The 2012 Nissan Quest may be smaller than other minivans in useful ways, but it's also smaller in the psychological way that makes it more entertaining to drive.
That said, it's still a minivan, and as direct as its steering can be, and as well as it damps out road surfaces, the Quest corners and accelerates with almost nothing but safety in mind.
In the power room, there's the usual combination of a mid-size Nissan six and a single transmission offering. In this case, it's a 3.5-liter V-6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, and for whatever structural reasons, it's smoother and less audible here than in other installations (Altima, etc).Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT) leaves it less wanting than we anticipated. We're still no fans of these belt-driven transmissions, but the Quest doesn't feel out of sorts with the drivetrain, since rapid-fire gearchanges aren't really in the expectations field. More an issue in the Altima, Sentra, and Maxima, and less so here, CVTs can feel rubbery and laggy, and can drive powertrain noise levels to sustained levels of discomfort. Nissan's CVTs are some of the best sold today, and in a minivan, it's easier to forgive the minor vibrations that come on when you floor the gas. The CVT also has some preset "shift" points that simulate a six-speed automatic that reinstate some of the feel of a conventional automatic. Most important of all, the drivetrain's sized right for the package. The Quest never feels strained.
With an independent suspension at all four corners, the Quest benefits from a smaller footprint than other minivans. It feels the most nimble of all its competitors, and in big part, that's due to the electrohydraulic steering. Using signals to direct the power steering's hydraulic pump instead of a belt, the Quest delivers the most natural steering feel of its class--though the electronic power steering in the Toyota Sienna is quite good, it doesn't rebound from inputs with the same relaxed feel. The Quest doesn't bound over long bumps like the Chrysler minivans, since its near-equal curb weight seems to be damped more effectively.