Honda calls the Odyssey the "King of Minivans," but I think it must be the queen. Especially with the Touring trim level, the Odyssey is minivan royalty that's built to suit all. She's elegant, poised, smooth and secretly running the show, and the Odyssey's sleek lines and subtle accents bespeak the nobility of her soul.
The Odyssey doesn't look like some common boxy van or drive like a rustic family wagon. It rides smoothly on even the roughest of country roads. The V-6 engine takes on hill and dale without batting an eyelash or any unseemly hesitation. Variable Cylinder Management turns off cylinders when they aren't needed, so gas mileage is improved over last year. Naturally, twists and turns don't faze this lady. There is very little roll or lean in turns, and even in parking lots the Odyssey is surprisingly agile. It really doesn't feel that big, which is odd because it's huge. Not as big as an Expedition or Suburban, but still huge. I mean, majestic. Sorry, your highness.
This is an eight-passenger vehicle and even with all of the seats occupied, there is still a sizable cargo area. Putting those seats down is amazingly easy, and the 60/40-split folding seat offers several configurations to suit your mood. Access is easy thanks to the power liftgate and doors with flat stepping areas. Nothing feels cramped or confining, and everyone has leg- and elbow-room aplenty.
Well, not everyone. When those middle seats are full, things are less comfy. The second row's center seat is kind of a throwaway, it works best for short rides and small people. Honda still clings to its center seat belt from the ceiling, which made a petite 11-year-old unhappy about sitting there. The seat is narrow and the belt cut her across the neck, which didn't seem safe. Using the center seat as a console/step worked much better. The seat cushion pops out and stores in an under-floor bin, then the seatback folds down, creating a flat surface with two cupholders. The whole unit can be removed easily to provide a walkway. In the third row, passengers have plenty of legroom, thanks to the sliding second-row seats. The third row's center seat belt comes out of the ceiling, but there is a Latch position, which helps with a child-safety seat.
Obviously, the queen is provided with every luxury. Rich, heated leather seats adjust with the touch of a button. Foot pedals move toward you and memory settings save seat and mirror positions. The mirrors were a problem, though. They're small, and I never found an angle that worked for me. A rear entertainment system keeps the little people busy with DVD or game inputs and wireless headphones. Subtle backlighting creates an elegant view of the instrument panel, and a 9-inch color touch-screen provides navigation, rearview camera images and control of everything from satellite radio to your phonebook. Bluetooth is built in, but I found the setup touchy. Almost half of my calls cut back to my phone instead of staying with the car's link. It was rather frustrating, but not as bad as the cupholders in the front seat.
A folding table houses four cupholders of two different sizes. The two front cupholders don't fit cans easily; my open soda can wobbled around and splashed all over - that's just wrong. The other two cupholders held the can steady but were difficult to reach. And I'm not sure why there's a folding table. The idea is that the table can be stored to allow travel to the rear of the vehicle, but when are you going to do that? If the car is moving, shouldn't you stay in your seat? If it's stopped, is it so difficult to use the door? Also, the table has to be cleared before it can be folded - how often is that going to happen? Well, it's not like the queen was listening to my complaints. Best to just move on.
The 2008 Odyssey is really a remarkable family vehicle. Aside from a few quirks, it is a pleasure to drive. It has power, grace, class and flexibility to handle whatever may come. As far as this loyal subject is concerned, long live the queen!
*For more information on the 2008 Honda Odyssey and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 3
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 8
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Good Times
2008 Honda Odyssey
Base price: $25,860
Price as tested: $40,680
Engine: 241-hp, 3.5-liter V-6
Fuel: 17/25 mpg
Ground Clearance: n/a
Turning Radius: 36.7 ft.
Cargo space: 38.4/91.1 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: 5 stars
Passenger's side: 5 stars
Front occupant: 5 stars
Rear occupant: 5 stars
Rollover resistance: 4 stars