Welcome to the limovan, the 2000 Nissan Quest SE.
Technically, it's a minivan that's classified as a truck, which makes no sense at all.
There is nothing truck-like about the thing. And other than its shape, there's not much "minivan" about it, either.
It's three-fourths limousine, one-fourth van. Step inside. You'll see what I mean.
There are leather seats and nice carpeting, of course. But you'll notice that the interior space, though ample, is not as large as that found in a standard minivan, such as a Dodge Caravan or Toyota Sienna. The dimensions are smaller, akin to those of a luxury car.
The feel is that of a rich sedan, too. The leather seats are perforated, allowing them to breathe. That makes them more comfortable in hot and cold weather. Chrome covers the interior door handles for an additional touch of elegance.
Standard onboard info-tainment systems in the Quest SE include sound and video--a seven-speaker, 130-watt AM-FM radio, cassette and CD player, as well as a videocassette player with a 6.4-inch screen mounted in the center console.
In all, there are seven cup holders and 31 storage spaces within the Quest SE. There are two illuminated visor vanity mirrors, power windows and locks with illuminated switches, and a remote keyless entry system that illuminates the interior when activated. You can install a phone and fax transceiver, as well as other electronic goodies, if you wish.
Neat stuff. But it leaves me feeling weird.
It's an AWE (Acute Wealth Effect) problem, a shocking disconnect between the excesses of the moment and the practicality of the past.
This is supposed to be a utility vehicle, a simple hauler of people and cargo. That was the case with the first minivans, those produced by Chrysler Corp. in 1984. Those early vans were elongated boxes on wheels, designed to carry up to seven people and their baggage. Families bought them. Moms drove them. They were soccer buses, troop carriers, surrogate station wagons. They also were affordable, which means they weren't about image.
But image sells, especially in a society where few people want to be ordinary and in an economy where many can afford to be different. That's why we're getting so many crossover vehicles--pickup trucks with sedan doors and seating, sport-utility vehicles that look like expensive station wagons, and expensive station wagons that function like sport-utility vehicles. It's a very short distance from there to the minivan as limo.
None of this is to say that the 2000 Quest SE totally lacks practical value. Like its structural and mechanical twin, the Mercury Villager, it has one of the most useful cargo floors of any minivan, large or small. Credit the Quest Trac Flexible Seating System, which allows the easy movement and rearrangement of middle and rear seats to create ample carrying room.
There is an optional Quest Smart Shelf, which can be reconfigured to carry baby strollers and other items. You can also outfit the Quest to pull a trailer weighing 3,500 pounds, which should give you enough space to bring a butler and kitchen staff.
Join Warren Brown tomorrow at 11 a.m. at www.washingtonpost. com/liveonline for "Real Wheels," his live discussion about cars.
Nuts & Bolts
2000 Nissan Quest SE
Complaints: Interior space gets tight with seven occupants. Also, federal crash-test scores rank the Quest below several rivals in its ability to withstand offset frontal collisions (angled hits behind the front fenders).
Praise: With five or fewer occupants, the front-wheel-drive Quest becomes a comfortable, enjoyable, posh highway cruiser. There is no such thing as a boring trip in this one.
Head-turning quotient: As is the case with its twin, the Mercury Villager, the Quest is one of the best-looking minivans on the market, especially with two-tone paint.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Everything about the way it moves and handles says large family sedan. There's nothing trucky about it. Acceleration is surprisingly good.
Engine: All 2000 Quest models (base GXE, SE cloth, SE leather and top-of-the-line GLE) are equipped with a 3.3-liter, single-overhead-cam V-6 designed to produce 170 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 200 pound-feet of torque at 2,800 rpm. The engine is mated to a standard electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission that exhibits very little downshifting on uphill grades.
Mileage: About 20 miles per gallon in city-highway driving. Runs fine on regular unleaded gasoline. Holds 20 gallons of fuel.
Price: Base price on the tested 2000 Quest SE leather is $26,699, with a dealer invoice price of $23,994. Price as tested is $28,806, including $1,587 in options and a $520 destination charge.
Purse-strings note: Compare with Mercury Villager.