AUTO: Seek and you shall find

Nissan’s modern-family-friendly Quest: Finally a minivan that’s (almost) cool

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LIVE LIKE A DUNPHEY | Driver’s seat styling doesn’t take a backseat in the Quest LE ... though the backseat, with built-in DVD player, may be too good for the kids. (Photo courtesy Nissan)

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer
crwauto@aol.com

Whenever my partner and I watch Modern Family, we see too much of ourselves in Mitchell and Cam’s relationship. We debate which of us most resembles the characters — my partner would be the one to present our baby as The Lion King,  and I can completely queen out over something trivial. However, it’s another star of the show that would be welcomed by double daddies.

Nissan’s product placement of the all-new Quest mini-van was uber-smart. Although driven by Claire in the show, it’s easy to imagine two dads and their adopted offspring heading off to a fabulous vacation in that sleek bus. The streamlined toaster’s distinguished wrap-around rear glass sits atop creased bodysides, 18-in. alloys and a chrome grille that could part wind for an Infiniti or two flaming queens.

As big as the Quest is — and it is huge — it comes off as a much smaller vehicle until you creep upon it.

Nobody thinks minivans are cool nowadays … not that they ever did. But the joy of owning one sneaks up on you. The Quest’s interior is absolutely dance-club spacious with seating enough for seven. If little ones are in your future, six of your nearest and dearest friends will love going anywhere with you. Point the nose in any direction and slide aboard.

Friends slip through the power sliding rear doors, open either of the dual sunroofs (rear riders get their own), and climate control their individual zones. You could throw Manny in the back and never hear his adolescent pontifications again. Front passengers have heated seats and ride in thrones that smell like cow butter and are more luxurious than those in a Gulfstream jet; rear seats fold flat to throw in bicycles, a Nelson credenza or enough regalia for a production of La Boheme.

Play a CD of the opera through the van’s 13-speaker Bose audio system, recline your seat and pretend you’re there. Or put in a DVD to see it on the roof-mounted flatscreen. In-dash navigation, rear camera, blind spot warning system, Bluetooth phone connections, USB input for MP3 players and XM Satellite Radio bring you back to the current time with a full suite of toys.

My sister, who has three kids, was impressed with the Quest. Under the rear floor is a deep well to store valuables out of sight. Wide pockets in the doors are big enough for baby gear and have places to hold water bottles. Consoles between the front and middle-row seats hold drinks, iPads or anything else a modern family carries. If you can carry it, this van will haul it.auto-02

When Claire needs to make a quick get-away from another awkward situation, they’ll throttle down on the standard 260hp 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine, connected to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Most CVTs reel up and down their gear ratios maintaining a shrill somewhere between a Weed Eater and a screaming cat. Not so the Quest’s. It’s quiet, smooth and enables excellent 19/24-MPG city/hwy. ratings — not bad for a 4,500-lb. truck.

“Quiet” describes the overall experience. Large mirrors are separated from the body to minimize wind noise as the aero body slips through air without causing a stir. The chassis absorbs bumps without drama, steering is tight and power is always at the ready. Cruising beyond 80mph was easy. I even took down a pickup truck on a hilly two-lane. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, and electronic stability control quiets the mind’s fears.

Like Jay and Gloria’s house on Modern Family, the overall sense of the Quest is understated quality. The seats feel and smell like they could be in a Bentley, padded materials cover even the rear doors, the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels expensive, and the woodgrain and silver finishes on the center dashboard are nicely styled. My partner and I found ourselves really enjoying a long drive, ready to head out into the vastness of America to find ourselves again, knowing full-well at any time we could stop, flip the seats, and find ourselves finding ourselves.

As everything about the Quest is tech-laden and high quality, it comes with a price tag that only a loaded modernist can afford.

Base prices start at $27,750, but our well-equipped test model came to $43,715. Still, you won’t find a luxury SUV so well equipped with half the interior space for less. Minivans aren’t cool, but the Quest is a fab choice for any alternative family.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Prince Poppycock at Station 4

You may have seen Chuck Dube’s Prince Poppycock slideshow already, but several videos have been posted of his performance Thursday at Station 4. And it looked kinda fabulous. Opera in a dance club doesn’t seem a likely pairing, but the crowd turned out for the America’s Got Talent finalist’s show — and some even in costume.

Looks like it was a good way to start off the holiday weekend.

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 02.04

She’ll give you ‘Hot Pleasure’
With five number one dance hits, Erika Jayne is nicely establishing herself as a singer to be reckoned with. She’s even knocked off big hitters like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga from the top spot of Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play charts. Her most recent single “One Hot Pleasure” is her fifth consecutive hit. Yeah, she’s pretty much bringing it.

DEETS: Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Midnight. $7. PartyAtTheBlock.com.

