2011 Honda Odyssey Touring: Well, If I Could Make a Few Changes
December 07, 2011
Wagons are great and all, but if the day comes when it's time to get a minivan, I will embrace it. Seriously, these things are great, and I say that not as a completely out-of-touch journalist who has just discovered minivans, but as a casual minivan enthusiast who has driven the last three generations of the Odyssey and its competitors (we had a '99 Odyssey in our long-term fleet, then a 2001 Grand Caravan, a 2004 Sienna, a 2004 Quest, a 2005 Odyssey, and so on). It's like driving around in a whole room of a house, but it's smaller than a camper and therefore easy to park anywhere.
So I drove our 2011 Honda Odyssey last night. Although I still think it has a more compliant ride quality, more comfortable seats and better cabin electronics than any previous generation of this van, there are still a couple things I would change if I could.
1. I don't love the way this six-speed automatic is programmed. When I gave the van a healthy dose of throttle last night to get up to get up to the 70-mph nighttime freeway pace, there was a pause and then the transmission dropped a couple gears and it wasn't overly smooth about it. A few years ago, or even a few months ago, I wonder if I would have even taken note of the pause, which likely factors into the Odyssey's fuel mileage (which is the best of any large minivan), but recently, I've sampled some newer automatics that provide a much sharper response when the driver goes to accelerate.
Maybe it's silly to expect that in a minivan, but as Josh has written, you get something closer to that in our long-term Sienna, and the Nissan Quest's CVT also feels pretty responsive even if its track numbers don't reflect that.
2. I'm not totally happy with the steering. It's great around town, where it's precise and communicative to an extent that nobody expects in a minivan. But I wish the effort was a little higher at highway speeds, because the Odyssey doesn't feel as locked-in as I'd like through the faster freeway interchanges. Wouldn't mind a little more weight to it on-center, either.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,356 miles