2011 Honda Odyssey
Base price: $28,580 – $44,030
As tested: $44,030
MPG: 18 city/27 highway
- Roomy with flexible seating arrangements
- Drives like a luxury sedan
- Safety features, crash test results
- Styling emergency
- All-wheel drive not offered
- The minivan stigma is still here
By Jim Prueter
All-new Odyssey nearly perfect in every way
There’s something about driving a minivan that supposedly sends a signal or message that you aren’t quite as hip as you think you are or once were, and that driving one is guaranteed to end your social life, as you once knew it.
It wasn’t all that long ago when minivans sold well in excess of a million new units each year. However, divide that number by two and you’ll have the sales results for 2010. Compare that to some 2.5 million SUVs sold and you’ll understand why Ford, Chevrolet and Hyundai have pulled the plug on theirs in favor of larger crossover SUVs. Still, Toyota redesigned its Sienna this year, Chrysler its Town and Country, Dodge its Caravan for 2008, and Kia offers the Sedona that few choose to buy. Nissan is readying a new Quest van this spring.
If there is any way you can justify driving a minivan, the newly redesigned Honda Odyssey is about the best overall vehicle a person could ever hope to drive and is easily the best one on the market. The Odyssey delivers in spades everything one would expect from this class of vehicle.
Included in the thorough redesign is the Odyssey’s exterior styling that’s such a dismal failure that when viewed from the side exudes all the charm of an industrial power generator. From the “C” pillar along the side windows, the back end of the Honda appears to simply have broken down from the weight of an excessive load in the cargo area.
The folks at Honda say the mismatch of the body panels creates a visual “lightning-bolt beltline” that satisfies a creative styling minivan owners have longed for. Add the ugly open wound used for the sliding side door and one has to wonder how the designers got a nod of approval for this Aztek castoff.
If you can get by the hideous styling, and don’t need the optional all-wheel drive offered by Toyota’s Sienna minivan, then the reworked Odyssey beats all competition and earns a AAA Top Pick for 2011.
The new Odyssey is both wider (by 2 inches) and longer than previous generations. We weren’t as impressed with the crisp handling qualities as before, which pays off in an improved ride. Yet the ride was controlled and exceptionally comfortable, and remains well planted on curves and corners even though it gives up some agility.
Odyssey is available in seven models, all powered by the same 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 248 horsepower. LX and EX models have five-speed automatic transmissions, while both Touring editions have six-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy is rated at 18 miles per gallon in town, 27 highway for five-speed transmission models, 19 and 28 miles per gallon, respectively, for six-speed models.
As expected, there’s loads of space for both people and cargo with seating for eight on large comfortable seats that provide excellent lateral and thigh support. There’s a power lumbar adjustment, and a height-adjustable armrest on the driver’s seat is a welcomed touch.
Honda engineers also fixed the ills of the previous generation’s second-row maladies, which were too narrow for an adult to sit comfortably and oddly didn’t have latches for a car seat. Now, the middle-second-row seat’s width has been increased by 4 inches and slides forward 5.5 inches making it easy for the front seat passenger to reach a child in the middle car seat. There’s also a “wide mode” that spaces the seats out for three additional inches of hip room by allowing them to slide sideways. While you can now easily fit three-across child seats, it does make access to the third row more difficult.
Three passengers will find adequate space and comfort in the vehicle’s third row. With all seats in the raised position there’s still a deep luggage well behind the 60/40-split rear seat. You can fold one or both sections flat into the floor to make additional cargo space. For maximum cargo space, however, you must completely remove the second-row seats.
Odyssey has 11 cupholders and an additional four large bottle holders. Our tester included a nice feature called the “cool box” drink storage compartment under the center console. It runs off the vehicles air conditioning system but operates independent of the interior cabins temperature setting.
Odyssey’s gauges are large and easy to read and there’s a large screen that serves as a display for the backup camera and audio system information. The backup camera and a blind-spot monitoring system located in the vehicle’s exterior mirrors are only available on the top-of-the-line Touring Elite model.
Standard safety gear on all models include dual-stage multiple-threshold front airbags, front side airbags with passenger-side occupant position detection system, three-row side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, front active head restraints, anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability assist with traction control, second and third-row LATCH child seat anchors, and child-proof rear door locks.
The 2011 Odyssey earned the highest possible crash test ratings of “Good” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the highest possible overall 5-star U.S. Government crash test rating.
Overall, the all-new 2011 Odyssey is a terrific vehicle with little other than styling to fault. Sure there’s the stigma associated with being seen driving a minivan that seems to bring self imposed shame and possible scorn. But I confess, few if any luxury sedans I’ve tested over the years can compare to the overall ride, comfort, practicality and simple convenience afforded by the Odyssey. I guess that means I’m buying into Honda’s advertising that “The new Honda Odyssey has everything one would dream about in a van if…one had dreams about vans.”