The Odyssey minivan has been a solid seller for the Honda brand, and the new fourth-generation model boasts numerous improvements intended to keep a stronghold on sales, which are estimated to hit 100,000 this year. Making incremental changes to the minivan's successful formula, the 2011 Odyssey sits wider, longer and lower than its predecessor. Drag has been reduced by five percent and rolling resistance by eight percent, and body rigidity is 22 percent stiffer. A new bypass damper valve helps the suspension negotiate potholes. Improvements can also be found inside, where the sound insulated cabin is quieter by 1.5 dBA, and touring models now receive an acoustic windshield. The middle seat is more maneuverable, enabling access to the third row when strapped down with two child seats. Other new features include a multi-view rear camera, a removable front floor console on EX models and above and a blind spot information system on Touring Elite models.
What's to Like
The Honda Odyssey is the Swiss Army knife of the minivan world, with functional seating systems, efficient interior design and a drivetrain that sets the standard for smoothness and refinement. Originally launched in 1995 on the Accord platform, the Odyssey's continual improvements have made it a force to be reckoned with in the minivan world.
What's Not to Like
Despite its ergonomic and functional success, the Odyssey's efficiency doesn't help its somewhat bland aesthetics or ho-hum driving dynamics. Though its so-called "lightning bolt" beltline distinguishes it from other minivans, its design details aren't sleek or slick enough to elevate it beyond the role of über-practical people mover.
The view from behind the Odyssey's steering wheel is typical Honda, as is the feel when you click the dash-mounted shifter into gear; there's a sense of tactile balance to the experience, a familiarity that's evident in every vehicle Honda produces.
Acceleration is more than sufficient for most stoplight launches, which feels a bit more spritely with the six-speed transmission found in the Touring and Touring Elite models. As evidenced by a day spent tackling the winding roads that connect La Jolla and northern San Diego County, handling is solid and predictable. An autocross course allowed us to toss our unsuspecting minivan through a tire-howling series of relatively large-scale turns. Though not quite agile or flickable, the Odyssey's at-limit handling proved balanced, even with stability control switched off. Perhaps most relevant to its intended audience, the Odyssey rides smoothly, with improved insulation that enables easier conversation across all three rows of seating.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Odyssey's 3.5 liter V-6 prod...