People tend to treat buying minivans like going to the dentist, something to do because they have to. A large SUV looks rugged and tough, rather than sensible and family-oriented.
But a good minivan is actually a much better alternative. “A minivan is tough to beat when it comes to carting your kids around or to moving the maximum number of people in maximum comfort and efficiency,” said Vicki Poponi, assistant vice president of Product Planning for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Beyond the superior functionality inherent to a minivan, the Odyssey offers customers convenient seating versatility, a high-quality feel and a reputation for surprisingly engaging driving dynamics.”
One of the best choices when it comes to buying a minivan is the Honda Odyssey and we were actually excited to get to drive the Odyssey. Of course, your kids will be even more excited, especially if you show up with something with as many gadgets as this one. The Odyssey comes in five different versions ranging from the basic LX to the top-of-the-line Touring Elite, which was our test van.
The basic LX comes pretty well-equipped with eight-way power driver seat, front and rear air conditioning, “magic” third-row seat, cruise control, power locks and windows, remote entry system and a 229-watt audio system with subwoofer. You get all of that for $27,800. Pay $30,950 and you get to bring the EX model into your garage. The EX gives you 17 inch alloy wheels, power sliding doors, tri-zone air conditioning, and multi-function second row seat. The EX-L will cost you $34,450 and you get fancy items such as leather trimmed interior, heated front seats, power moonroof, rearview camera, and Bluetooth hands free connectivity.
The $40,755 Touring model gives you many big ticket items such as 18 inch alloy wheels, a six speed automatic transmission, acoustic windshield, DVD rear entertainment system, 246 watt audio system with 15GB hard drive, 115 volt power inverter, and navigation system with rear view camera. The Touring Elite will cost you $43,250 and give you HID headlamps, blind spot monitoring, a wide screen rear entertainment system and 650 watt audio system with twelve speakers with surround sound.
Minivans are about features and amenities first and we tend to value those more than say handling or performance. People who buy minivans usually do not care about hanging turns or how fast it accelerates. But if there was a sports sedan of vans, the Odyssey would probably be the one. Every Odyssey is powered by a 248 hp 3.5 liter SOHC V6 that is smooth and quiet and perfectly suited for the job. The all-aluminum engine redlines at 6300 rpm and starts to sound strained and harsh when pushed hard but not many Odyssey owners will ever drive it that way.
In everyday driving the engine is barely heard especially in our Touring Elite model with its great sound insulation. The Touring and Touring Elite models also come with a six speed automatic transmission rather than the five speed automatic that comes with the other models. The six speed transmission is a great match for the engine and results in improved fuel economy. The LX, EX, and EX-L models with the five speed transmission get 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the freeway. The six speed improves each number by one. That is not a big deal but 28 mpg for a large minivan is fantastic.
The Odyssey has built a loyal following for its useful blend of versatility, functionality and quality. The 2011 Odyssey advances that mission with an even greater range of comfort and convenience features. The new Odyssey offers generous space inside, with up to 172.6 cubic feet of total passenger volume and 148.5 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front seats. With comfortable and flexible seating configurations, numerous storage bins and pockets, up to 15 beverage holders, leather seating surfaces, and a host of useful and enjoyable electronic features, the Odyssey interior quickly adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
The 60/40 split third-row Magic Seat allows the Odyssey to quickly and easily adapt between passenger and cargo duties. The third row Magic Seat can accommodate up to three passengers and still provide 38.4 cubic-feet of cargo volume behind the seats, or fold completely flat into the floor to create 93.1 cubic-feet of cargo volume while still maintaining room for five passengers (four passengers on LX). With the second-row seats removed, total cargo volume expands to 148.5 cubic-feet. Total interior volume measures 210.0 cubic feet for passenger and cargo volume combined. The wide-mode adjustable 2nd-row seats with armrests and walk-in feature allow for the seats to move sideways for improved comfort and convenience.
A new feature for 2011, a removable center console on the EX and above, adds more storage and better accommodation for handheld electronics, as compared to the retractable center tray table it replaces on the previous generation Odyssey. Underneath the console is an additional tray for times when the console is removed from the vehicle. Research by Honda has shown that the retractable center tray with center pass-through was predominantly used by customers in either the up position or the down position throughout the ownership of the vehicle. Those that desired center pass-through capability typically left the retractable tray in the down position. Those that desired a tray always left it up and may not have fully utilized the space underneath.
Honda engineers closely studied the patterns of how people use the second-row seating of a minivan. They made three primary findings. First, the second row is primarily used for two people and comfort is a top priority. Second, they discovered that the ability to place a child seat in any second-row position would greatly enhance load-in flexibility for people with younger children. Finally, the middle-seat functionality and comfort — which is very important when desired — could be greatly enhanced by making the seat wider and adding slide capability.
The 2011 Odyssey’s second row uses two full-size captain’s chairs, and Odyssey EX and above models are equipped with a more-comfortable and versatile Multi-functional 2nd-row seat that replaces the old second row seat from the previous generation Odyssey. The multi-functional second row center seat is 3.9-inches wider than the previous model’s available center seat and can slide forward by up to 5.5 inches — a new feature for 2011. All second-row seats are removable, and each outboard chair on the Odyssey EX and above model has a folding outboard armrest. When not in use by a passenger, the center multi-functional second row seat’s seatback can fold down to create a large center armrest with three beverage holders and a tray.
Another new feature for 2011 is the second-row wide-mode configuration which can be formed by moving one or both of the outboard seats laterally by 1.5 inches (each). Primary benefits to the wide-mode configuration include the ability to install up to three child seats side-by-side in the second row, or it can be used to maintain ingress/egress pass-through from the second row into the third row when one or two child seats are installed (utilizing the center seat and one of the outboard seats). Additionally, the center seat’s new ability to move forward allows for a child seat to be closer to the front-row occupants.
A great feature of our Touring Elite is the ultra wide rear entertainment system. At 16.2 inches wide, the screen is the largest ever offered in a Honda. It can simultaneously show two different sources of programming side-by-side, such as a video game and a movie, for different passengers. The two programs being played can be easily switched from side to side using a button near the screen, so the viewers don’t have to change seats. The system includes an HDMI port for attaching high definition players and certain gaming consoles, along with standard composite and audio inputs.
The amount of thought that has gone in the Odyssey is just amazing. If you are a busy parent, you will really appreciate the features and the engineering. The Touring Elite model is expensive (and how many parents really need a 650-watt audio system?), but the LX model, at around $31,000, is a much better deal.
The Odyssey is a remarkable vehicle that just begs to go on a long road trip with the family. If you only have a few kids, load up the grandparents and you can have a memorable trip that you will never forget.