Vehicle Overview
The 1999 - 2004 generation of Honda's front-wheel-drive Odyssey was a class leader. The minivan has earned a major redesign for 2005, and to stay ahead of the pack, Honda had to "leapfrog" the growing competition with fresh features.

Going beyond the foldaway third-row Magic Seat in the previous model, the 2005 Odyssey also gets a stowable PlusOne seat in the second row. The minivan's overall length hasn't changed but the third row gets an additional 2 inches of legroom. Side curtain-type airbags protect occupants in all three rows, and a first-in-class stability system is standard. The windows in the sliding doors can be partially opened. With the new Odyssey, Honda sought to “achieve the feel of a European sedan," said Yutaka Fujiwara, Honda's large project leader.

An available DVD-based rear entertainment system uses a 9-inch screen that Honda calls the largest in the automotive industry. Honda's navigation system, which has an 8-inch screen, operates with expansive voice recognition and can respond to 637 commands. It's able to understand orally stated city and street names, street numbers and specific destinations.

Four trim levels are offered: LX, EX, EX Leather and a new Touring model. The top two models use a Variable Cylinder Management version of Honda's 3.5-liter V-6, which shifts automatically between six- and three-cylinder operation in response to driving conditions. A regular version of the V-6 goes into the LX and EX. Each V-6 produces 255 horsepower, which is 15 hp more than the outgoing 2004 model's output. Odysseys are made in Alabama.

The redesigned model's appearance is similar to the previous Odyssey, but rear body rigidity has increased by 20 percent. Built on a 118.1-inch wheelbase, the Odyssey measures 201 inches long overall. All models have dual sliding side doors, and all but the LX have power operation on both sides. Pulling the door handle halts the power doors, and a power liftgate is available. Touring models use Michelin PAX run-flat tires, which have an inner core that permits operation at 50 mph for up to 125 miles when they're totally flat. A sunroof is standard on EX Leather and Touring minivans.

Seating for seven occupants consists of two bucket seats in the first and second rows and a third-row 60/40-split bench that folds with one motion into a recess in the cargo floor. EX models seat eight people by using a removable center seat in the second row that stows into a recessed compartment under the floor. When the seat isn't stowed, a lazy Susan under the floor holds miscellaneous items.

Seatback height has been raised by 2 inches. Adjustable pedals are available in Touring models, and the gearshift lever is placed on the front console.

Standard LX equipment includes a CD player and remote keyless entry. The EX adds a six-CD changer, an overhead conversation mirror and sunglasses holder, and an integrated second-row sunshade. All models have three-zone automatic climate control.

Under the Hood
A 255-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 in the LX and EX teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission. The EX Leather and Touring models feature a Variable Cylinder Management version of the V-6 switches automatically between three and six cylinders.

Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags, all-disc antilock brakes and traction control are standard.

Driving Impressions
In its redesigned form, the Odyssey nearly meets Honda's Euro sedan handling claim; its steering isn't quite as precise, but it's close. Odysseys exude excellence and deliver an impressive load of new features.

Like its predecessor, the Odyssey is energetic, quiet, capable and easy to drive, and it delivers a civilized on-the-road experience. It steers with a slightly heavier touch than before but still exhibits a distinct carlike personality. A bit of steering correction is needed on straightaways, but body lean in curves is minimal. With its comparatively taut suspension, the Odyssey's ride is a bit firmer than the norm, but it exhibits near-instant recovery over bumps.

For a minivan, acceleration is wholly satisfying but short of startling. It's impossible to discern when operation moves between three and six cylinders with the Variable Cylinder Management engine. Transmission shifts are crisp, quick and usually inconspicuous.

The new voice-recognition navigation system is simply amazing and makes the unit far more user-friendly.