Test Drive: Honda Odyssey

If a vehicle, like the Honda Odyssey, is one of the largest vehicles the company makes, with the exception of the Ridgeline truck and the new Honda Jet? aircraft, then why is it called a MINIvan?? Why isn?t it called a passenger van or station wagon or a ?MAXI-van?.? The same goes for all the other brands of great big vans still under the misconception that they are ?mini? vans.? Isn?t it time we start calling these people movers what they really are?

All new for 2011, the forth-generation Odyssey evolves from one of the top-rated vehicles of this type, having received dozens of awards and top ratings since it first appeared in 1995.? And like its predecessor, the new Odyssey is still one of the best.

It?s difficult to make a big box look distinctive or stylish but Honda designers have given the new Odyssey new lines that set it apart from competitors while maintaining the Honda family characteristics.? The front end is pure Honda with the classic dual horizontal bar grill flanked by wing-like light housings. ?Rather than slab sides, the Odyssey has a more muscular appearance with more sculpture and a distinctive dip in the window line at the C pillar.

Much of the styling contributes to the enhanced aerodynamic shape that helps give it class-leading 28 mpg (for the Touring model) highway fuel economy. Of course, even more important than the slippery exterior is what?s under the hood.? All four Odyssey models are powered by Honda?s efficient 3.5-liter, 248-hp V-6 engine, which produces a respectable 8.8 second 0 to 60 mph acceleration time.

What makes this Honda engine extra efficient; especially on the highway, is the Variable Cylinder Management system which allows the engine to cycle down to four or even three of the six cylinders as conditions permit — for example, when cruising or coasting.? When two or three of the cylinders are on vacation, like that, Honda engineers wanted to make sure it was not obvious to a keen driver?s ear, so they added an audio-based Active Noise Cancellation? system and a chassis-based Active Control Engine Mount (ACM) system to cancel noise and vibration that can occur during cylinder deactivation.? These systems seem to do the job, because we could never tell it was ever running on less than six cylinders unless we saw the ?ECO? dash light.

All models, except for the top-level touring version, get a five-speed automatic transmission, while that model gets a six-speed automatic.? The one extra gear difference gives the Touring model one mile per gallon better fuel economy across the board ? city, highway and combined ? at 19/28/22 mpg.? By the way, those numbers are two to four miles per gallon better than the previous generation.

Like all Honda vehicles, the Odyssey interior is well designed and attractive.? Controls are positioned logically with the shifter mounted conveniently on the left side of the center stack leaving the console as a free-standing piece between the seats.? The center console provides storage for a good size purse, or even a laptop computer.? Throughout the cabin there are convenient storage bins, a hook for trash bag, and (depending on the model) up to 15 drink holders.

The Rear Entertainment System is a great pacifier for bored children.? It includes a 16.2-inch-wide screen, that folds out of the ceiling, which is large enough to show two sources of programing (for example one side a movie, and the other side a game).? The system is standard on the Odyssey Touring Elite model, and includes wireless headphones.

The Honda ?MAXI-van? will hold seven or eight passengers, depending on the model. If the job requires cargo capacity, it will carry 4×8-foot sheets of building material with the rear gate closed?a lot of full-size pickups can?t make that claim.? It can also haul 10-foot-long boards inside when the optional removable center console is removed. ?Even with all the seats in use, there?s room for 38.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the third row seat.? That?s enough space for each passenger to bring a medium size suitcase.

The new Odyssey is filled with great technology, too.? We are big fans of the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition.? Neither of us is very accomplished at the voice commands yet, however we both are a ?wiz? at button pushing.? The Honda navigation system is one of our favorites because it is so intuitive and fast, plus it offers amazing information with new features like the Zagat? restaurant guide and FM traffic to help get around traffic congestion. The points of interest database now has more than seven million entries.

One other feature we think is essential, and should be on all vehicles, is the Blind Spot Information System which warns drivers when there?s a vehicle in that blind spot on either side of the vehicle.

The Odyssey comes in five trim levels LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite.? Prices start at $28,075 for the LX and peak at $43,525 (plus an $810 destination charge) for the Touring Elite model, which has no available options or than color.

For more information on the Honda Odyssey go online to?http://automobiles.honda.com/

Barbara & Bill Schaffer


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