2012 Nissan Quest: Confronting Phobias
October 12, 2012
This is one of my all-time favorite comments: "The Edmunds staff drive everything like it's a rental car."
From the bottom of my heart, I know it's not true (although I did park on the sidewalk to take this photo). Then again, I bear no ill will to rental cars, either. Last time I rented a car, a regular car, paying it for with with my own money, I scored a 2012 Ford Focus hatchback. Its backseat was already cruddy and I had to designate that a no-go zone, but otherwise I liked it and I treated it well.
Yet, I have to concede I have an unofficial policy that I've quietly appled to certain vehicles in our long-term fleet for years. And last week, a more senior editor called me on it.
"Why don't you drive the Nissan Quest tonight?"
"Oh... I can't."
"Hmm, well, I don't drive any of our vehicles that have three rows of seating once they pass 20,000 miles."
"Why is that?"
"Oh, well, at that point, everyone's kids have been in them, and cracker crumbs are ground into the carpets and seats, and the steering wheel and shifter and door handles are usually covered in a sticky film. And I don't know what I'm going to find in all the storage slots. Also, quite often, they smell like diapers."
"You are crazy."
"Probably, but that's how I roll."
The conversation went on for a while, and various coworkers offered opinions on the minivan lifestyle and diagnosed me as an irrational germophobe. The more senior editor got the last word.
"You're driving the Quest. Or you're taking the bus."
So I drove our long-term Nissan Quest. The cabin is still in good shape but definitely not pristine (when is light carpeting ever a good idea?), and I'll be discussing that in my next post.
What struck me, though, is that despite the veneer of family in its cabin, our Quest is still really good to drive. I remember liking this van in our last minivan comparison test (where it was up against a revamped Odyssey and Sienna), and those feelings haven't faded.
The Nissan feels a little sleepier in the handling and braking departments than either of those rival vans, but I think the difference can be written off to its tires -- Toyo A22s -- which never had any grip even when they were new. But the way the Quest rides is really something. There's a level of compliance and sophistication to it that the other minivans can't match (at least not in their current-generation state).
There's also some weight in its steering that I really like. I don't know that I find it any more precise than the Odyssey's much lighter steering, but there's a meatiness here that's kinda nice, yet it doesn't seem to cross the line to "heavy for heavy's sake."
Finally, the CVT. It's not perfect. Particularly when you're parking in a tight space and just want to creep forward ever so slightly... it pretends not to hear me in those situations. But on the freeway, this transmission works really well. You don't wait around for downshifts, and when the CVT reaches for its lower ratios, it doesn't upset the tranquility in the cabin.
What all this is leading up to is that yesterday, I signed out our 2012 Nissan Quest for the weekend just because I wanted to. Mind you, I like vans (well, I like them before anyone's kids get into them). But ever since last week, I've had a mild craving for the Quest, simply because I enjoy driving it. I'll just wear gloves this time.
Erin Riches, Somewhat Senior Editor @ 22,647 miles