2009 Nissan Quest

Magic Bus

2009 Nissan Quest

Nissan used to use the slogan “Enjoy the ride” as a cute catch phrase to describe its vehicles. It’s a shame they’ve gone away from it because, as crazy as life is sometimes, we need to be reminded to enjoy what we have. Surprisingly, the Nissan Quest minivan is a vehicle worth enjoying. In fact, my own daughter enjoys ours so much that she’s nick-named it “the Magic Bus” in honor of Nissan’s commercials which use that famous old hit song by The Who.

FAST FACTS

1. The Quest is a seven-seater with first and second row captain’s chars with a three-person third row bench.

2. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 235hp and 240 ft-lbs of torque with premium fuel or 230hp and 236 ft-lbs with regular unleaded.

3. Fuel economy is good for a van with 24/16 mpg (city/hwy).

Since she’s only four years old, we can’t farm out the entire review to her, but suffice it to say that the optional Panasonic 2nd Row DVD 8-inch screen with in-dash player has to be her favorite point. My wife likes the 6-disc in-dash CD player and steering wheel-mounted radio and cruise controls, and the attractive faux wood trim on the dash and doors, while I prefer playing with the fuel economy computer in the center stack.

EXCELLENT FUEL-ECONOMY

I can’t fault a big van, which consistently averages 25 miles per gallon or better at 75 miles per hour, which is surprisingly good considering Nissan rates it at 24 mpg highway.

If you live in a state with a lower speed limit, it’s likely you’ll see even better economy, if you can keep the 5-speed automatic transmission from slipping out of torque converter lock-up. The stock programming is set up to maximize the pull from the dual overhead cam 24-valve VQ35DE engine, so it unlocks the torque converter constantly in favor of acceleration over fuel savings. As a result, city mileage is rated at 16 mpg.

Power is good too, with the V6 generating 235hp and 240 ft-lbs of torque. That is, however the rating with premium fuel. The Quest will easily run on regular unleaded though. Power is rated less with regular, but undetectably so with 230hp and 236 ft-lbs of torque.

PLENTY OF SPACE FOR YOUR FAMILY AND THEIR STUFF

Make no mistake, this is a large van. There’s seating inside for seven passengers. The first four receive “airplane style” amenities with padded cloth armrests, seat-mounted cup-holders, and multiple seat-back angle adjustments.

The driver’s seat has manual seat base tilt and height controls and manual lumbar adjustment. This makes it easy for drivers of all sizes to get comfortable. The unfortunate three souls in the bench third row seat will be cozy companions by the time you reach your destination, but with their own heating and air-conditioning ducts, which can be rotated 360 degrees, they’ll at least stay cool on hot days, or vice versa.

As for cargo room, it’s rated at 32.3 cubic feet behind the third row with 148.1 cu.-ft. total.

Our S trim-level model came with silver five-spoke hubcaps on 16-inch steel wheels. If you’re the sort to care about wheels, there’s a large selection of aftermarket options for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars less than OEM accessory wheels, thanks to the shared passenger car driveline under the van. The top of the line SE, is equipped with a much nicer set of 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, to go along with its leather-trimmed upholstery. The “in-between” SL has smaller alloy wheels, and a cloth interior. While we would have loved to have fancier wheels, or the leather interior, the just-under-$30k price tag is more appealing.

POWER DOORS AND LIFT-GATE A MUST-HAVE

Perhaps the most convenient family-friendly feature of all is the Quest’s power sliding side door and power rear lift gate. Pre-baby, I’d have said I didn’t need all of that frilly power stuff. Post-baby, I’d never own a van without it. Being able to stroll up and have a door instantly open should be listed as a miracle of modern science. It might even be worthy of a Nobel Prize. Forget to close the hatch? No problem, just touch the overhead button and the door closes by itself. It even makes a decent rain shelter in a pinch. Just check the height of your garage door before opening that hatch inside.

ON THE ROAD

With all of the interior goodies and sheer space, it’s easy to overlook how well it drives. Sure, the Quest is nose-heavy and will plow like a farmer cutting rows if you turn too fast, but for all other maneuvers, including tight-turning parking lot navigation and backing up, it’s very good. While the S doesn’t get the fancy back-up camera of its better-equipped siblings, it does have a back-up warning system which efficiently beeps if you’re too close to an errant shopping cart or hidden pole. The ride is compliant without being too soft, and its long wheelbase does a good job of managing the Los Angeles-area freeways.

THE VERDICT

In spite of its peculiar exterior styling the Nissan Quest is a well-rounded, well-thought-out people hauler that can be purchased affordably or loaded to the gills with frilly features. It can be soccer mom’s taxi for six teammates, or dad’s weekend hardware store construction buddy with the tidy third row folding seat option (mysteriously packaged with the Panasonic DVD system). The durable VQ engine offers good in-town torque while sipping fuel on long cruises. Today’s market might not support many high-dollar minivans, but there will always be a slot for an affordably-priced people hauler with good fuel economy. The Quest might seem like a “magic bus” to kids but there’s enough magic to attract adults too.

PLUS

Peppy V6 delivers good torque and good fuel economy Power sliding side and pop-up rear Voluminous interior

MINUS

Styling reminiscent of a toaster Brakes feel overmatched by van’s weight Light interior carpeting will stain easily

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