2011 Honda Odyssey Touring: Right-Size Me
September 12, 2011
Driving the Odyssey home the other night, I was passed by a sleek, black Swagger Wagon Sienna, and for a moment I wished I'd been driving it. I felt bad. I'll cop to being a bit of a Honda homer, but it's getting harder to be a fan of the brand these days. And then I started thinking about the sweet Odyssey we don't get in North America.
The top trim of the JDM Odyssey, the Absolute, is not a beast of a family hauler. Rather, it's what the TSX wagon aspires to be.
It's more than a foot shorter than our long-term Odyssey, the roof line is eight inches lower, it's 800 pounds lighter, seats seven passengers, and offers all-wheel-drive. The Absolute gets the same 2.4-liter as the TSX, and makes identical power: 202 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. Plus it looks cut and lean, compared to our corpulent U.S. market Ody.
Check out Keiichi Tsuchiya pushing one around the track in this clip. Tsuchiya, the Drift King, Don of the Powerslide, is probably familiar to many readers through his involvement with the D1 Grand Prix and his segments in the Best Motoring and Hot Version videos. Dude raced at the highest levels of Japanese touring car and GT competition from the late 70's, and was a regular Honda NSX pilot at LeMans throughout the Nineties. He's got deep knowledge of how Hondas should behave.
Good seats, he says. Good turn-in and grip, feels like there's more room to push it. Nice exhaust sound, especially on downshifts. The Absolute even has shift paddles. Which again begs the question why Honda doesn't offer it here. Wouldn't have to be at the exclusion of the grey whale Odyssey, which is a fine, comfortable and cavernous carriage. But offer it in the U.S. as the Odyssey Sport or something. Maybe even tuck the IMA hybrid system in there. If you were in the market, wouldn't you consider it?
Watch at the end when Tsuchiya cuts the stability assist (VSA) at one point, adding a coy disclaimer that he doesn't do that kind of thing, then proceeds to squeal the Absolute through corners. Funny, 'cause I swear Niebuhr has made the same claim when we were out, uh, scouting locations in the photo van.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor