When it comes to minivans, one thing matters most: Packaging. Minivans, outside of something produced by a bus manufacturer, are the ultimate people mover. And in addition to people, they move more than a modicum of stuff.
The trouble with minivans, of course, is that they are minivans. There are large numbers of people—NASCAR dads and soccer moms, and vice versa—who associate minivans with some sort of ill-defined stigma. Generally, it seems, as though it is some signal of surrender, as in “Cool no more.” Consequently, they opt for something that offers less utility, yet is perceived as being highly functional: a sport utility vehicle (SUV), likely a unibody crossover. Yes, a “utility” offering less utility than a minivan.
Even three-row SUVs have a third row that is little better than sitting room in a doll house. And if you keep that third row in place, any idea of a Costco run probably needs to go on hold. If you can make do with a two-row SUV, then generally the amount of space is no greater than that found in a four-door sedan.
Which brings us back to packaging, at which the minivan excels.
However, there is the not-minor issue of styling and appearance. In the minivan category, Nissan has categorically led when it comes to interior and exterior design of its products. In the early ‘00s its Quest minivan was so innovative that it left many probably purchasers scratching their heads. After all, here was something that looked downright Euro-stylish on the outside and had such a radical approach on the inside, including something arguably more interesting than a solid polymer roof, that the typical head of family decision making probably ran to their nearest Chrysler store and grocery store to make sure that (1) minivans were still boxy and (2) vanilla ice cream was still in the frozen foods section.
Quest back in the day
Can’t you just hear Robert Downey, Jr., saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool?”
That styling was toned down considerably, and by 2011 the company came out with its fourth generation minivan, of which the 2013 is a part of.
Still, on the exterior there is a design that has a similarity to its NV commercial vehicles in the front, which adds a certain seriousness to the endeavor, yet when you look at the body side, particularly the rocker area, you can perceive a level of stylishness.
The 2013 Quest
But let’s get to the business of this thing, which is the inside. There are bucket seats in the first and second row (in the second row they go by the name of “Captain’s chairs” for some reason as there is nothing nautical about them) and the third row is a three-person bench. You want one of the other seats, but you’re not in bad shape at all back there. The driver’s seat (on this LE trim level) is 8-way power-adjustable. The passenger seat is 4-way power-adjustable. There is a quick flip of the second row seat to get access to the third row. And the second and third rows readily fold flat. What’s more, the LE comes with leather seating surfaces such that you almost imagine you’re in a furniture store.
The passenger volume is a capacious 170.9-cu. ft., and the cargo area is 63.6-cu. ft. with the second row seats in position and 100.4-cu. ft. when it is folded along with the third.
And while enumerating things, know that there are six cup holders, six bottle holders, four coat hangers, two 12-volt DC outlets, and an eight-inch touch screen display.
Power is provided by a 260-hp 3.5-liter, DOHC V6. There is a continuously variable transmission. I drove the Quest to the northwestern suburbs of Chicago and back to Plymouth, which meant that I had a good opportunity to experience the vehicle in a variety of commuting conditions, though I must admit that I only had one passenger, not a passel of playful kids on board. That said, I was able to handily keep up with the traffic on the freeway and to readily maneuver it in a crowded strip mall parking lot.
Chances are, someone who doesn’t see themselves in a minivan is not going to go for a minivan, not matter how good a minivan is, no matter how well it would suit their needs. How a vehicle that arguably had its roots in military transport somehow provides more street cred (especially when every Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice has one) is a puzzle to me.
Engine: 3.5-liter, DOHC V6
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 260 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 240 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable
Wheelbase: 118.1 in.
Length: 200.8 in.
Width :77.6 in.
Height: 73 in.
Curb weight: 4,568 lb.
EPA: 19/25 city/highway