2011 Honda Odyssey: Ski Trip Part 2
March 23, 2011
Our 300-mile drive from Santa Monica north to Mammoth Lakes was in dry and unusually warm conditions. And our long-term 2011 Honda Odyssey was in its element out in the countryside, where the urban sprawl quickly became desert landscape and ultimately snow covered peaks.
The Odyssey proved perfectly comfortable and wonderfully quiet at highway speeds. Seat comfort is exceptional and the van's endless list of amenities (navigation, sat radio, heated seats, triple zone climate controls) worked as advertised and kept every member of the Oldham clan in the happy zone.
And it has plenty of motor.
Even at over 7,000 feet the Honda's 248-hp 3.5-liter V6 always had enough in reserve should a burst of power be needed. And those grades never had the van wheezing even with four overpacked Oldhams aboard. This van is a mountain climber.
However, it isn't perfect. The previous generation Odyssey packed an athleticism that's just missing from this new version, and I miss it. And there are three culprits that keep this van from being as fun to drive as its predecessor.
The first is the transmission. If finds its top gear too quickly and won't give you a kickdown unless you ask with a very heavy right foot. This makes the Odyssey less responsive than the 2005 Odyssey we had in our fleet six years ago. There is a button on the Honda's shifter marked D4. Push it and the 6-speed becomes a 4-speed. You essentially lock out the transmission's top two gears. I find myself using this often around town and even on the road trip to get the transmission quickly into a lower ratio and the engine up to a higher rpm.
The second problem is the steering, which is less precise on center than before. Simply, it just feels less sporty than it could. Or it did. Or it should. I can also say that the new Odyssey doesn't have the magical locked-in feeling of its predecessor, which had an incredible stability out on the highway and in crosswinds.
And the Odyssey's third shortcoming is its brakes, which work well, but have a soft pedal. Again, like the steering, they just feel less sporty than the brakes on the 2005 model.
To be clear, the new Odyssey performs well and it drives great, but after my 600-mile road trip I've concluded that it just doesn't have the sporting nature of the van it replaced. In that van six years ago, I distinctly remember shocking an Infiniti G35 driver on a mountain road, when I passed him on the outside. I'm not sure I would do that in this van, which is more luxurious in its tuning and its nature.
Personally, I'd like there to be an Odyssey SE. Know what I mean?
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief