Pros: Comfortable interior; exceptional turning radius; bold styling; decent acceleration.
Cons: Massive size makes it a suburb-only affair; limited third-row space
What's New: LE has standard 360-degree camera system; rear entertainment now available on SV model; MSRP reduced by $1,310 for SV and by $980 for SL.
Courtesy of the rash of crossover utility vehicles storming the market a few years ago, the minivan segment has been a quiet one as of late, with many manufacturers pulling out of the segment altogether. Those that have stayed have made some changes to their offerings to keep them interesting. The 2013 Nissan Quest must compete with no fewer than six SUV and crossover models offered by Nissan itself, not to mention those built by other automakers. Ultimately, the Quest relies on unique styling and an array of near-luxury features to make its case.
The first thing you'll notice about the Quest is its mammoth size. All in, the Quest is a mere 2 inches shy of the Cadillac Escalade in every exterior dimension. A few urban miles in the Quest and some experience with low-speed maneuvering in a parking lot or driveway quickly reveals this minivan's oversized proportions. Despite its length, the Quest has a surprisingly tight turning radius that makes up for some of the difficulty in maneuvering.
Once you look past the size and start looking at the styling, you get the sense that the Quest's designers really wanted the Quest to stand out from the competition. Where its rivals are sticking with the familiar shapes and forms of a minivan, the Quest offers bold styling that makes it just different enough without looking too youthful. For this fourth-generation Quest, Nissan's designers did away completely with its predecessor's swoopy roofline and pronounced character lines, instead opting for sheer, near-vertical surfaces and few superfluous details.
This is most readily seen in the rear liftgate, which can only be described as bolt-upright and meets a nearly horizontal roofline at the top. Around the sides, a shoulder line and character line are present, but only just, giving way to the expanse of metal used in the doors. These styling details only exaggerate the height even more, making the van feel taller than it already is.
Comfort & Utility
If styling is the Nissan's main differentiator, its interior is a very close second. A majority of this comes from the available technology offered in the Quest, but we'll get to that in a minute. In terms of comfort, you'd be hard pressed to find a better option in the segment. We'd go so far to say that the nearest match to this level of interior comfort can be found in the premium sedan segment.
Any seat in the cabin is a fine place to perch, with the front being the best seat in the house. With superb lumbar support, deep cushioning and supportive bolsters, a long road trip seems like not only a possibility, but even a preferred use for the Quest. The same can be said for the second-row captain's chairs. The third-row bench is comfortable when talking about seat quality, but we found the legroom to be a bit tight. Although headroom is ample for adults, we'd say the third row is reserved for little ones and cap the adult capacity at the front four chairs.
The only place where the Quest's interior falls short is cargo area, which is surprising given the van's size. While it will fare well for an extensive grocery run, it might not hold the luggage for a van full of passengers without some creative stacking. The third row can be stowed flat for additional room, but then that eats into passenger capacity, a van's main selling point.
Our tester showed up in LE guise, the top of the Quest line. While this does mean things like leather seats and up-sized alloy wheels, it also means the lion's share of technology features. Nissan's Around View monitor--now standard on the LE--provides a 360-degree, top-down view, which makes low-speed maneuvering safer and easier.
The Quest LE also includes a rear entertainment package, which is available as an option on the SV and SL. Its 11-inch, ceiling-mounted display can play back DVDs or media accessed through USB or RCA connections. Rear seat passengers can use the included pairs of wireless headphones while front seat passengers enjoy other audio.
In the cockpit there's SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming capability and an excellent voice-recognition system for tasks like entering navigation destinations. The navigation includes XM's traffic reporting, but still seemed to route us right through the middle of the worst traffic instead of finding alternate routes for directions.
Performance & Fuel Economy
All trims of the Quest come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine paired to a continuously variable transmission, which controls all the gear ratios without actually shifting gears. The combination is good for 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, which does a decent job of moving the nearly 4,400-lb van from a standstill.
Fuel economy is listed as 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Throughout the week, we saw closer to 15, but that was on purely city driving with a quick jaunt out to the suburbs to test highway performance.
Standard safety features for the Quest include ABS, disc brakes at all four corners, traction control, stability control, active front head restraints and an array of airbags protecting passengers in all three rows.
The 2013 Nissan Quest earned the highest possible ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in all areas but roof strength, where it received an Acceptable rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to crash test the Quest.
While this vehicle should have no problem in rural and suburban settings, driving it on busy city streets requires a lot of attention. Its width means little room for error on narrow streets and a tight fit in some parking lots. The good turning radius helps, but Quest drivers will likely feel more comfortable on roads that are busy and less confined.
On the highway the Quest is stable and shows little strain. But on a windy day, its slab-sided styling does make it susceptible to strong gusts despite its weight.
Where the weight does come in handy is ride comfort, where nothing but the largest road seams or potholes seem to unsettle the big van. The Quest's ride is plush compared to other minivans, adding to the luxurious feel of the LE model.
Other Cars to Consider
Chrysler Town & Country: The heavy hitter of the minivan game does come with rear seat entertainment as an option, but doesn't do it as well as the Quest, and doesn't have near the interior refinement of the Nissan.
Honda Odyssey: The Odyssey has gone through similar transformations as the Quest, and is arguably the closest competitor to the Nissan. The Quest's styling is a bit more striking, and if you outfit the Honda with a near-identical spec sheet, it will cost $1,000 more.
Toyota Sienna: Toyota's entry also went through a major overhaul recently, and offers more storage space. The Toyota's interior isn't as well-appointed or executed, but the Sienna is not as expensive as the Quest.
While we really liked the Quest LE, it does get expensive at $42,640. If you can live without navigation, we suggest the one-step-down SL, which will save you about $9,000. The rear-seat entertainment system is still available as an option, and although you don't get the Around View monitor, a backup camera is still included. The dual-panel sunroof is available on the SL, too.