2012 Nissan Quest LE - Family Transit Doubles as the Man's Lair

Hey, guys. And we do mean "GUYS."  Especially husbands and dads. If you haven't already noticed there is a recent craze out there for the "man's lair or a personalized place to just hang-out." Not the seedy neighborhood tavern or joints which the Pope might not approve of. We are talking upscale, almost posh. There  is the "man's room" in the family home, adapted from the bachelor pad. It can be a customized workshop where you can use the power tools. Or that media room with a gazillion watt sound system where you don't have to duke it out with the Missus for the remote control when the NFL, NASCAR,  UFC or an old Led Zeppelin concert comes on the tube. So what if it's often located in the basement or garage of the "man's castle?"

Recently we at "Drive...He Said" stumbled upon Nissan's effort at a mobile lair for such discerning men. It is the 2012 Nissan Quest mini-van. On a cool clear night, simply don the robe and the slippers the kids gave you last Christmas. Bring along your favorite non-alcoholic beverage (to avoid any legal infractions.) With the Quest in the driveway, start her up using the nifty keyless remote, and hit the overhead console switch to open the second row moonroof. Insert you favorite DVD in the slot way down low, near the floor of the center stack. While a 2x4 could shimmy between the front buckets, most will access the second row from outside the Quest, gently tugging on either sliding door handle, reciting to themselves, as did Ali Baba: "Open Sesame."

Plop down into either of the second row captain's chairs. Dig into the center console for the video system remote control. Behold as the motorized ceiling mounted 11" video screen folds open. Open up that refreshment. Partake of some popcorn (which has already been popped and buttered). Recline back, kick off the slippers and enjoy the closest thing to cinematic Sensurround, courtesy of Bose and thirteen speakers. The roar of the machine-gunning crop duster in Alfred Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" was so intense that Cary Grant wasn't the only one running scared.  May we suggest the excellent wireless headphones (supplied in two pairs) if you plan on cranking the volume to the point where household members or neighbors  might be disturbed.

There will be those times when the hideout will absolutely have to double as the family's mobile clubhouse.  When pressed into such noble service, the Nissan Quest makes for fairly capable mass transit on the micro scale. If school buses were so refined, we wonder how many kids arrive for their classes. Almost every mechanical function in the Nissan Quest LE, including the front doors,  has some form of stealthy power assist. OK, folding the second row captain's chairs requires lever pulling, while folding a third row seat, made for average adult proportions, takes the yank of a cord.

Fit and finish are hardly ordinary, unless your family happens to have a suite on perpetual reserve at the Peninsula. Examples are the bright TFT instrument cluster, an elegant steering wheel boss,  the infotainment / navigation with 7" split screen and both rotary scroll and touch functionality, yards of buttery smooth cow hides and velour quality upholstery and  tastefully grained plastics. Arigato, Infiniti! There are but a few misses of note: The front seat heater switches, are stashed beneath the center stack, nearly out of view; the front seat cushions have some pretty weak foam, which is guaranteed to get an earful from various butts and thighs. The gear selector handle on the center stack, obscures some climate and radio controls. And the second row perches refuse to fold fully forward for access to the roomy third row bench; the best they do is fold flat.

Firing up the 260 hp / 240 lb-ft in the VQ 3.5L V6 in the Nissan Quest LE imparts far less raucousness than in any Infiniti G or Nissan Maxima. Despite less aggressive throttle tip-in and more intrusive stability control there this luxury family clubhouse can be flogged into rambunctiousness. The biggest surprise here is the Continually Variable Transmission. Revised pulley diameters enable drive bands to slide more smoothly. This "pulley-box" isn't bashful about letting engine revs build, nor does it suffer from ambivalence. Lacking a dedicated sport mode the shift selector can be used to lock out overdrive action, doing a good job of mimicking an real slush-box. The result is a 4500 pound Quest LE  which hits 60 mph in a brisk 7.5 seconds.  Combined driving, with some 90 mph jaunts mixed in, netted a strictly average for class 17 miles per gallon consumption, two mpg fewer than what Nissan reports to the EPA.

The Nissan Quest chassis damped to insulate against most road imperfections doesn't mind being jostled. Body roll is manageable though there is enough dive in hard braking to remind you this is a front drive mini-van. Toyo A22 all season rubber sized 235/55 fitted on 18-inch cast alloy wheels combined with vented rotors at all four corners offer satisfactory grip, braking and pedal feedback. Steering is a mixed bag. The electric assist rack seems well weighted, however, at speed, boost is unnaturally high. Steering feedback requires some imagination, though on center-stability is good.

While such premium family mass transit starts at an easy to swallow $25,990 (for the basic S trim), our fully outfitted 2012 Nissan Quest LE edition balloons to a not inconsiderable buffet at $43,200. That figure squeaks in just below that of a comparable Honda Odyssey Touring, which permits an additional cramped passenger and HDMI connection for the DVD entertainment system in lieu of the Nissan's rear disc brakes. Just think of the money spent as that saved on a re-make of the garage or basement.

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