I know what you are thinking: Why do we need to talk about them? Are they now dinosaurs in the marketplace. Who really buys these things?
First off, minivans are still an essential part of family transportation. Why? Have you been in a three-row crossover and try to fit more than five adults in one and have them sit comfortably for a long journey? The larger ones could do this well, but only a few others could, too.
This is where the minivan comes into play. However, some minivans are not made equal. Some are even more comfortable than others. Some offer more amenities than others. Some even offer a fun feature that would be worth buying the entire vehicle.
Perhaps after 30 years, we may have found the right minivan for everyone to ride in. Maybe we have found the one minivan that would continue the breed.
That minivan is the Honda Odyssey.
Describing the Odyssey is very easy. It is unique, different and a true standout amongst all vehicles. It also has presence – something once forgotten in the minivan game. Before you look elsewhere, there is the oddly shaped rear quarter glass and the “kink” towards the tail end of the sliding side doors. That becomes the focal point to show how much the Odyssey will stand out in a crowded parking lot.
The presence part starts up front with a revised version of Honda’s grille and a new set of headlamps. Fog lamps finish the overall frontal clip giving the lower grille some jewelry. This Touring Elite has eighteen-inch aluminum wheels wearing Michelin tires. The side sliding doors and rear hatch are power operated by touch or by remote.
If there is one reason to pick the top of the line Touring Elite – it is the HondaVac. Not only this is the first onboard installation for a vacuum cleaner in any vehicle, it also works extremely well.
Space is massive for three rows of leather upholstered seats. Eight people would feel comfortable in this van. If you want to haul strictly adults, the realistic passenger capacity is seven. The first row has two thrones for a grand view of everything ahead – thanks to its massive windshield and additional front quarter glass pane. Second row seating have the option to expand an inch or so wider to truly accommodate eight people, or to let the center seat down as an armrest with cupholders. The third row is equally comfortable with ease of access thanks to a flip-action second row seat.
Cargo space is huge and is helped by the third row folding flat into the hole normally reserved for large pieces of luggage and a secure place for groceries. Honda claims that with the second and third rows put away, you can fit an eight-by-four sheet of plywood flat all the way to the back of the first row. The drawback is that you will have to remove the second row seats out of the Odyssey to do so.
The driver has full control of the Odyssey. A commanding position behind a straightforward instrument binnacle helps in managing the Odyssey through traffic and tight parking spots. The Elite offers the two screens in the center – the touch screen for primary functions of the audio system and settings and a static screen for the navigation and other readouts. Climate controls are wedged in-between the two screens. Luckily, drivers can reach these controls. There are some redundant switches on the steering wheel for audio controls and the cruise control.
Rear passengers could also get access to climate and audio controls to fit their comfort levels, as well. The Touring Elite model also comes with a drop-down LCD screen playing video from a DVD player with wireless headphones and a HDMI connection for video games.
The Odyssey continues to surprise, starting with what is underneath the hood. Honda’s corporate 3.5liter V6 powers this 4,613 pound luxury minivan. Though it only has 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque on tap, there is more than enough power to take on the highway. A smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission sends seamless power down to the front wheels.
The Odyssey is known for its ride. It is very smooth and comfortable for all passengers on board. There is a bit of roll and lean in the corners, but not enough to be of a concern for passengers. In all, this is a steady and stable minivan made for all sorts of adventures.
Some may find the steering on the heavy side. However, it has great center feel and it turns quite well – and executes surprisingly tight turns. The Odyssey may be the most maneuverable minivan out on the market. It also has great braking power with solid stops in both normal and panic situations. Add some of the most intuitive parking sensors to keep your Odyssey out of trouble.
The best selling point for a minivan is fuel economy – compared to a three-row crossover or SUV. The Odyssey turned in an average of 20.2MPG. Honda claims an average of 22MPG for the Odyssey.
Odyssey minivans start off with an LX model. The baseline for the LX is $29,805. The Touring Elite is at the top of range, with our tester stickered at $45,280.
Sure, the Honda Odyssey Touring Elite is quite expensive. Consider what you get, though. It is a huge minivan that does not feel huge. It is a nimble minivan with presence. It has a vacuum cleaner on board – what more do you want?
That is the question, really. The Odyssey makes things easier for families with 4-5 children – or families of a few dogs and plenty of friends. It is comfortable, smooth and shows off quite the presence on the road. How many vehicles do you can surpass these qualities. Then again, how many of these vehicles happen to be a minivan? The Honda Odyssey is a minivan done well.