Odyssey boasts car-like ride and handling, a powerful and fuel-efficient 244-horsepower V6 engine, and a clever seating system that can accommodate up to eight passengers.
Odyssey comes standard with side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes, and the body structure is designed to offer improved crash protection.
Completely redesigned for 2005, the Odyssey carries on with few changes for 2006.
Honda Odyssey LX ($25,345); EX ($28,395); EX with Leather ($30,795); Touring ($36,595)
Large headlights flank its big grille. The hood is sculptured with curves that lead naturally back to the windshield and emphasize the big fender flares. Honda has not hidden the sliding door channels at the base of the window but left them partially obscured by a crease that runs the length of the vehicle.
All models come with two sliding doors, manually operated on the LX and electrically operated on all other models. The power windows in each of the side doors can be opened in the same fashion as in a car. The tailgate is electrically operated in the top-of-the-line Touring. The power doors seemed a bit reluctant to operate at times, less responsive to key fob commands than Toyota's sliding doors.
The Odyssey boasts Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure. The vehicle's crush zones have been re-engineered to provide better protection for occupants while lessening damage when hitting other smaller vehicles and pedestrians. Its body structure is rigid, a key element for crisp handling and a smooth ride. A low drag coefficient helps improve fuel economy and high-speed stability.
The driver's seat is designed to hold the driver more firmly and is positioned in a car-like setting. Power-adjustable pedals are available in the Touring model. The shift lever is mounted on the dashboard; it looks odd at first, but it's easier to use than a column-mounted shifter. A handy drink tray is provided between the front seats, but there's no center console.
The second-row bucket seats are comfortable.
The third-row seat is split 60/40 and folds easily into the well provided for it, and the headrests do not need to be removed before folding.
There's room for eight people with the optional PlusOne seat that fits between the two captain's chairs in the second row. If it's not needed as a seat it can be turned into a table or stowed in the floor in place of the Lazy Susan bin. If the PlusOne seat is not being used, the right-hand seat can be slid across to allow easier access to the third-row seats. This flexibility makes the Odyssey a versatile people hauler, but it's not the best in the class for hauling cargo.
The optional voice-activated DVD navigation system includes Zagat restaurant data. The large eight-inch monitor is positioned high on the dashboard for easy viewing. The voice-activated system responds to 637 commands and is smart enough to understand different accents and find locations without any need for input other than by voice. Apart from navigation, the system can be used to operate the radio and climate controls. We found the system responds effectively to voice commands.
The available DVD entertainment system features a large nine-inch widescreen display that folds out of the ceiling. For 2006, the DVD system comes standard on Touring models (previously it was only available with the navigation system). The wireless headsets turn on and off automatically as the ear pads are rotated. For 2006, XM Satellite Radio is standard on Touring models.
Who'd ever think of putting a Lazy Susan in a minivan? Honda has. No, it's not for serving food, but for adding an incredibly useful hidden storage area. The previous Odyssey had a storage well under the floor of the front seats for the spare tire. Honda engineers have moved the spare to a location in the rear. Instead of removing the round space under the floor where the spare used to reside they've turned it into a hidden storage compartment with a rotating compartmentalized bin. There's a small access panel in the floor between the two front seats for front passengers to get access and another bigger one in front of the center-row seats for access. So whatever stuff is stowed in the Lazy Susan, front or middle-row passengers can turn it for access. Ingenious!
Not as ingenious are the two glove boxes, which are more awkward for storage than one big one.
The Odyssey belies its size on the road and handles like a premium sedan. It's not as dynamic as a European sports sedan, of course, but it's certainly better than an SUV. We found its handling and ride pleasant for long drives as well as around town.
During a test drive along country roads near the Honda factory in Alabama, we found the Odyssey offered a perfectly pleasant ride. It was neither too firm nor too soft. Granted, there is some road vibration. And there is some slack in the steering on-center: You can turn the steering wheel a few degrees in either direction before the vehicle starts to move. It was no worse than in a Chrysler Town & Country, however, and many people will not notice as it's a common trait of many large cars and most SUVs. All in all, it's an ideal vehicle for a long-distance drive.
Several laps around a race track showed the Odyssey to be stable at high speeds. And we were surprised how much we could chuck it into corners. We found we could drive hard enough into a sharp corner to feel the tires slip without any drama. We could not feel much body roll (lean) in corners, and an Odyssey lapping in front of us looked remarkably stable for a tall vehicle.
Parking is easy. The turning radius is among the tightest of any minivan, making it an easy to make U-turns and maneuver in parking lots. The park-assist system, with beeping tones that warn the driver of other bumpers front and rear, helps considerably when parallel parking.
Straight-line acceleration is good, better than other minivans. Yet despite having 244 horsepower going through the front wheels, the Odyssey is almost devoid of any torque steer.
The Odyssey's 3.5-liter V6 engine is smooth, powerful, clean and fuel efficient. The iVTEC V6 (intelligent Variable Timing and Electronic Control) that comes on the EX with Leather and the Touring model gets an EPA-rated 20/28 mpg City/Highway, which is better fuel economy than the standard VTEC that comes on the LX and EX, 19/25 mpg. The iVTEC engine does this by deactivating three of the six cylinders whenever you're cruising. We were never able to discern when the engine was running on three cylinders as there is no visible lurching or change in engine note, although a green dash light illuminates to tell you the system is working. Both versions of the V6 generate the same amount of power: 244 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (though the iVTEC generates its peak torque at 4500 rpm vs. 5000 rpm for the VTEC). If it looks like horsepower figures are lower for 2006, it's due to a change in how the Society of Automotive Engineers tests engines. No change has actually been made to the engines.
The brakes work well. Every Odyssey comes with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Vehicle Stability Assist, Honda's electronic stability control system. This system works in conjunction with the drive-by-wire accelerator and ABS to modulate the brakes while managing the throttle and ignition. If the vehicle starts to lose grip on a tight turn on a slippery surface, the system automatically slows the engine and gently applies brakes to stop the vehicle from skidding out of control. In a test on a soaking skid pad we found the system works well. Fortunately it only works in emergency situations so it's not distracting during normal spirited driving. It can be turned off, though we recommend against doing so.
Booming road noise, especially from the rear seats, was a common complaint of the previous-generation Odyssey. Honda claims that the current vehicle is much quieter with increased amounts of sound-deadening material and floating sub frames that keep suspension and tire noise more
Anyone who appreciates the versatility of a minivan coupled with the driving characteristics of a car will delight in owning a Honda Odyssey. The Touring model is especially compelling for drivers who a versatile luxury utility vehicle that rides like a car. Perhaps that's why Honda calls its Odyssey a premium adventure vehicle.
New Car Test Drive correspondent John Rettie filed this report from Alabama, near the Honda assembly plant.