All Odyssey models are powered by a 244-horsepower V6 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. Four trim levels make it affordable to a wider group of buyers, yet all deliver car-like ride and handling and a comprehensive set of safety features, including electronic stability control and side curtain airbags for head protection.
In its third year of production, the current generation Odyssey still seems fresh. The base LX starts at about $26,000 and includes most of the features that make family travel easier. The line-topping Touring has as many bells and whistles as a good luxury sedan.
Odyssey's range of models has some drawbacks, to be sure. Certain desirable features such as the navigation system or fuel-saving Variable Cylinder Management are included only on the higher-priced models and not available as stand-alone options. With the Odyssey Touring approaching $40,000 out the door, it's out of reach for many buyers.
New for 2007: Honda's Tire Pressure Monitoring System is now standard on all Odyssey models. The system reports a significant drop in tire pressure with a warning indicator in the instruments and identifies the specific tire. Improvements for 2007 include a telescoping steering wheel and a more convenient coin holder. Otherwise, the Odyssey lineup carries over to 2007 unchanged.
Honda Odyssey LX ($25,645); EX ($28,695); EX with Leather ($31,095); Touring ($36,895)
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, and less responsive to key fob commands than the sliding doors on the Toyota Sienna.
The Odyssey boasts Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure. The vehicle's crush zones have been engineered to provide good protection for occupants while minimizing damage in a collision with smaller vehicles and pedestrians. Its body structure is rigid, which contributes to crisp handling and a smooth ride. A low drag coefficient helps improve fuel economy and high-speed stability.
New for 2007: The Honda Odyssey is now equipped with a steering wheel that telescopes in addition to tilting. The telescoping wheel adds a welcome element of flexibility in creating a comfortable driving position. There's also a new center pocket coin holder.
The driver's seat is designed to hold the driver 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, and while it looks odd at first, 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. Two glove boxes are provided, which are more awkward for storage than one big one.
The second-row bucket seats are roomy and comfortable.
The third-row seat splits 60/40 and folds easily into the well provided for it, and the headrests do not need to be removed before folding.
A useful storage area is hidden under the middle of the floor, accessible from both the front and middle-row seats. Originally designed to house the spare tire, Honda engineers moved the spare tire 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, like a Lazy Susan. A small panel in the floor between the two front seats lets front passengers access the bin while and another panel is provided in front of the second-row seats. Front and middle-row passengers can turn the Lazy Susan and access whatever is stored inside.
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, and with the seats folded (a fairly easy task) there's more cargo space than in most SUVs.
The optional navigation system is one of the easiest to operate using its on-screen menus and includes Zagat restaurant data. The large eight-inch monitor is positioned high on the dashboard for easy viewing. The system also responds to voice commands, and we found it responds effectively. It's capable of responding to 637 different voice 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. The rearview camera makes parallel parking easier and also functions as a safety feature: By displaying what's behind the car on the navigation screen, it can show the driver unseen hazards such as a small child possibly preventing a tragic accident. We find rearview cameras very useful in crowded shopping center parking lots where people are walking behind the car after we've shifted into Reverse.
The available DVD entertainment system features a large nine-inch widescreen display that folds out of the ceiling for viewing by second-row passengers. The wireless headsets turn on and off automatically as the ear pads are rotated.
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 it pleasant around town or for long drives.
During a test drive along country roads near the Honda factory in Alabama, 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 it's a common trait of many large cars and most SUVs. All in all, the Honda Odyssey is a good vehicle for a long-distance drive.
A few laps around a race track showed the Odyssey to be stable at high speeds. We were surprised how much we could chuck it into corners. 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 better than that of most other minivans. Honda claims 0 to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, which is very quick indeed. Yet even when it has all 244 horsepower pulsing through its front wheels, the Odyssey is almost devoid of torque steer (a tug on the steering wheel that accompanies hard acceleration in front-wheel-drive cars).
Honda's 3.5-liter V6 engine is smooth, powerful, clean and fuel efficient. The iVTEC V6 (intelligent Variable Timing and Electronic Control) that comes in the EX-L and Touring models gets an EPA-rated 19/26 mpg City/Highway. That's slightly better than the fuel economy of the standard VTEC V6 that comes on the LX and EX: 18/25 mpg. The advantage the iVTEC engine has is its ability to deactivate three of the six cylinders whenever the Odyssey is cruising at a steady speed. We were never able to discern when the engine was running on three cylinders as there is no obvious stutter 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. That should make the iVTEC slightly more responsive in everyday driving, though we weren't able to discern this while driving. In short, the Honda VTEC V6 is a great engine, and the iVTEC version is just a little better.
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 help keep 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.
We had no complaints about noise while driving the different Odyssey models. The To
The Honda Odyssey has it all: great road manners, easy passenger/cargo flexibility, a full array of safety equipment and better mileage than most SUVs. The Touring model in particular will appeal to buyers seeking the versatility of a minivan with the accommodations and features of a luxury sedan.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Rettie filed this report from Alabama, near the Honda assembly plant.