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Detroit News: 2007 Nissan Quest Preview

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Nissan revamps its Quest minivan's now-plush interior

By Anita Lienert

ANN ARBOR -- In its zeal to win over women who hate minivans, Nissan went overboard with its 2004 Quest, turning off empty-nesters and hardcore minivan users with a poorly designed cabin.

The most off-putting Quest feature was a mammoth center pillar -- sometimes irreverently described as the "telephone pole" -- in place of a more traditional instrument panel. The pillar held the gauges and controls, forcing the driver to constantly glance to her right to check things like speed. It was distracting, ugly and polarizing.

The Quest, which was launched in mid-2003, was a painful exercise in hipness, as defined by male engineers and designers. The guys even pitched it as a vehicle designed for "hip moms," as exemplified -- to them -- by the actress Tea Leoni.

The material covering the instrument panel was patterned after the coarse hide on a basketball and the seats were supposed to look like futons, giving the minivan the slightly seedy look of an urban loft, as opposed to a wholesome mom-mobile.

The rear-seat DVD control unit was on the side of the front passenger's seat, which was hard to get to and invariably blocked by things like the driver's purse. The gauges were bright orange and hard to read, and appeared to be inspired by the garish neon lights on Sunset Strip. The minivan's embossed leather seats were expensive, but looked like cheap vinyl.

In other words, the Quest had the worst minivan cabin on the market.

So, it was with great eagerness that I headed out in mid-March to drive the redesigned 2007 Quest, which goes on sale in late May. Nissan executives had promised that this would be one impressive change, since it is the most expensive mid-cycle redo for any Nissan vehicle.

My fear was that Nissan may have gutted and lobotomized the Quest in its drive to right all the minivan's original sins. But I was pleasantly surprised.

After spending a morning checking out the revamped interior and taking the Mississippi-built Quest on a brief test drive, I'm happy to say that Nissan finally got it right.

The new and improved minivan has pulled off the difficult trick of being trendy and practical. Best of all, it finally gets a cabin that looks good and provides the functionality that parents need.

Not surprisingly, the redesigned Quest is the work of a team of women, led by Carla Bailo.

Bailo, the 45-year-old assistant chief vehicle engineer, is the mother of four who drove a minivan for 18 years before she got her hands on the Quest.

She says the mom she envisioned, as the Quest redesign came together, was Angelina Jolie.

"I pictured someone with a more individual sense of self," said Bailo, adding that her team decided "to make the Quest more conventional, but to keep elements of its non-traditional appearance."

One of the first things that the team did was to relocate the gauges to where they should be -- behind the steering wheel. And they illuminated them in a bright white, accented by just a hint of the old orange. I drove only a few blocks before I felt completely at home and at ease behind the wheel, unlike my initial drive in the '04 model.

But in keeping with the non-traditional approach, Nissan designers constructed a "floating lid" over the gauges, which adds interest without being distracting.

There is a kind of vestigial center pillar, but nothing like the old telephone pole. Designers describe it as a "styling line" that gives the silhouette of a pillar. The effect looks integrated and streamlined, instead of something inspired by Stonehenge.

The company ditched the embossed leather seats, too, in favor of perforated leather, which looks richer.

In what may be the biggest example of practicality in the cabin, you now load DVD movies into a slot in the instrument panel, which is perfect. You can drive and load the DVD without taking your eyes off the road. Because the player is not located in the rear, you won't have kids fighting over it, either.

The old Quest had a bag for the removable headrests, which the company says consumers rarely used. Therefore, the headrests invariably ended up under a seat or on the garage floor.

The third-row seat has a new spring assist, which makes it easier to manually fold into the deep well in the rear cargo hold. I tried it a couple of times and had no problem. Nissan executives say a stow 'n' go seating system, similar to the one offered on the Chrysler minivans, is due out in 2010. This will enable consumers to fold the second-row seats into the floor.

There were no significant changes to the sheet metal of the '07 Quest -- which is good, because that was never an issue. Minor tweaks include a new grille, chrome door handles and a revised roof rack that looks more angular and contemporary.

In keeping with the Quest's trendy agenda, there's a new exterior color called "chestnut," which is a beautiful shade of chocolate. Pair it with the new "chili" interior, which is a kind of terra cotta, and the clear taillights that are only available on the top-of-the-line SE model, and you've got one of the hottest looks on the market.

The engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 240 horsepower and 242 pounds-feet of torque, is a carryover from the previous model. But a five-speed automatic transmission, instead of a four-speed, is now standard on all four Quest models.

The transmission has been revised to give you quicker response off the line, which helps with acceleration and passing.

Nissan says the '07 Quest will deliver 18 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.

The Quest's safety features are good, but not as comprehensive as those on the 2006 Honda Odyssey minivan.

Nissan outfits its minivan with standard side curtain air bags that protect outboard passengers in all three rows, but vehicle stability control is standard on the top-of-the-line SE model only.

Nissan has not announced prices for the '07 Quest, but Kelly Hamilton, Nissan's senior manager for model line marketing, says the price may be "a little bit higher than the current model."

He says a fully loaded 2007 model will not hit the $40,000 mark; a fully loaded 2006 model is priced at around $36,000. A base 2006 Quest starts at $24,755, including a $605 destination charge.

If Nissan can hold the price on the new Quest, that should make it one of the more attractive minivans out there -- good news for all those moms who hold up Angelina Jolie as their role model.

Link: http://info.detnews.com/autosconsumer/auto...ex.cfm?id=22402

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Sounds good, but I still am wondering if they've finally taken care of the build quality problems like all the rattles and creaks and loose pieces too.

If so, the QX56/Armada/Titan better be next...

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a few months ago I passed on a new Quest. I'm glad I waited. If i get a van anytime soon, this is it now. I saw the new int. at the autoshow and it is the best of all the vans. The defects have gone done greatly from 04 to 05 to 06. The quest drives sporty too. Their sales should double now, easily.

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I loved the old van's interior. Or at least the design.

nah, the 04-06 was just plain bad. the dvd player at the side of the base of the seat. dash vents that would break almost immediately. a rough texture on the 'pod' that would scratch and look like hell within a week. Creepy leather grain, absolutely horrific cloth. Barren door panels. Rancid color schemes.

The redo incorporates warm tones, traditional perforated leather, convincing wood accents, pleasing chrome bits, subtler shapes, and corrects the functional flaws. The dvd player now is in the right spot. The location of the climate and radio controls is perfect for a van because they don't interefere with the tray area now...hey, it even HAS a tray now! The gauges are small and kind of hidden, but since they didn't have much to work with on the redo they did what they could.

It makes the odyssey interior look like the bloated puffy interiors of domestics of yore and its much more interesting than the bland Sienna interior.

i wish the gear shifter was down where it is on the Sienna but we can't have it all.

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The 03-06 Quest had an interior that was designed by a 5 year old and exterior styling designed by a blind man. Aside from the engine it has been a royal dud in the marketplace too. Even my uncle, who is a huge Nissan fan and a current owner of the older generation Quest, can't stand it.

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