011 Quest a new model and not a new-face-and-bumpers update.
Four versions of the Quest are available, the range covering everything from steel wheels and air conditioning to piped leather, a host of electronic conveniences, and a screen as large as some laptops. With options limited, your most difficult decision may well be paint color.
In terms of what you can't see, envision the Quest as a three-row version of the Nissan Murano crossover. A 253-hp V6 has bones shared with everything from a Z-car to an Xterra four-wheel drive. The continuously variable transmission is one of the most efficient automatics around, as Nissan excels in CVT technology. And the suspension, steering and brakes hint at Nissan's more-sporty-than-average philosophy.
Beyond any cosmetic considerations what strikes you most about the Quest is the concession to sizing the arrangement to families with children who aren't ready to drive themselves. The third row is smaller than most but more than adequate for rug rats and yard apes, and the forward four seats are genuinely adult roomy; there is no eight-passenger, middle-row-bench-seat version. And the cargo area has a trunk beneath a floor level with the hatch opening that will be appreciated by anyone who's had to lift an expedition-size suitcase or big-box store case of drinks out of an 18-inch-deep well.
Quest and its competitors (Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Routan) are no longer minivans and have not been for quite some time. Roughly the same outside dimensions as full-size SUVs or crossovers (Chevrolet Tahoe and Traverse, Ford Expedition and Flex, as respective examples) the vans are generally superior people movers and only a moderate-to-heavy trailer or a need for low-gear four-wheel drive tilts the decision toward the others.
We think the Quest is a good choice for those who enjoy driving but have lots of passenger-ferrying requirements or more than two offspring who enjoy road trips.