Nearly forgotten, almost gone: Nissan Quest’s uncertain future impacts 2017, 2018 models

What changes will make the 2018 Nissan Quest different?

Mere survival. Miniscule sales, unsold units, and robust competition mean an uncertain future for Nissan’s spacy but solid minivan. As of mid-April 2017, the automaker still had not released the model-year 2017 version of the Quest. Dealers were struggling to unload leftover ‘16s. And while Nissan says there will be a 2017 model, it hadn’t released prices for it. It did confirm that the 2016 and ’17 Quest are identical vehicles.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

You shouldn’t, because there may not be one. Today’s fourth-generation Quest was introduced for model-year 2011 and has undergone only detail changes since. It’s very near the end of its lifecycle and there’s little indication Nissan is working on a fifth generation. The company has reportedly explored replacing it with a van made by other automakers, with little evident success.

Hampered perhaps by unorthodox styling, Quest has been the perennial sales backmarker in a segment itself shrinking rapidly as buyers flock to crossover SUVs. The overall minivan market contracted from 15 models and 1.6-million annual sales in the early 2000s to just six entries and 491,000 total sales in 2016. Demand is down 20 percent through early 2017, with Quest sales falling 18.5 percent. Nonetheless, carmakers see a continuing market for these eminently practical family vehicles. Chrysler introduced its all-new Pacifica for model-year 2017, and for 2018, Honda is launching an all-new Odyssey and Toyota is updating its Sienna.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Yes, although the only Quest you may find at your local dealer is a ’16 model. Given no difference between the two, the model-year designation is largely immaterial. And Nissan may well hold the line on pricing if it does introduce a 2017 Quest. All this shouldn’t dissuade you from at least exploring what could be a smart way to snag a new minivan. Dealers should be willing to negotiate a great deal, and Nissan will stand behind long-term service and warranty obligations.

The 2016-2017 Quest is a front-wheel-drive seven-seater with a V-6 engine and surprisingly good road manners. It comes in four trim levels: rental-fleet-outfitted S, better-equipped SV, upscale SV, and loaded Platinum. Most modern minivan amenities are available, but Quest lacks almost all of today’s expected safety features, including autonomous emergency braking and lane-maintaining automatic steering. It won’t gain them for model-year ’18, or perhaps, ever.

Will the styling be different?

No. It’ll be virtually identical to the look that came on line with the model-year 2011 redesign. Quest is America’s tallest and narrowest minivan, and it has the shortest wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles). Those proportions and the square-cut and angular body certainly make it distinctive, if not handsome. Visual differences among models are slight, with the S showing its rental roots with downmarket touches like a grille that’s black instead of body-colored and 16-inch steel wheels with plastic wheelcovers; the other models have alloy wheels, 16-inchers on the SV and 18s on the SL and Platinum. Exclusive to SL and Platinum are heated mirrors with integrated turn signals. Fog lights are standard on all but the L model, and the Platinum has xenon headlamps.

Inside, all models have two front bucket seats, two second-row captain’s chairs that slide fore and aft and have seat-mounted armrests, and a 60/40 split-folding-reclining two-person third-row bench. Room is good at all positions, with the progressively elevated second and third rows creating pleasant “theater seating.” The sliding side doors – powered on all but the S – don’t open as wide as those of rivals, but Quest’s step-in height is lower. The dashboard is a sober, orderly design, with the transmission shift lever jutting from the center stack just right of the steering wheel. Controls are clearly marked, though those for the audio are mounted too low.

Cargo space is good by most measures, but subpar by minivan standards. The second-row seats aren’t removable. And cargo volume is curtailed by absence of the customary rear floor well into which the third-row seat can be stowed. There is an underfloor storage bin, but in effect, the rear floor is flush with the rest of the load floor and the third-row seat merely folds forward.

Any mechanical changes?

No chance. The sole engine will remain a 3.5-liter V-6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. That’s the lowest output of any minivan, but the Quest doesn’t feel notably slow. It’s among the lightest vans, and the engine works surprisingly well with the only transmission, a continuously variable automatic. Off-the-line oomph is a little lazy, but acceleration and throttle response are fine once you’re underway.

Quest has confident handling and a composed ride. The steering is accurate and relatively firm and while fast turns trigger expected body lean, noseplow is not excessive unless you’re attacking a corner in a way most minivan drivers would never do. Grip is best with the 18-inch wheels and tires on the SL and Platinum, but all models absorb bumps with minimal disturbance to passengers or control. Road and wind noise are not intrusive, but Quest doesn’t approach the Pacifica for all-around isolation.

Will fuel economy improve?

Highly unlikely, unless there’s some change in EPA-ratings protocol. Otherwise, expect ratings to remain 20/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s impressive, given Quest’s age versus the competitive set, and compares favorably with the best ratings put up by the Pacifica (19/28/22), 2017 Odyssey (19/27/22), Kia Sedona (18/25/21), and Sienna (19/27/22).

Will it have new features?

No, and Nissan’s minimal attention to modernizing Quest is highlighted by the van’s lack of state-of-the-art safety systems. Of course, expected systems such as antilock brakes are standard, but the only up-to-the-minute driver assist available is blind-spot warning. It’s exclusive to the Platinum model, where it’s standard. But it doesn’t include lane-maintaining automatic steering, and no Quest is available with advanced features such as autonomous emergency braking that can automatically stop it to mitigate a frontal collision, or adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead.

On the upside, all models come with Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert, which beeps the horn and triggers the flashers when you’ve reached proper inflation while filling the ties. All but the L come with a backup camera, and standard on the Platinum is an around-view monitor useful during tight maneuvering.

All Quests come with keyless entry and pushbutton start. To the S model, the SV adds power sliding side doors, tri-zone automatic climate control, a 5-inch central dashboard screen, satellite radio, a USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free phone linking with steering-wheel controls, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The SL builds on the SV with standard leather upholstery, a power liftgate, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, an auto-dimming inside mirror with compass, roof rails, automatic on/off headlights.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available, so you can’t display smartphone apps, such as GPS mapping, on the dash screen. You have to spring for the Platinum grade to get an imbedded navigation system, which is standard and comes with an 8-inch dash display. Also included with the Platinum is a rear DVD entertain system with an 11-inch screen, a Bose audio system with 13 speakers, a power front passenger seat, memory for the driver’s seat and outside mirrors, auto tilt-in-reverse outside mirrors, and second- and third row manual side-window blinds.

How will 2018 prices be different?

The question supposes there will be a 2018 Quest. Let’s instead address the 2016 models populating dealer lots at the time of this report and assume that if there is a model-year ’17 Quest, it’s unchanged specs and features would suggest unchanged base prices. So we’ll list model-year 2016 Quest prices, including Nissan’s $940 destination fee. We’ll point out that these prices undercut those of all minivans except the Dodge Caravan, another aged entry held over for sale as a lower-priced alternative alongside the Chrysler Pacifica. And as noted earlier, dealers ought to be offering substantial discounts on remaining inventory.

Base prices for the 2016 Quest line are $27,520 for the S model, $31,480 for the SV, $35,050 for the SL, and $44,170 for the Platinum. Among key options, leather upholstery adds $1,500 to the SV and the rear DVD entertainment system costs $2,100 on the SV and SL. Available for $1,500 on the SL and Platinum is a dual-panel moonroof; adding it to the SL requires the rear DVD system.

When will it come out?

Maybe never.

Best competitors

Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna

What change would make it better?

A full redesign, with all the latest safety and convenience features.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]