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Minivan Redefined

Nissan seeks to change minivan basics with its new Quest.

This isn’t your mom’s minivan.
Anyone who grew up in the’80s undoubtedly has memories of the original minivan. Focused on size, interior space and child-hauling factor, minivans weren’t known for their style. Things have come a long way and a flock of new minivans dispel old memories of mom mobiles. Toyota came first with its new, top-notch Sienna. Now comes the Nissan Quest with some fairly venerable competition from Buick, Saturn and Mercury on the way.

But Nissan has big plans for its U.S.-made minivan. The company hopes to sell 85,000 units of the vehicle each year.

How will they do it?

According to Jed Connelly, senior vice president, Nissan North America, customers need basic things but their vehicle doesn’t need to be basic and boring in the process. Historically, minivans were characterized as predictable, boxes on wheels and lacking expression, vision and style. They are a vehicle people are forced to drive and do not enjoy driving. Women don’t want to drive them because they are supposed to drive them and men feel too “wimpy” behind the wheel.

Nissan’s new Quest uses the Skyview glass panel roof system first seen on the Maxima.
The minivan’s center console stack allows for extra legroom.
Nissan will challenge all those old characteristics with the new Quest, says Fred Suckow, senior manager, model line marketing. Instead, Quest has breakthrough style, versatility and performance.

Customers will see it’s a car and not a minivan, says Nissan president and CEO, Carlos Ghosn.

Inside and out, the new minivan had to be compelling, says Ken Kcomt, North America regional product manager, product planning.

Up until now, says Kcomt, minivans were for “left-brain thinking” that includes rational, analytical and practical thought processes. But the new Quest adds right brain characteristics including emotional, creative and artistic ideas. With this in mind, the company went out of its way to style the vehicle so it looks less like a traditional minivan.

Product Chief, Nissan Design America, Alfonso Albaisa says usually minivans are just square expressionless boxes. But Nissan gave the new Quest ‘shoulder’ lines to break up the boxy appearance and give the impression the vehicle is low.

The front three-quarters, he says, give the sense the vehicle has a lot of power. The vehicle undoubtedly looks beefier and more substantial.

“At the end of the day we want to make a modern minivan for a modern mom,” Albaisa says. Inside the Quest, Nissan says it was going for an urban loft look and feel. Nissan, surprisingly, achieved its goals.

The interior has a very modern simplistic, almost trendy look. Seating materials feel and look like suede while a soft-touch trim feels like stone.

Designers wanted the interior to be as open as possible so they developed an elliptical shape center console stack that allows for extra leg room but still has several storage areas. The center console also holds all the necessary buttons and dials in one place.

The soft-touch trim looks and feels upscale and does away with the plasticy look so many minivan interiors now have.

“It was a nice way to add interest without having a wood grain look,” he says.

Since it has the longest wheelbase in its segment, it also has the widest sliding doors. This is key to getting into the both the second and third rows of seats.

Quest has the widest sliding door in the segment while inside, the second and third rows of seats fold flat.
Additionally, both the second row of captain’s chairs and the third row bench seat fold flat. Unlike the third row in Toyota Siena, the Quest third row is very heavy and could not be lifted and folded down with one hand. Albaisa wanted to answer the question ‘How do we make people relax in a hectic minivan world?’ with the Quest interior. Besides new materials and loads of space, Nissan does that with its Skyview glass panel roof system, duel screen DVD rear entertainment system and a segment-first Bose audio system.

Under the hood, the Quest gets Nissan’s outstanding VQ35 engine. This 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6 produces 240 hp. and 242 lbs-ft. of torque. It has aluminum block and heads, sequential multi-point electronic fuel injection, Continuous Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS), microfinished crankshaft and camshaft molybdenum-coated pistons.

The Quest is front-wheel-drive and has a 4- speed or 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with a panel mounted shift lever.

It also has a new 4-wheel independent suspension with advance multi-link rear suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars. Quest shares its platform with the Altima, Maxima and Murano.

Nissan admits it is targeting married females with young children for the Quest. But the company says its minivan buyers are younger, hipper and trendier. They are more stylish and sophisticated and successfully balance a career and family.

The focus target is the “in-style” mom, Suckow says.

Quest entered production at the end of May at Nissan’s new plant in Canton, Miss. Sales begin this month with advertising launching next month. The vehicle will not be sold outside of the U.S. It’s too big, says Ghosn.

Quest is the latest in an aggressive new-vehicle rollout that will see six new vehicles launched in eight months. Maxima started the product launch in March. The Quest heads to dealers in July, followed by the Z Roadster. In September, the Pathfinder Armada launches while the Titan arrives in December. An Infiniti full-size SUV bows in January.

“We will battle for market share but as Mr. Ghosn says, we won’t buy marketshare,” says Connelly.

2004 Nissan Quest Engine Specifications
Engine type:VQ35
Cam design: DOHC
Orientation: Transverse mounted
Cylinders/configuration: V-6, 60 degree V-angle
Block/head composition: Aluminum/aluminum
Displacement: 3.5L
Horsepower: 240 @ 5,800 RPM
Torque: 242 ft.-lbs. @ 4,400 rpm
Bore & Stroke (mm): 95.5 x 81.4
Compression ratio (:1): 10.3
Maximum engine speed: 6,500 rpm
Induction system: sequential multi-point electronic fuel injection
Valvetrain: 4-valves per cylinder CVTC
Engine mounts: electronically controlled
Emissions certification level: LEV2/LEV emission standards
Emission system: Oxygen sensor, catalyzer
Exhaust: Single tailpipe

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Fri. April 19th, 2024

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