Saturday, May 19, 2007

Honda Odyssey - Well designed, enjoyable to drive.

The Honda Odyssey might be the best minivan on the market. It's certainly one of the most enjoyable to drive, and it lives up to Honda's reputation for refinement, convenient features and great fit and finish. Its flexible seating system can accommodate up to eight passengers.

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.

Line Up

The 2007 Honda Odyssey lineup includes four models, each with its own character. All are powered by a 244-hp 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing and equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission.

The LX ($25,645) comes with manual sliding doors, manual seat controls and manual air conditioning with an air-filtration system. Power door locks with remote keyless entry, power windows, and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats come standard.

The EX ($28,695) adds power sliding doors, tri-zone climate control, a storable second-row PlusOne seat, in-dash CD changer, steering wheel audio controls, power driver seat controls, alloy wheels and other features.

The EX-L ($31,095) adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power moonroof, and the iVTEC engine with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), which improves fuel economy by de-activating three engine cylinders under certain conditions. The EX-L is available with the DVD rear-seat entertainment system ($32,695), and the navigation system with rearview camera can be added to that ($34,895).

The Touring ($36,895) is what Honda's Acura luxury division would sell if it sold a minivan. It has a slightly stiffer suspension for improved handling and Michelin PAX run-flat tires. It also gets a 350-watt AM/FM/CD6 audio system with seven speakers and a subwoofer, rear Park Assist, power tailgate, eight-way power adjustable driver's seat with lumbar and memory, power-adjustable pedals, second-row bucket seats, removable second-row console, 17 cupholders, compass and outside temperature display, fog lights, auto-dimming mirror, and the DVD rear-seat entertainment system. The Touring comes with the iVTEC engine with VCM. The navigation system is extra ($39,095).

Safety equipment that comes standard on all models includes dual-stage front airbags, front side-impact airbags, curtain-style head protection airbags for all three rows of seats, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.


The Honda Odyssey cuts a curvy profile, and its front end looks similar to the Accord sedan. Large headlights flank its big grille. The hood is sculpted 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, 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.


Inside, the Odyssey is both comfortable and convenient. It feels downright luxurious when ordered with leather trim. The soft materials look good and the metallic-colored trim that runs across the center of the dash is attractive.

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.

No comments: