Redesigned for 2011, the Honda Odyssey minivan sits lower but wider than its predecessor, with a look Honda says was inspired by lightning bolts. All Odysseys carry a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Competitors include the Toyota Sienna, Chrysler's Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, and the Nissan Quest.
The Odyssey comes only in front-wheel drive. In typical Honda form, features are divvied up by trim level — making for many trim levels. Trims include the LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L with navigation or rear entertainment systems, Touring and Touring Elite.
Styled to stand out among a sea of parked minivans, the Odyssey remains faithful to the concept shown at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show. Its beltline falls abruptly at the C-pillars, resulting in an offset rear-quarter window. Honda says the design enhances sightlines for passengers in the third row. Rails for the sliding doors sit well below the windows; Honda says keeping the motors for the power-sliding doors lower allowed for more shoulder room in the third row.
Around back, a red-and-white light bar joins the taillights. Framing for the rear window, as well as B- and C-pillars, is black; so are the side mirrors. Seventeen-inch steel wheels are standard on the LX, with 17-inch alloys on all EX variants. The Touring and Touring Elite carry 18-inch alloy wheels. Honda moved the side door handles closer together, so they're nearly touching. Power-sliding doors go on EX models and up, with EX-L models and higher adding a power tailgate. The Touring and Touring Elite have redundant turn signals integrated into the side mirrors; the Elite also has xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights.
Honda says the eight-seat interior sports such tricks as a flip-up ring to mount a trash sack for second-row passengers and an air-conditioned console up front that can keep a six-pack of soda cool. Occupants in the front row have more shoulder room than before, as well as a cleaner center stack with dedicated areas for climate, stereo and navigation controls. The Odyssey has 15 cupholders.
With new "Wide Mode" second-row seating — essentially the outboard captain's chairs are moved to a second set of tracks that sit wider than the default configuration — the second row can accommodate three large child-safety seats, Honda says. The center seat pulls up to 6 inches closer to the front row to keep an infant in a car seat close at hand. A rear entertainment system is optional, and the Touring Elite gets an upgraded version with a 16.2-inch widescreen display and an upgraded surround-sound stereo. Like the Toyota Sienna's entertainment system, it can split the screen and play separate programming for passengers in the left- and right-hand seats.
Third-row passengers get a folding center armrest — uncommon for third rows — and, on the Touring and Touring Elite, sunshades. The three-seat bench collapses for a flat load floor with easier operation than before, Honda says.
A power driver's seat, air conditioning, cruise control and the usual power accessories are standard. EX models add tri-zone automatic climate control, while the EX-L moves up to heated leather seats, a moonroof and a power passenger seat. The EX-L Navi or EX-L RES offer, respectively, a navigation system with improved graphics and a rear entertainment system. Touring and Touring Elite models include both systems.
Under the Hood
The standard 3.5-liter V-6 makes 248 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque; it has a fuel-saving cylinder deactivation system across all trims (last year's 3.5-liter had cylinder deactivation only on uplevel trims). LX and EX models employ a five-speed automatic transmission. The Touring and Touring Elite have a six-speed auto, along with low-rolling-resistance tires and a few aerodynamic improvements. Honda expects EPA mileage ratings of 19/28 mpg city/highway in the Touring and Touring Elite; lesser trims get 18/27 mpg.
Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.
Standard safety features include front-, side-impact and three-row side curtain airbags. Antilock brakes, active front head restraints and an electronic stability system are also standard. The Touring Elite adds a blind spot warning system.
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