2011 Honda Odyssey Long Term Road Test


2011 Honda Odyssey Touring: Suspension Walkaround

October 10, 2011

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It is time for another suspension walkaround from the long-term fleet. Lamborghini Aventadors only come around so often, right? This week its time for a trip back to reality in the form of our 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring.

Those of you with sharp eyes will notice that everything in the following shots looks a bit too clean for something that's been in the fleet for 8 or 9 months. You may also notice that these shots were taken in the driveway of my old house.

Yeah, I've been sitting on these shots for awhile. It's high time I finally do something with them.

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To the surprise of no one, the front end of our Odyssey is propped up by your basic coil-over MacPherson struts.

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Also expected is steering that does its thing from behind the front axle centerline. Protrusions built into the knuckle and lower arm (yellow) are there to act as a steering stop. They do the job just fine, though there can be a metal-to-metal tap at full lock.

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Here's another view of the rear-mounted steering (white). The front stabilizer bar (yellow) starts even further back as it snakes its way up to the long slender drop link that bolts high on the strut housing. Direct-mount drop links such as this need to be long in order to mount high on the strut body where they can tolerate the strut's rotation as the wheels steer left and right.

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The Odyssey's L-shaped lower control arm juts to the rear. The forward bush tackles lateral loads while the large-volume aft bushing takes care of fore-aft loads. How does such a separation occur? Those fore-aft wheel motions arrive at the rear bush as in-out motions because the L-arm pivots on the rigid front bush, which redirects them by 90 degrees.

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This bend in the lower control arm allows decent ground clearance under the arm while still allowing a low ball joint position to reduce stress in the ball joint. The lower extremities are safely protected inside the wheel.

Underarm clearance isn't a huge deal in a minivan, I would think, but the Odyssey platform is used in the Pilot, Ridgeline and Acura ZDX. We've seen a new Pilot break cover and the ZDX is fairly new, but the 2012 Ridgeline still looks to be last-year's model riding around on last-gen mechanicals.

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Four bolts (yellow, plus two more) hold the wheel bearing and front hub assembly to the knuckle, a design that transforms a front wheel bearing replacement from a royal PITA to an intermediate-level DIY project.

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I think I shot these pictures last spring, which is appropriate. The photo isn't reversed though; the Honda logo is meant to read properly from above before the part is installed.

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Good-sized ventilated rotors and big-looking sliding calipers handle the stopping chores up front. Our stopping distance, feel and fade tests of the new 2011 Odyssey came out much better than expected compared to our test of a last-gen 2010 Honda Odyssey (not to mention many other Hondas of recent vintage.) Did Honda finally raise their internal brake performance standards? It would seem so.

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Dual pistons (yellow) handle the heavy lifting...make that squeezing.

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In back we find a multilink suspension comprised of a trailing arm (yellow) that handles fore-aft wheel location and resists brake torque, and three links that handle lateral wheel location and wheel alignment.

The upper link (white) acts alone to define the camber angle. Two lower links resist lateral loads and control the wheel's toe-in angle. In this view we can only see the rearmost one (black), which is reinforced and expanded to carry the coil spring.

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This head-on view of the works reveals the missing link (green) and shows how much shorter this toe-link is than the main lateral link (orange) we saw before. Its shorter length describes a tighter arc, which pulls the front of the wheel and tire inwards for a little extra toe-in during corners.

The upper camber link (white) is shorter than both of the lower ones, which has the effect of pulling in on the top of the outside tire in corners to increase negative camber to maintain an even loading across the tire's contact patch.

We can also see how the trailing link (yellow) pivots on a large front bushing that bolts to the body with a hefty tie-bar.

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This view shows why the trailing arm (yellow) is an arm and not a link. In my view of the world, a link has a single point of attachment on both ends, which allows it to flop about on both ends. An arm, on the other hand, must either pivot about an axis (instead of a mere point) or have the ability to resist torque. When it comes to holding wheels in 3D space, one arm equals two links.

Our trailing arm is Y-shaped and bolts to the knuckle in four widely-spaced places. This arrangement makes it rigidly attached to absolutely resist torque. In contrast, the upper camber link (white) is a link because each end pivots about a single point.

If all you have is links, you'll need five to hold a wheel in place. (In front the steering is the fifth link, but it moves to turn the wheels.)

Here our arm counts as two links, so only three additional links are needed to bring the total to five -- which is exactly what the Odyssey has.

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Even though it's big, it's wide and it carries the spring, the rearmost link is a link in my book because it has a single-point pivot (white) on each end.

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The spring pocket lives about halfway down the length of the link, making the motion ratio of the spring 0.5-to-1 or thereabouts.

If you're wondering what's missing, it's the rear stabilizer bar. The Odyssey hasn't had one for the last three generations. After that I can't remember. Minivans have hefty rear springs to deal with passenger load; they provide sufficient roll stiffness on their own.

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The shock absorber (yellow) connects directly to the knuckle for a motion ratio of 1-to-1.

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The Odyssey's rear brakes consist of single-piston sliding calipers and solid rear discs. That may not seem like much, but the front brakes do most of the work on family cars -- even minivans. But where is the parking brake?

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Right here. It's a cable operated drum brake that lies hidden in the hat section (yellow) of the rotor.

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Our Odyssey Touring rides around on P235/60R18 Michelin Primacy MXV4 all-season tires and aluminum alloy rims. Mounted and balanced they weigh in at 56.5 pounds apiece.

And that's pretty much it. The Odyssey Touring steers and handles about as well as any minivan has a right to, and it feels less bulky than the 2010 model it replaces.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Honda Odyssey in VA is:

$107 per month*
* Explanation
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