2011 Honda Odyssey Touring: Enduro Machine
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