Honda's first attempt at building a minivan came with the 1995 Odyssey -a smallish vehicle that drove like a car but couldn't fit the needs of most American minivan buyers. The Odyssey was misplaced in the minivan market, which favors a huge, comfortable amount of interior space and versatility to tight taxicab ambience and ease of parallel parking.
The new Odyssey can comfortably carry up to seven adult passengers, and it even has room under the seats for easy stowage of hockey sticks or skis. The suspension, engine, and every inch of sheetmetal are all-new, and the new Odyssey is related to the old Odyssey in name only , the car has been completely redesigned.
Starting with the engine, the Odyssey is powered by a 3.5-liter 24-valve VTEC V6, which produces up to 210 horsepower and 229 foot-pounds of torque, while achieving the environmentally friendly status of a low-emission vehicle. The V6 is based on the Accord's 3.0-liter engine but offers substantially more power, which helps to move a lot of extra girth.
The base model LX includes such standard fare as dual sliding doors, power windows (including power rear-vent windows), power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, a theft-deterrent system, two 12-volt power outlets, front and rear air conditioning, antilock brakes, and, of course, the 3.5-liter V6 engine. That price is actually $800 less than the previous-generation Odyssey LX, and severely undercuts similarly equipped long-wheelbase minivans from the competition.
The step-up EX model is exactly the same price as the previous Odyssey EX. The EX features such niceties as dual power sliding doors, body-colored door handles, a roof rack, keyless remote, an eight-way power driver's seat, alloy wheels, traction control, a CD player and steering wheel mounted radio controls. Plunking down the extra $3,000 for EX trim is worth it, just for the seats, which are infinitely more comfortable than the two-way manually adjustable seats of the LX. Leather seats are not available, so watch for an Acura version of the Odyssey sometime in the near future.
Sitting on a four-wheel independent suspension, a first in the minivan segment, the Odyssey is supported comfortably and it keeps the driver in touch with the road. Combined with the Odyssey's wide track, the suspension adds a nimble feel to this big car. Body roll around corners is well-damped for a vehicle of this height.
Takeoff from a stop is smooth, and gear changing is seamless, even at higher speeds. The front disc / rear drum brakes slow down the Odyssey smoothly and quickly for such a heavy car. All in all, it's a high-powered, smooth-shifting minivan that handles with confidence and doesn't make a powerful racket.
Instrument panel gauges are easy to read and the center controls are logically placed, and all controls are within easy reach. The cruise controls are mounted on the steering wheel, as are remote radio controls on the EX model. The EX is further enhanced with power door controls just left of the steering column. The interior abounds with cubbyholes and map pockets, and the nine cupholders are all functional, unlike some of the indentations other minivan makers are stamping onto seatbacks these days.
The most unique Odyssey feature continues to be its hideaway, or "magic" seat. With a minimum of effort and the use of one set of hands only, the rear seat can be folded out of sight and flush with the floor in a matter of seconds. The second row seats are convertible and can be used as separate captains chairs or as a bench.
A minivan would not be complete without safety features, and the Odyssey comes with its share. All seven passenger seating positions have headrests and three-point seatbelts, both firsts in the minivan market. An Electronic Brake Distribution system (EBD) is also standard. This system senses the placement and amount of cargo, and compensates for it during hard braking to avoid rear-wheel lockup.
The new Odyssey is a marvel of engineering and, if product excellence determines success, it will be the first hugely successful import minivan. Honda has expanded its horizons with the Odyssey, finally creating an epic worthy the name.