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The Great Mini-Van Wars of Aught Ten: Nissan Quest Debuts In LA, Speedometer Back Where It Belongs

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On: Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 4:22PM | By: John Welch

The Great Mini-Van Wars of Aught Ten: Nissan Quest Debuts In LA, Speedometer Back Where It Belongs

The "Toilet of Bad Ideas" has been overflowing for some time now, clogged with the foul remains of things like "Pops-a-Dent" and the Flo-Bee. Also swirling 'round in this brain turd stew, you guessed it, the center-mounted gauge cluster. What a stinker of an idea! Sure it works in a MINI, whose massive speedo really couldn't go anywhere else, lest it knock the tach off of its rightful throne, the steering column. Every other car laden with this terrible mistake, this distracting, poorly conceived pretentious waste of good dash space, was left with at least one glaring fault—the stupid center-mounted gauges.

College kids who buy and operate Toyota Echos need to watch the effing road! They're already so helpless and ineffective behind the wheel; I don't think making them look down and to the right while in motion, so they can check the speed of their ugly 4-wheeled snot box, is a very good idea. No, I think its a terrible idea. That's why it flounders away in the aforementioned "Toilet of Bad Ideas". A Saturn Ion Redline could be considered a fairly peppy vehicle. Some might even say "quick". So let's stick the gauge cluster in the middle of the dash and watch the insurance cash roll in! The Prius . . . oh gawd, why waste the effort typing. The Prius is just stupid, for so many reasons; the center-mounted slowometer isn't even in the top ten. The world has a finite supply of nickel, idiots; let's start there . . .

The third generation Nissan Quest was one such dash-zit sporting vehicle. The overall package was decent, different, attractive in some circles. Nissan and Renault were hooking up in a janitor's closet while this van was being designed, and its French influence can be seen both inside and out. The avant garde headlamps, bulging fenders, and strange 3/4 view all screamed "Renault". Look in the cabin and we have seats from the Moon Raker, an instrument panel stolen from the ISS . . . and . . those . . . freaking center-mounted gauges. Ahhhk.

The new Nissan Quest is less French and more angular. I find it to be the most pleasing design of any of the newer mini-van contenders. Nissan has officially won the battle for looks. If anyone even cares what a mini-van looks like anyway.

My opinion is not shared around the water cooler. Drew hates the grille. "The way the headlights and grille interact with each other makes the Quest appear front-heavy and awkward, like a Ford Fusion." I tend to agree, though I find the Nissan treatment to be cleaner than the Honda Odyssey. Drew was familiar with the Nissan Forum Concept, the styling impetus for the new Quest, and was disappointed that several of the Forum's unique features were left out of the Quest equation. "The Forum looked more like a corporate Nissan, more like Murano. The funky mirrors on the Forum were awesome, the door handles very cool. I wish the Forum's coolness had translated to production." Drew said. "The wheel wells are too small also; the Quest looks more like a tall wagon than a van." The final kick in the crotch: "It's just ugly."

Production manager (and resident design guru) Clay had slightly more flattering things to say about the newest Nissan van. He echoed the Ford Fusion sentiments, but as talk moved to the backside of the Quest, his impression became more rosy. "I like the Quest's profile. The rear has a very old-school look to it. Squared off, attractive, and the tailights are distinctly Japanese." He went on to say "It reminds me of the Ford Flex." Clay isn't alone in this observation; production Monkey Rocco agrees with him. "The stance is nice and low; I like the lines, the wheel well shape. The wrap-around glass treatment is pretty radtacular; the rear reminds me of a Ford Flex or late Fifties Chevy Nomad," Rocco says. "On a scale of one to ten, I give it a nine. One point off for being a van." We gave him a fish biscuit and allowed him to return to his cage . . . err, desk.

When the dialogue finds itself inside the Quest, a few interesting quips were overheard. Nearly everyone pointed out the foot wells and mumbled things like "Open in the front, like an old conversion van," and "much space, feet and legs happy." We also heard things like "too many buttons," "interior colors too light for family duty," and "the shifter location is both smart and moronic. Convenient to the hand, unless the hand needs to adjust the stereo or air conditioning." Drew liked the fact that Nissan has finally dumped the cheap-looking orange gauges used in so many of their products. I liked the fact that those gauges were in the right damn place, in front of the driver. We both liked the NAV controls, Drew mentioning that they appeared to be "lifted straight out of a 2008 Infiniti!" Spot on.

We still want to see this van lined up next to its competitors. We all have varied opinions on the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and Chrysler/VW's Caravan triplets, ranging from glowing to "Bad Idea Toilet"-worthy. What do you think? Comments please; this conversation is more interesting than you could ever possibly imagine . . .

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