Nissans turnaround was one of the most successful comebacks in automotive history. The company was on a roll with the 350Z, Altima, Xterra, and other redesigns. Everything looked rosy until the new Quest first appeared. For many, it was too over the top, or, as Nissan put it, a little discomforting to some. More like to many. Which is why Nissan has made the 2007 Quest one of the largest mid-cycle redesign programs in Nissan history. Did it work?
First Glance: The same but different
That whole dare to be different strategy with the Quest was Nissans attempt to break out of the boring minivan cycle. It wasn't offensive, but it was polarizing. For 2007, Nissan decided to stay with the overall exterior styling but update the front bumper, fascia, grille, headlamps and taillamps (new combination rear lamps with clear lenses and new side sills for the 3.5SE model). Touches of chrome are now on the roof rails (in place of black plastic) and door handles (previously color-keyed), and there are different wheels and wheel covers. Theres also a new exterior color: Chestnut. Does it still look like a minivan? You bet, but you can tell its not a Honda or Chrysler product. In truth, you almost have to look at the old Quest
and the new one side by side to notice the differences.
While the exterior design was either loved or hated, it was the interior most people took exception to: The funky center stack design, the instruments in the middle of the dash, the impractical seat operation, control placement, and a long list of quality issues, all of which have been addressed in great detail in the new 2007 Quest. Hip was always the focus, and the new Quest retains that image but is now more mainstream.
In the Drivers Seat: Less discomfort, more practicality
Redesign puts gauges back in front of the driver, eliminates the "conga drum" look
First, let me say I never liked the old Quests interior. It reminds me of an Ian Schrager hotel: trendy, hip, and totally impractical. A minivan needs to be functional; the old one wasnt. The instruments were mounted high over the center pod, and the center pod's conga-drum appearance made me want to sing Babalu
. Hated the colors, hated the seat operation, hated it all but the ride.
The truth is Im a big Nissan fan. I owned an original Z car, I still own an old Nissan hardbody pickup that runs great with 150,000 miles, my Dad owns an Altima and my brother owns a Murano, so I was one of those who was discomforted by the interior.
With the 2007, a lot has changed; the instruments are where God intended them to be, in front of the driver, the center stack is more integrated (still not my favorite look but improved), the third-row seat operation actually works (the headrests fold down automatically when the seat is unlatched, and the seat is easy to reach and folds down and back up with little effort), and that nasty orange interior has been replaced with a more subdued and likeable shade of brown. Many controls have been relocated and function much better than before, including climate controls and outside power mirror switches.
On the Road: Power and performance still outstanding
The saving grace for the Quest was always its engine and powertrain. The 3.5-liter V-6 was strong, responsive, and quiet. None of that has changed. It still provides excellent power with 235 horses and 240 lb-ft of torque, even though the 2007 model weighs about 200 pounds more than the 2006. The Quest now comes standard with a 5-speed automatic transmission which replaces the standard 4-speed automatic from last year; the 5-speed auto was standard only on the uplevel trim in 2006. Claimed fuel economy is 18 city/25 highway; since we werent doing fuel loops, Aaron will have to get a new Quest and repeat his vacation
to check out the ratings for 2007.
Interior quietness has been improved because many of the gremlins have been exorcised, thanks to Nissan addressing hundreds of quality details, both perceived and actual, as it claims. Because the Quest is on Nissans FF-L platform (front engine, front wheel drive, large), it offers as impressive a ride as the other vehicles on that platform: Altima, Maxima, and Murano. The independent suspension delivers excellent control over rough roads, and the stabilizer bars front and rear keep body roll to a minimum for a vehicle of this dimension. The ride remains the Quests best feature.
Journeys End: Improved overall and still unique
Close of up the Quest's new schnozz
Has the Quest changed enough to give it a second look? Absolutely. Is it my first choice of Nissans products? No. I thought the Versa
was quieter on the road, and Id personally opt for a crossover product instead of a minivan. But the Quest has done an admirable job of balancing between off the wall and middle of the road. Current Quest owners who thrive on quirky may lament the fact that Nissan had to surrender some individuality to go after more sales, but they will still like the exterior design and the improvements overall in quality and detail. There are almost 20 nameplates in the minivan segment, which has seen a decline over the past six years because of the popularity of SUVs and crossover products. The minivan market is over one million units strong, and Nissan still feels its a viable arena, which is why it is giving the Quest another go. With the Chrysler products owning about 36 percent of market share to the Quests 3.5 percent, its going to be interesting to see if staying in the segment was the right decision. With the redesigned interior, strong engine, improved quality, and strong company support, the Quest, which goes on sale in June, should receive a much warmer welcome from suburbia.