December 28, 2011
I decided this much: road trips with the fellas, which could involve dirt, sand or snow? Chevy Suburban. Road trips with discerning wife and restless progeny? Honda Odyssey (or similar minivan).
I've covered plenty of road trip miles in trucks and body-on-frame SUVs. Discovering the Grateful Dead near the end of their run made that possible. There's something to be said for the confidence of riding on a thick truck frame. Road gators, armadillos, mud, standing water, sheets of rain: a truck or SUV makes you feel somewhat impenetrable. They goad you into taking rural state highways to the destination rather than the interstate. Or to cross flash flood basins with dark skies ahead. But they're not the easiest machines in which to navigate older drive-throughs or a parking lot full of veggie burrito vendors needing a miracle.
Then again, young, adventurous girlfriends and stoner pals don't mind some bump-and-rumble motoring in a hand-me-down 4Runner or Suburban. But the Modern MomWife will not hear of it. The Modern MomWife demands (and deserves) a compliant and relatively lump-free ride, especially across a distance of 1000 miles or more. The cabin should be quiet and the seats comfortable. There should be room for big bags, small bags, tote bags, food bags, the kid's bags, pillows and blankets, and bags for the pillows and blankets. There should also be room to move your feet.
The Odyssey's all that and some. Plenty of room, seemingly limited only by your ability to maximize it. It's surprisingly quiet - never a Honda strong suit. Not surprisingly, it glides across most highway surfaces. It's not quite a private jet, as one reader likened it. But the Odyssey is a damn good endurance runner. After several hours of highway travel, neither I nor the Missus felt fatigued or uncomfortable in the front or rear seats. Power seat adjustments, captain's armrests, and a refined, absorbent suspension made painless work of the San Francisco-Reno-SoCal legs of the journey.
Even braking through long grades, or to accommodate the odd long-haul trucker jumping lanes and vibrating out of his gourd on meth and Red Bull, was more assured than Honda's reputation for brake performance suggests. I'll cover some other dynamic observations, including learning to compromise with the transmission, in follow-up posts. Now, back to my Cornell '77 bootleg.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
November 10, 2011
Where's the best place to spend 11.11.11? Vegas, of course! I'll be rolling in our long-term 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring -- we want to be comfortable, naturally.
I took our long-term Toyota Sienna on a previous Vegas trip, so it will be a good comparison.
Today I did some pre-trip prep: car wash, oil check (10% left according to the car, pic on the jump). I would normally also check the tires, but Dan Frio checked and inflated them earlier this week between drumming sessions.
I plan to report on trip fuel economy, bet on 11 on the roulette table, and put $11 on Manny Pacquiao, who's fighting Saturday night.
Anything else I should report? Or bet on?
Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 15,400 miles
October 25, 2011
Driving the Odyssey the other day, enjoying the comfortable seats and captain's armrest, feeling vaguely master of some parallel universe, I noticed something missing. Namely, a lump in my back. Honda's had an unenviable reputation for fist-in-the-back seating, particularly of the Accord-based variety (search Honda-Tech, TOV and assorted model-specific forums if you're skeptical). It was pretty noticeable in our departed long-term Crosstour, maybe less so in our LT TSX wagon (some on staff say otherwise).
But the Odyssey, to me at least, doesn't suffer from it. Deflate the lumbar support all the way and it's just gone. Now I'm curious to know if the manual lumbar support on the LX is as invisible when fully deflated as the power lumbar adjustment is on our Touring (power lumbar is standard on EX models and above).
Regardless of cause - whether Honda redesigned the Odyssey's seats or has been tweaking this across the board - it's a welcome deletion.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
October 06, 2011
"Just lay back. No. Not that far."
"This is worse."
"No, no...you're too far back. Lean forward."
Leg 1 of our not-quite-a-road-trip 170-mile trek was complete and, after a few hours on a track, four of us were headed back to LA in our 2011 Honda Odyssey and the above conversation made its way to the front seat of the Odyssey.
"What's happening back there? Can you hear them? Shoud I get the hose?"
I guess we should probably start at the beginning of this story...
I had grabbed the keys to the most sensible vehicle possible for the trip while the other guys had managed the keys to the Volt and the 911. The 911 driver had intended, along with our photo guru Kurt Niebuhr, to take the fun route while the Volt driver, Riswick, and I would carpool on the highway enjoying a quiet morning of coffee and not vomiting from carsicknenss before 5am. We were still, at this point, in fierce debate between the Volt and the Odyssey.
