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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Weighing more than 4300 pounds, the Quest accelerates briskly at wide-open throttle.
Generally speaking, CVTs like torquey engines, and in this case, the two play well together.
Handling is competent and safe, even up to about six-tenths of its capability. Push harder and the tires will scream long before the chassis throws in the towel.
On the road, the Quest’s driver might actually enjoy the drive.
Car and Driver
The logic and execution of its CVT is actually better than the traditional stepped gear-driven transmission in either the Odyssey or Sienna, six-speed or not.
The Quest is fun to drive as far as minivans go. It feels smaller on the road than most other minivans, and it's steering is better, too–and even the CVT transmission works well for the task of hauling family and cargo.
The Quest is powered by Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6, which produces 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It's a little smoother and little quieter than most of the cars in the lineup with the same engine, though the new Altima does it even better than the Quest. Even so, the minivan never feels strained for power.
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 continuously variable transmission (CVT) that takes the place of a conventional, stepped-gear automatic is a workable solution here. CVTs use belts and pulleys to constantly change "gear" ratios, and in many cases, feel sluggish to respond, and can also amplify noise and vibration since they linger at high engine speeds, without downshifts to relieve the racket. Since minivans don't require, or even encourage, sporty driving, the typically slow CVT response to throttle inputs isn't a concern. This 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.
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. It doesn't bound over long bumps like the Chrysler minivans, though, and its near-equal curb weight seems to be damped more effectively.
The Quest has a strong V-6 and good steering, but we'd swap out its CVT if we could.