The 2013 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE carries a base price of $42,640 ($43,675 as tested), with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and EPA estimates of 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Redesigned in 2011 to compete with the updated Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, as well as the long-in-the-tooth Dodge Grand Caravan and Volkswagen Routan, the Quest does well in many areas, but is brought down by a fatal flaw. Let’s drive.
The Ancient Greeks had a concept called “Hamartia.” Hamartia is when a hero, or in the case of the Nissan Quest, a minivan, has a fatal flaw that keeps it from hitting the mark. The Quest’s hamartia is its ground clearance -- 6.2” in the S and SV, 6.6” in the SL and LE trim levels. “What’s the big deal?” ask the voices in my head. “This is a minivan, not a rock crawler.” True, voices, true. But true tragedy strikes when the best intentions lead to unintended consequences. Nissan’s designers integrated the lower rocker panels into the Quest’s doors, which gives the minivan a sleek look. A side benefit is that the door sills stay clean in bad weather, keeping the backs of trousers from picking up dirt with every entry and exit. “That’s good, right?” Yes, voices, yes. But here come those unintended consequences. Combine low ground clearance with integrated rocker panels, and you wind up with doors that won’t open when parked against a normal curb. That’s it - a fatal flaw. Hamartia strikes again.
Because there’s plenty to love about the Nissan Quest. “You curse it with this hamartia thing, and now you love it?” Quit interrupting, voices, and I’ll tell you what I love about the Quest. Nissan is great with in dash technology, and the Quest is an excellent demonstration of the technology in action. There are plenty of buttons, but they are intelligently arrayed. My test vehicle was lavished with a full spread of standard features, some of which verged on luxury appointments. The front row seats are very roomy and comfortable, and the second row isn’t a big step down. Even the third row will accommodate full-grown adults, and flip and slide second row seats make access easy. Generous under floor storage in the luggage compartment is voluminous enough to conceal a big briefcase from prying eyes.
“Get to the driving part.” Okay, voices, okay. I was trying to talk about things I loved, and the driving experience I only liked. The last time I drove a Quest (in 2012), I commented that it “has a weird feeling under heavy acceleration.” I noted that the steering lightened up, which created a disturbing dissonance. This time, I had a similar impression. The Quest was eager to spin its wheels, and when they finally grabbed the pavement, I had to be ready for some torque steer. It made it difficult to take full advantage of the 3.5-liter engine’s 260 hp. Once underway, Quest’s wide track delivered stable handling and agile cornering for a minivan. I never forgot that I was driving a two-ton vehicle, but I did have some fun with the Quest. Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) keeps the engine in the powerband, which can sound a little thrashy, but it delivers the power and is a big part of the decent fuel economy ratings.
”So come on -- would you buy one?” Well, voices, I have to admit that I would not. It all comes back to that hamartia. Quest’s fatal flaw is big enough that I would be forced to choose a competitor, either the Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey. I guess if I lived in the country, where I never had to park at a curb, I might consider it. But I know that you would always haunt me like a Greek Chorus, voices in my head, about buying a vehicle with a fatal flaw.
- Unique appearance.
- Smart minivan features.
- Good handling.
- Low ground clearance.
- Engine sounds like it’s working too hard.
- Torque steer.
Details and specs:
- Base prices: $25,990 (S); $29,740 (SV); $33,520 (SL); $42,640 (LE)
- Engine: 3.5-liter transverse V6
- Horsepower: 260 @ 6,000
- Torque: 240 @ 4,400 rpm
- Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT) with front-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway
- Wheelbase: 118.1" Vehicle Length: 200.8" Width: 77.6" Height: 71.5"
- Curb Weight: 4,336 - 4,568 lbs
- Cargo: 37.1 cubic feet behind third row (including under floor storage); 63.6 cubic feet behind second row; 108.4 cubic feet behind first row.
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain