2012 Nissan Quest LE: Getting Dirty in Tonopah
April 26, 2012
No, our 2012 Nissan Quest didn't visit a ranch -- not that kind of ranch, anyway. But it did spend some time on some graded dirt roads.
If you must know, I'll lay my nerd cred on the table: last weekend's trip to the ET highway was a geocaching trip. Some insane person put out 1,500 of the things in the area around Rachel, Nevada, each spaced exactly 0.1 mile apart.
A team of 17 even more insane
persons nerds known as Team DNF, myself included, made an assault on the ET series in five vehicles. I signed out the Quest because of it's spaceous middle row, power sliding door and low step-in height. After all, my runner would be stepping in and out a lot.
Most of the 150-mile route was paved, but about 50 miles were graded dirt roads. Even some of the pavement counts as dirt because the Nevada highway department reminds cachers that the paved miles require us to travel on the unpaved shoulder near each ground zero. It was all reasonably smooth and well within the capability of a 2WD minivan, but I still had to keep a sharp eye peeled for holes and protruding sharp rocks.
Whether on asphalt or dirt, the process went like this: each car would do a mile's worth of searching and logging, then haul ass 4 miles and leapfrog the other four teams to their next assigned mile. They're doing the same thing too, of course, so there's a lot of honking and waving as the various cars pass and repass their stationary brethren every few minutes throughout the day.
There's also a lot of Gatorade, beef jerky and sunscreen.
If it sounds dumb, it is. But it's also loads of fun.
At the end, the Quest was dirty, but not irreversibly so. The wind was blowing the right direction most of the time, so less dust than you'd think drifted inside through the open doors. Once I got home my trusty microfiber towel took care of it in all of 5 minutes. Still, it helped that my runners remembered to wait three-Mississippi before opening the slider.
After we finished we headed for Tonopah, Nevada, stopping at the entrance to the Tonopah Missile Test Range on the way.
The Quest did great. The A/C and it's cabin air filter kept the dust at bay, and my passengers didn't have any complaints in the backseat. We used the heck out of the 120V inverter and the USB jacks in an attempt to keep our electronic devices charged.
All day long the well behind the third seat proved to be a great place for our ice-chest, food and on-deck drinks. Down there it couldn't slide around and any icy dribbles fell harmlessly down below the level of the "good" carpet of the load floor.
And I'm even more impressed with the Quest's CVT transmission than I was already. We accelerated from rest hundreds of times, and each one was smooth and seamless; no one turned green.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,876 miles