Honda Motor Co. has embarked on an odyssey of its own making for the 1999 model year.

The odyssey is the new 1999 Honda Odyssey, a minivan that represents a major departure from past Honda van ventures. For openers, the new Odyssey in LX and upscale EX trim is the largest vehicle Honda ever has made. That translates into a wheelbase of 118.1 inches and an overall length of 201.2 inches.

Add to that Honda’s VTEC V-6 as standard, a “magic” third rearseat that disappears into the floor, power sliding doors, the widest front and rear track in its class, and a host of other comfort and convenience items, and you have one of the most innovative minivans on today’s market.

The Odyssey is a North American endeavor, with the body built in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, and the engine at Anna, Ohio. Its size rivals those of domestic producers.

Designers laid out the mini in a 2-2-3 configuration, with the standard walkway down the middle of the floor. The seating is pretty slick in that the vehicle can easily be converted into a two-seater by completely removing the second row of bucket seats and folding the third row bench type seat.

The Odyssey is the only mini with this third row feature where the seat folds into the floor, offering a flat rear floor surface. It creates a cargo area large enough to accommodate 8-foot by4-foot sheets of building material.

This accommodation is made possible by the mini being 13.6inches longer and 5 inches wider than the previous model. Honda has endeavored to make the vehicle sort of like a home away from home. There is a plethora of comfort features in the cabin space that almost makes a driver and passenger not want to get out of the thing.

Individual climate and lighting controls are provided throughout the cabin. Each passenger can adjust his or her own heat or air conditioning with roof-mounted rear controls.

Bright personal lamps above the second- and third-row seats allow passengers to read without disturbing other passengers or interfering with the driver’s visibility. And there is are tractable center tray table located between the front seats.

Dual sliding doors are standard, with the EX featuring power doors. The power doors can be opened or closed simultaneously, and are equipped with a safety feature that prevents smashed fingers

There is a touch-sensitive safety feature that will cause the doors to rebound in the event someone’s hand, foot, or other body part is caught between the end of the door and its anchor post.

The driver’s cockpit is the standard layout of a center console dividing two individual front seats. Instrumentation is the four-gauge speedometer-tachometer-temperature-fuel backed up by a series of operational indicator lights.

The Odyssey is built about as strong as a bridge. The body is built on a large, cross-structure frame.

The frame is tied to seven underfloor crossmembers that are extensively reinforced at body and frame junctions.

Honda’s four-ring shell design ties together the A, B, C and D pillars with underfloor and ceiling crossmembers. Two rings completely encircle each row of seats, providing a high degree of protection from impacts.

The engine in the Odyssey is based upon the V-6 in the highly successful Honda Accord.

This is a 3.5-liter (212-cubic-inch) single overhead cam V-6that sports four valves per cylinder and Honda’s patented VTEC(variable-valve timing electronic control) system.

This is a two-rocker arm system whereby only one rocker opens only one intake valve at low speed. At 3,300 rpm engine speed and faster, the second rocker is electronically locked to the first rocker and both intake valves and the two exhaust valves operate as a four valve system.

It’sall pretty slick and results in 210-horsepower and 229foot-pounds of torque.

Two hundred eight of those foot-pounds are available at 2,000rpm, providing excellen t pulling power at the low end of the engine speed range. There is but one transmission, an electro nically controlled four-speed automatic.

This has been designed with stronger clutches and larger torque converter capacity to match the greater torque of the V-6.This 1999 Odyssey is aimed at the heart of domestic minivans, with pricing that starts at $23,200 for the LX and $25,800 for an EX. Add $415 for freight and you have a vehicle that will make its presence felt on the local minivan market.

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