Full 2011 Nissan Quest Review
What's New for 2011
After a one-year hiatus, the Nissan Quest returns for 2011 fully redesigned.
There were plenty of reasons why the previous Nissan Quest didn't achieve the sort of success that the top minivans did. To set the Quest apart from the competition, Nissan took a different approach to exterior and interior design. But sometimes different isn't always better, and Nissan ended up polarizing shoppers rather than attracting them.
The redesigned 2011 Nissan Quest aims to capture a larger share of the minivan segment with more traditional styling without resorting to the safety of blandness. In addition to the makeover, the Quest retains many of its core strengths: a powerful V6 engine, spacious seating and above-average driving dynamics. Improvements to the ride quality, a slick continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a quieter cabin should further entice the prospective shopper.
On the downside, the 2011 Quest also returns with some of its drawbacks. Second-row seating has provisions for only two passengers, meaning this minivan offers seating for seven overall, while the competition accommodates eight passengers. Another possible downside is that the third-row seat folds forward rather than dropping into a rear well, reducing cargo space. At the same time, the second-row seats fold forward, creating a flat load floor all the way to the back of the front seats. This might reduce overall cargo space, but it also makes it easier to haul longer objects without having to remove the middle-row seats.
If your focus for a new minivan is concentrated on passenger comfort and driver engagement, the 2011 Nissan Quest is well worth consideration. But you'd be remiss not to investigate the top-ranked Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, both of which can seat an additional passenger and have larger maximum cargo spaces. The Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan also show improvements for 2011, but will not likely entice you away from the others.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Nissan Quest is a seven-passenger minivan offered in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and LE.
Standard features for the base S model include 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, remote keyless entry, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a trip computer, ambient interior lighting and a four-speaker stereo with six-CD changer and auxiliary audio jack.
The SV adds alloy wheels, foglights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, power-sliding doors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, tri-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a front-seat center console, a conversation mirror, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo with 4-inch color display and an iPod/USB input jack. The SL further sweetens the deal with 18-inch wheels, heated mirrors, roof rails, a power liftgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power driver seat and one-touch fold-flat third-row seats.
The range-topping LE tacks on xenon headlights, driver seat memory, a power front passenger seat, power-return third-row seats, advanced air filtration, a navigation system, second- and third-row sunshades, a blind-spot warning system, a rear entertainment system with 11-inch widescreen, and a 13-speaker Bose surround-sound system with an 8-inch display and satellite radio. A dual-panel moonroof is available as an option, but only for the SL and LE models. Unfortunately, most of the features offered in upper trims are not available on supporting models.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2011 Nissan Quest is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. This engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that sends power to the front wheels.
In Edmunds testing, the Quest made the run from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, comparable to the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Fuel economy is also in the same ballpark, with an initial estimate of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway.
Standard safety features for all 2011 Nissan Quest models include antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat active head restraints. A rearview camera is standard on all but the base S trim level.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Quest came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, an average distance for a minivan.
Interior Design and Special Features
This latest Nissan Quest adopts a more conservative design approach than before. Interior controls are logically grouped on the center stack and within easy reach of the driver. Even when it's fully loaded with options, operating all of the systems is intuitive and uncomplicated. Interior materials are above average on lower trim levels, while the leather-appointed cabins in the range-topping trims impart a more luxurious look and feel. Unfortunately, the Quest comes up a bit short with interior bins, pockets and storage space for personal effects.
While the segment-leading Odyssey and Sienna can accommodate a third passenger in their second-row seats, the Quest is limited to a two-seat configuration. Although this effectively makes the Quest a seven-seater, the upshot is that the second-row seats are comfortable and also slide and recline. As with most minivans, removing these heavy seats requires a helping hand. Average-size adults will find the third-row seats roomy and comfortable enough for extended periods.
Space and utility are hallmarks of the minivan segments, but cargo capacity in the 2011 Quest comes up short. Behind the third row of seats is a deep well, but unlike in other minivans, the seats do not fold back into this compartment. Instead, the seats fold forward and flat, as do those in the second row.
Thanks to this cargo configuration, the Quest only offers a maximum of 108 cubic feet for storage, which is at least 40 cubes less than in the Odyssey and Sienna. Space behind the second and third rows is also significantly less at 64 and 35 cubic feet, respectively. Compounding matters, the deep cargo well is covered by rather flimsy panels. Having a flat load floor is certainly a plus, but we think most owners will remove these covers.
On nearly any road surface, the 2011 Nissan Quest presents a calm, comfortable and quiet cabin. Wind and road noise are pleasantly silenced, just as ruts and bumps in the road are ably absorbed by the compliant suspension, yet the ride is poised, not floaty. The steering is precise but feels needlessly heavy at slow speeds. In concert with the suspension, however, the steering effort gives the Quest an almost sporting feel in the curves.
We are already fans of Nissan's pairing the V6 engine with the CVT in the Nissan Altima sedan and coupe models, and this duo is equally at home in the heavier Quest. Power from the V6 is more than adequate, and we even prefer the smooth CVT over traditional stepped transmissions in this application. Passing slower traffic on the highway is made easier thanks to quick reactions from the throttle and transmission, while there are advantages in fuel efficiency as well. The steady drone of the engine, which is typical of the steady-state rpm that comes with the use of a CVT, is really only evident on uphill grades.