But then the rain happened and the 911 driver wussed out. Something about not wanting to be damp all day. That made the carpool decision that much easier and since I'd been smart about car choice, I got to drive. Four guys in a car that seats 42 (8 actually) shouldn't be a problem at all.
From the driver seat the Odyssey is pretty great: Solid visibility, good power, accurate steering, comfy seat, logical controls. All the stuff we've talked about before in the blog and when we gave the Odyssey the win over the 2011 Toyota Sienna XLE. I felt as fresh after 90 minutes of driving as I did after 9 minutes.
From the backseat, though, things weren't quite as refreshing. Above the clacking of helmets from the hatch, one of our editors, let's call him Mark Takahashi, could not figure out how to get comfortable. "I wished the seat cushion had some adjustments. It wasn't comfortable reclining because I felt like I'd slide off the seat," he later said. Now, it's possible that at 5'10, an adult and fresh out of some race-prepped cars, Mark wasn't the ideal rear-seat tester. Those of us in the front seats had endured the same back-breaking day and were thrilled to be lounging in the supportive, heated front buckets.
The other issue we encountered was that rear seat passengers and front seat passengers had a difficult time communicating. This isn't uncommon, especially in vehicles with such massive interior spaces (148.5 cu-ft of space behind the first row), but the Honda-spec road noise levels make inter-row communication like trying to talk to someone who's across the aisle on an airplane. You can manage it, but after a while, you just don't want to bother anymore. Mark and Kurt had their conversations, James and I had ours.
Nobody wants their kids comfortable or to know what they're talking about anyways, do they?
Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com
August 24, 2011
This right here, the Odyssey's front seat, is just one more reason why I'm liking minivans more and more lately, and the Honda in particular. Having what I believe to be the longest daily commute on the editorial staff means two things:
1) I'm obviously not very smart, as commuting such long distances in one of the country's most congested areas is just plain masochistic.
2) I put a pretty high value on a car that lets me while away the miles in comfort.
As such, I love the Odyssey's adjustable seat armrests. You can easily find that perfect position to kick back with both elbows resting comfortably. And the seat doesn't have the harsh amount of lumbar support like on some Hondas. I could see covering big distances with the Odyssey, and not minding one bit.
August 08, 2011
Had to take the Odyssey on a long round trip this weekend. Not the most exciting vehicle to rack up the miles in, but like most minivans it's a great cruiser. Here's my list of hits and misses:
- Solid power from the V6. Never has trouble keeping up with traffic even on the long uphill grades. Overdrive toggle switch is nice to have.
- Quiet at speed. Had no trouble listening to the satellite radio even at 80mph.
- Satellite radio. When you're in the middle of California's central valley, it's a life saver.
- Adjustable armrest. The ratcheting armrest makes it easy to find the perfecting seating position to knock out a couple hundred miles.
And the Bad:
- Suspension is too soft, even for a minivan. On some of the rougher parts of the Intersate, the Odyssey bounces and jitters too much. Feels sloppy.
- Likewise, the steering is a little too vague on center. Would prefer it to feel a little more locked in.
- The fact that the nav system works on the road is good. The fact that it's hard to get gas station icons to show up is not good. Probably an error on my part, but it seems like this should be something you don't have to read the manual to get working properly.
- Windshield washers shoot half the fluid right over the roof. Makes wipers less effective and annoys fellow motorists.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com
July 04, 2011
If you ever find yourself thinking that today's minivans just aren't very mini anymore, all you need to do is reacquaint yourself with a traditional full-size van. I spent a little bit of time driving the pictured E-150 over the weekend. The dimensional difference isn't huge -- a regular Ford van is roughly a foot taller and longer -- but the Odyssey's "mini-ness" comes about most in the driving experience. It's more maneuverable, easier to drive and more comfortable on the road. It drives like a car. The E-150 drives like the old-school truck that it is.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,390 miles
May 26, 2011
The other day I wrote that I was surprised to learn that the rear side windows of our long-term 2011 Toyota Sienna SE still pop out for some extra ventilation. I wrote, "I wonder if the rear side glass in the Honda Odyssey can be opened. I'll check and get back to you."
Well, I checked and they don't. But...
