The Comeback kid
By Lou Ann Hammond, Fri, 23 Jun 2006 08:00:00 PDT
Nashville, TN - I was having dinner the other night at Radius10 in Nashville, TN and talking to Mark Bilek from Consumer Guide. We were both there to drive the 2007 Nissan Quest and Versa. Most people were excited at the prospect of driving the new Versa, but Bilek was looking forward to driving the Quest. "My wife and I are looking for a 5-7 passenger vehicle. She loved the look of the Quest before, but she didn't like the interior."
Bilek's family is the primary target for Nissan. A couple of adults and two or three kids with lots of stuff. There is another target that Nissan should be going after; the no kids, active lifestyle couple. My husband, Stretch, and I have a dog named PJ, and three cats. We don't own our house, PJ does, we are just the caretakers. PJ thinks he is hall monitor when the Mr. Ewok and Alley-cat start running up and down the hall in the house. Our living space is designed around the places PJ likes to lie; in front of the fireplace, by our bed (or on it), and by the sofa guarding his food in case one of the cats gets too close to it. Our car purchase would be decided because of PJ as well.
This is not uncommon for people who have animals. My last dog was a collie, aptly named Queenie. Till the day she died she was very particular about her looks. I bought a Lexus LS400 just because it had low ground clearance. Queenie was getting old and it was hard for her to get in and out of a small car to go to the beauty parlor. She was especially keen on having her own air conditioning vents in the back. She told me so.
PJ is not a luxury sedan car owner kind of dog. PJ is half black lab, half Australian shepard and he is all boy. He loves to go for long hikes and run and play in the water. That type of behavior is not conducive to beige leather seats and he would rather hang his head out the window and leave droll all over the side of the car. He also doesn't like to be in the backseat away from us. When Stretch and I are in the front seats, he will sit right in the middle and put his head on the center console. It's cute, but not if you make a quick brake.
The 2007 Nissan Quest has two seats in the middle section and a full seat for the third row. The second row seats have always been stow and fold, not stow and go like Chrysler's Town and Country where they fold flat and make a cargo van. These seats are about 4-5 inches off the ground, but still manageable. The third row does the stow and go thing, folding into the floor. The previous version of the Quest's third row was cumbersome and needed two hands and some might to maneuver. Nissan changed that, by adding some springs to the backside and integrating automatic folding headrests. Much easier.
Driving the backroads around Nashville in the Quest made me think of buying a van. I like the Toyota Sienna, but the 2nd row seats are heavy and you have to take them if you want extra floor room. With all the seats down in the back we can put PJ's bed near the front and he can sit on that, close to us, till we get to Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe has some of the most beautiful views and paths to walk on and people there are very dog friendly. But it gets cold at night in Tahoe and while pitching a tent is okay, throwing an old mattress in the back of a van is a lot easier and it stays warmer.
There's part of me that thinks I should find something wrong with the minivan. Some of my journalist friends think that unless you've found something wrong with the car that you're not doing your job or that your kissing up to a manufacturer. Trust me, I'll tell you when I think there is something wrong with a vehicle I am driving. I'll tell you why I don't like it and which vehicle I think is better. I just found nothing wrong with the Quest.
Exterior changes have been made to the Quest so that when you're driving down the street people know it's new: a new grille and front bumper fascia, new rear combination lights and a revised roof rack design. The 3.5 SE model has new side sills and new 16-inch and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. As I say, just enough to let people know it's new.
The interior is where you see the changes. The placement, or appointments as we call them, of necessary items were askew in the previous Quest. The 2007 Quest interior offers a totally redesigned instrument panel. The gauges have been moved back to their proper place, in front of the driver.
2007 brings a host of new technologies as well, including, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, an in-dash CD6 autochanger with MP3 playback and auxiliary audio input and a larger 8-inch DVD screen for the second row and an optional screen for the third row. A rear view monitor and rear sonar system are also available. A new center console is available with the Technology Package.
The 2007 model kept Quest's 2003 3.5-liter V-6 engine that makes 240-horsepower and is mated with an improved 5-speed automatic transmission. 4-wheel Anti-Lock disc brakes and responsive suspension design. Quest is available in four well-equipped models: 3.5, 3.5S, 3.5SL and 3.5SE.
Pricing hasn't been finalized, but I am assured that the price will be about the same as the previous generation. As soon as I get the prices I'll pass them onto you. Till then, as they say in the South, ya'll come back now, you hear.