Saturday 02.05

As gay as the Super Bowl can get
Are you ready for some football? OK, what about a big Cedar Springs Super Street Party? Showing that the LGBT community has an affinity for both, the Cedar Springs Merchants Association put together what may be the first gay Super Bowl celebration ever. Live music, DJs, food, beer and an appearance by gay athlete of the year Michael Holtz round out the shebang.

DEETS: Cedar Springs and Throckmorton roads. 7 p.m. Free. ShopCedarSprings.com.

Wednesday 02.09

Payback really is a bitch
New company Broken Gears Project Theatre presents August Strindberg’s Creditors about three people who play diabolical and manipulative games with each other.And it all sounds delicious, especially when Rene Moreno is directing.

DEETS: 3819 Fairmount St. 8 p.m. Through Feb. 26. $10-$15. BrokenGearsTheatre.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Big Freedia at The Loft on Saturday

Walking into The Loft at a little after 11 p.m., I was stunned how empty the place was. With the DJ at full throttle onstage playing some nice high-energy hip-hop, I had high hopes that Big Freedia had more of a following outside New Orleans. The crowd dug the DJ and bounced to the tunes and it was pretty much just a night at a dance club. Before Freedia was about to go on, the place began to fill up. Although I’m not sure all were totally Freedia fans, it was definitely a hip-hop crowd.

The gay contingent was hard to decipher. I loved how JW Richard of the new Groove Loves Melody music blog described some of the hard-to-read peeps as “undercover candy.” So true. But otherwise, a mixture of gay and straight, white, black, Latino, old and young — although definitely more young.

With just a handful of songs, Freedia threw down one pretty sweet party. Despite the fans being outnumbered by non-fans (because fans knew the words and responses),  his music is infectious and the crowd didn’t care about his frankness of being the Queen Diva of Bounce (they applauded, actually) among other things. Freedia had energy to spare and worked his dancehall calls to no end. But really, I learned a Freedia show is about that ass shaking and when the boys were besting the girls up there, it was a sight to behold. Some of the straight peeps had the “what the hell?” look, while everyone just went with the party flow and whooped and hollered.

It’s funny, because there wasn’t anything overly spectacular about the show. Freedia showed up, rapped, dance and that was it. But it was him and his music’s pumped up vibe that just flung its energy across the small venue and everyone caught it. I would dare to say that he probably won a few new fans that night who, like me, had no idea what to expect.

Here’s a glimpse of the show.

—  Rich Lopez

A single man

Jason Dottley is still married to queer Texas scribe Del Shores, but he plans to dominate the dance charts one spin at a time

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

JASON DOTTLEY
The Rose Room,
3911 Cedar Springs Road.
Sept. 18. Gay Bingo at 6 p.m.;
concert after 10 p.m.
“Hit Play” and “Party Round the World” on iTunes.

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Getting a song on the Billboard Top 20 is probably the dream of every singer, but to have it happen on the first song you’ve ever released? That’s reason to party.

Such is the recent success of Jason Dottley. He’s familiar as the actor who played Ty on TV’s Sordid Lives, written and directed by his (legal!) husband Del Shores. But he expanded into recording artist faster that you can say Bruce Willis and The Return of Bruno. His first single, “Party Round the World” with Debby Holiday, spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart, peaking at No. 19. Dottley’s newest single, “Hit Play,” just dropped this summer.

Dottley will be in Dallas for Gay Pride weekend performing (not in drag, he promises) in the Rose Room Saturday, which coincides perfectly with the single’s official release for Billboard charting purposes.

But despite his successes in the studio, Dottley says has no plans of releasing a full album. “I think it’s a single’s world like it was back when Elvis ruled the radio,” he explains. “Hit record after hit record: That’s my plan.”

The new track, he says, is an ode to DJs.

“To the Dallas DJs Roger Huffman, Erik Thoresen, Ronnie Bruno, Ric Herrington and Renee Brown who supported my

‘Party Round the World’ so much,” Dottley says. “When I lost my dad at 18, I would go to clubs three nights a week. They were my church, my sanctuary. And as they say, God was the DJ, so I’m asking him to ‘Hit Play’ — to open the doors of the dancetuary, so to speak.”

Though breaking the Top 20 on a debut is impressive, Dottley has set the bar higher for “Hit Play.”

“I have a stellar line-up of remixes by the U.K.’s No. 1 hit-maker, Cutmore, the insanely rowdy Perry Twins, circuit-king Manny Lehman, late-night’s Twisted Dee, my gem of a discovery Chris Thomas and the straight world’s Frank Pellegrino. It’s a helluva remix package.”

Because Shores is from Texas, Dottley has been a frequent visitor to the city, so he’s glad that during his trip here, he’ll partake in a grand, gay tradition.

“I’ll also be doing Gay Bingo beforehand,” he says. “That’s a dream come true. I’ve been practicing, ‘O–69!’”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas