New Car/Review

Nissan Quest GXE

by John Heilig

Nissan

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:              3.0-liter SOHC V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:   151 hp @   4800 rpm/174 ft-lbs @ 4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:        Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:        17 mpg city,  23 mpg highway,  16.3 mpg test
WHEELBASE:           112.2  in.
OVERALL LENGTH:      189.9 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:      68.0 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:       73.7 in.
CURB WEIGHT:         3,993 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:       20.0 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:    14.1/114.8 cu. ft. (rear seat in/cargo layout)
TIRES:               P205/75R15
INSTRUMENTS:         Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, 
                     oil pressure, battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:           Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power seats,
                     cruise control, air conditioner, power tilt sunroof, 
                     AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and CD changer, leather seats,
                     anti-lock braking, dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:       $29,366

Nissan's Quest, which shares components and general features with its production line twin, the Mercury Villager, is among the most car-like of minivans. It has car-like driving features and ride, car-like comfort, and compact car-like performance.

This isn't to say that the Quest is a poor performing vehicle, it's just that with its shape and componentry, you really can't expect it to be a high performance vehicle. Still, Nissan claims a 0-60 time of 11.4 seconds, which isn't bad. We felt confident with the Quest whenever we entered highways from exit ramps, for example, which is one of the most severe tests of a vehicles performance.

When you sit in the Quest you're going to feel instantly comfortable. There is none of the "tunnel effect" of the old GM minivans, for example, and the view out the front is comprehensive. You sit high, as you do in most minivans, and this seating position gives you a good view of the road and a feeling of safety.

Adding to the safety feel are dual air bags and ABS, as well as seat belts for everyone. We tested the Quest in the winter, when there were "surprise" patches of ice on the road. I call them surprise patches, because you may not see them, but the car's ABS does. You can be going along and want to stop and even though you weren't concentrating, the car's ABS chatter tells you that there was ice below the tires.

A nice feature on the Quest was cruise control and sound system controls on the steering wheel. They weren't in the way, so that I didn't keep changing the station or the volume every time I made a hard turn, as is the case with some of these controls. Once you learn where the controls are you can use them without having to look. There's a good feel to them so you can easily learn where the location of each switch is.

For the 1997 model year, Quest has new front and rear bumper fascias, new body side molding, front headlights, grille and running lamps, as well as new taillights and wheel treatments. Inside, there's a new instrument panel, new door trim panels, additional storage in the third seat position and 20-ounce cupholders. I also liked the extra power outlet on the dash which allows for cell phone or laptop computer use when you're on the road.

Our tester had seating for as many as eight passengers, with three rows of seats. The problem was though, that with all the seats in use there's very little carrying capacity behind the rear seat. The GXE adds a luggage rack on top, but one of the advantages of a van is that you're supposed to be able to carry everything inside. Twenty-four different seating configurations are possible in the GXE. The second row seats can be folded down into a table or completely removed, while the third row can also be folded into a table, folded up for increased cargo space, or slid forward to the back of the driver's seat for the maximum storage capacity. The second row of seats offers an integrated child seat, if your kiddies are that size. Ours are too big.

All in all, the Quest is a decent package. It suffers somewhat by the lack of a rear door on the driver's side, but our spies tell us one will be available in the 1999 model year (at least on the Villager). Other than this minor inconvenience (and it is an inconvenience one you've used minis with the doors), the Quest is probably the best import nameplate minivan.

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