by Matthew Wilson
Minivan sales are a fraction of what they were in the vehicle's heyday, but the end of the SUV era means that practicality is making a comeback as a factor in determining what people buy. This has mostly meant a boom in small cars, but those automakers that actually still produce minivans have been giving them a lot of love recently too, apparently counting on them to make a comeback. The Quest has received the most love, as defined by how much has been improved.
It is now almost hard to believe that the Quest was once nothing more than a rebadged Mercury Villager. The looks of the new Quest have drawn some fire, but I feel this is undeserved. It has been criticized as too box-like, while competitors like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna make an effort be less minivan-looking. The thing is though, they are minivans, and the competitors (the Odyssey in particular) just end up looking like they're trying too hard to make them look like something they aren't, the automotive equivalent of a comb-over.
The Quest knows it's a minivan, it makes the most of this, and I think it does it well. The interior has also been drastically changed, again for the better. It is on equal footing, in terms of quality, with the excellent interior offered in the new Dodge Grand Caravan, putting it well ahead of the competition from other Japanese manufactures. The materials used walk that fine line which minivan interiors must, nice enough that it is an enjoyable place to be, but not so nice that letting kids or a dog into the car is a cringe-worthy experience.
The dual-pane sunroof is a very nice touch, and there is quite a bit glass overall on the Quest, giving the cabin an airy feeling as well as giving the driver an excellent view of the outside. There is the requisite DVD entertainment system, which is displayed in a single 11-inch monitor that folds down from the ceiling in front of the second-row seats. The seats are very comfortable in all three rows, although in the case of the third row, this comes at a price. All of this comfort means that the seats don't fold into the floor, and the Quest does poorly when it comes to cargo space.
It's still better than that of a sedan, but this is very much a vehicle for hauling people. If you need something for moving furniture, the Quest would be a bad choice. Handling is decent, inasmuch as that matters on a minivan, and the ride comfort is actually quite good. The engine is a 3.5-liter V6, which puts out 260hp, and this is about the right amount for a minivan. The transmission on the other hand, does not make me happy.Your only option is a CVT, and if that's something you can live with, great, but I personally find them to awful in every single vehicle they're used in.
The Quest does have some drawbacks, but those aren't drawbacks which will affect everyone, and if you aren't one of those who would be affected, this would make a very good buy.