May 16, 2011
Seems like heading up north was a popular destination this past weekend. I too drove north to the Bay Area, but I visited in-laws. With this visit in mind, I was very happy to see our Honda Odyssey was available.
Why would a married guy without kids even be happy about a minivan?
The Odyssey was a great option because I was going to visit my brother and sister-in-law. They are soon to be parents. My brother-in-law has an unnatural affinity for minivans that only a soon to be father can have. He was especially thrilled that our family cargo hauler was the Touring edition. In fact, he cited more options than I really knew about the van as we looked it over. The guy has been doing his homework.
He's right to be excited about this minivan. The drive up from LA was very comfortable. It's got plenty of power to pass the big rigs on I-5, it's pretty quiet and composed on the road, plenty of room to haul the family, the baby gear plus the family dog of which he has four. When the kids get older, the DVD system will entertain them during those ruckus rides too and from Grandma's house.
We drove around town with everyone in the car, including all the dogs. As a dry run of sorts, I really understood why a family would want one. I say that because a minivan to me always seemed just plain wrong, like haggis. In high school and college the minivan was a symbol to me that you just gave up your individuality. Let's be honest, how many single friends you know without kids own a minivan that isn't a hand-me-down?
Yeah the Ody's steering is numb and it's not a very sporty vehicle. But are you really looking at one of these for it's cornering ability? Honestly, just having the nice motor goes a long way to satisfy that flickering memory of a single life. But if you do have kids, the practicality, functionality and unrivaled versatility of our Odyssey cannot be beat. I guess I must be growing up, or "getting old" because I'm getting to that threshold that I just don't care about that stigma. I'm not full blown old man yet. I still wear shoes that are somewhat fashionable, not just comfortable.
Would I buy one? Well, all I have is a wife and dog, so no. A minivan would be overkill. But if I had a kid(s), and the incredible amount of crap people carry these days to go with them, you bet I'd be seriously looking at this vehicle.
If you're at that crossover point, or you've way past it, is the minivan the only true option? Would you still go for a station wagon, SUV, or just cram them in the Civic?
Scott Jacobs, Sr Mgr, Photography
April 20, 2011
Full disclosure: Because I'm half of a DINK household (double income, no kids), I'm the wrong demographic for the Honda Odyssey. Nevertheless, when I finally drove it for the first time last night, I liked it a lot more than I expected to. The Odyssey rides comfortably, handles nicely and thanks to the 3.5 liter V6, accelerates ably enough that you never have to worry about that lane change or freeway merge. The visibility is great, and although it's big, it doesn't drive big. Parking was easy, too.
No storage whining from me. The Odyssey has plenty of compartments for purse, phone, iPod and perhaps even my 18-pound cat, were I of a mind to put him in the middle console. (Which I would never do. Most days.)
But it was odd to drive alone in this very nice, comfortable ark. I was tempted to pick up some fares at a bus stop, just to put the Odyssey to its true purpose.
In short, I had nothing bad to say about it. Then my bottom-line watching colleague, Ron Montoya, pointed out the Odyssey Touring's price tag: $41,535. This is the second-to-top trim, and although it's nice, it's not 41.5K nice.
Edmunds' short list of recommended minivans calls a tie between the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. The recommendation also notes that the Kia Sedona is worth a look for its value. At the top trim level, plus virtually all the options you could throw at it, the Sedona's MSRP is $35,500. Were I a penny-watching soccer mom or dad, I'd have to give it serious consideration.
So while the Odyssey isn't for my DINK household, I think it would be perfect a family of DIBS (double income, big spenders). But what do you say? Is the Odyssey worth every single penny?
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @4,560 miles
March 28, 2011
Got some quality seat time in the Odyssey this weekend and these two things jumped out at me. First, the gauges. I like them. They're not overly stuffed with too many icons and a hundred hash marks on every dial. Sure, I would prefer numbers on the temperature gauge and all, but this is a minivan after all. Honda delivered the basics and it is good.
And about that suspension. A little too soft for my tastes, and I say this based on the minivan marshmallow scale. No one wants a stiff, "sporty" ride in a family wagon like this, but the Odyssey always managed to bridge the gap between a precision feel and a comfortable ride quality.
Now it feels like Honda dialed back the precision a couple notches in favor of a little more cush. Maybe the average family will like it, but I don't. Just feels to detached for me. I think the Sienna might have the edge in this department now, at least the SE version.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com