- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The next time you see an unusual sharp-looking minivan pass you, it’ll be the 2004 Nissan Quest. The designers really put some imagination and pizzazz into this vehicle.

One reason the once-popular minivans have taken a back seat to sport utility and crossover vehicles is appearance: A minivan looks like a box sitting on four wheels and fails to stir emotion. But the Quest breaks out of that mold with some sharp, chiseled lines, an attractive nose job, plus an unusual but practical dash panel.

All minivans offer second- and third-row seating with reasonable storage space accessed by opening a large overhead rear door. The side doors slide open, offering easy approach for passengers in the middle and rear seats. That describes the Quest, too, except its overall appearance has character with its arching roofline and strong shoulder lines. Even though the interior has more room, the overall length makes it easy to maneuver. Plus, the side doors have extrawide openings.

With the large door opening and the tip-up feature of the second-row seats, it is easy to get to the third-row seats. My tester had two seats in the center area configuration, and all seats offered comfortable seating.

One lure of a sport utility is sitting high and having a clear view of the road. That seemed to be the case with the Quest, even though I didn’t have to struggle to climb aboard. Getting into the driver’s seat was very easy, and regardless of how I adjusted the tilt-steering wheel, it didn’t obstruct the instrument panel because the instrumentation has been relocated to the center of the dash panel. Also, because the nose line drops low, my forward vision was not obstructed.

I’ve driven a few vehicles with centrally located instrumentation, and the more I do, the more I wish all manufacturers would go this route. It is easier to read compared with shifting eyes downward into the instruments behind the steering wheel. The Quest’s instrument panel also contains navigational and sound systems. The radio controls can be operated by buttons located on the central dash and steering wheel. A six-disc CD changer is in a central panel that contains various storage areas as well.

The navigation system provides voice commands alerting the driver to how far away the next left- or right-hand turn is. It’s amazing how much data this navigational system contains.

The bucket seats in the front are very comfortable and include a pull-down center armrest. The eight-way adjustments are power operated. Power controls also operate the windows and side-view mirrors.

The shifter also is on the upper dash panel and is easy to operate. My tester has a four-speed automatic transmission linked to a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 240 horsepower. The power is better than expected of a minivan. The Environmental Protection Agency mileage rating is a respectable 19 miles per gallon city and 26 mpg highway.

The ride is comfortable and stable, and the Quest is very maneuverable as well. Even backing up and parking this large vehicle is easy. As expected, this new Quest has the latest in safety features including third-row head-curtain side airbags.

The same engine powers all three Quest models but the S, SL and SE models offer a variety of seating packages. My tester was equipped with a DVD entertainment system plus other options and cost $31,640.

So keep your eyes open. When you see the Quest, I’m sure you’ll agree “pizzazz” describes it pretty well.

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