Overview
The Honda Odyssey has been a bestseller ever since the second generation was introduced in 1999. When the all-new third generation was introduced as a 2005 model, Honda showed it wasn't resting on its laurels. Instead, Honda listened to Odyssey owners and adopted their suggestions in this latest model.

Odyssey boasts car-like ride and handling, a powerful and fuel-efficient 244-horsepower V6 engine, and a clever seating system that can accommodate up to eight passengers.

Odyssey comes standard with side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes, and the body structure is designed to offer improved crash protection.

Completely redesigned for 2005, the Odyssey carries on with few changes for 2006.


Model Lineup
The 2006 Honda Odyssey lineup includes three models, LX, EX, and Touring, each with its own character.

The LX ($25,345) comes with manual sliding doors, manual seat controls and manual air conditioning with an air-filtration system. Power door locks with remote keyless entry, power windows, and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats come standard.

The EX ($28,395) adds power sliding doors, tri-zone climate control, a stowable second-row PlusOne seat, in-dash CD changer, steering wheel audio controls, power driver seat controls, alloy wheels and other features. Leather upholstery is available by ordering the EX with leather ($30,000), a model that includes the iVTEC engine with variable cylinder management (VCM), a power moonroof and heated front seats.

The Touring ($36,595) is designed to be a luxury minivan. It has a slightly stiffer suspension, run-flat tires, front and rear parking sensors, automatic tri-zone climate control, a power tailgate, power-adjustable pedals, an upgraded sound system, 17 cupholders, and all the features found in the EX with leather. For 2006, the Touring model comes standard with the DVD rear entertainment system.

       

Walkaround
Honda says the Odyssey has a sporty Euro sedan look. That's stretching it a bit, though it looks curvy in profile and there is a similarity to the Accord in the front end.

Large headlights flank its big grille. The hood is sculptured with curves that lead naturally back to the windshield and emphasize the big fender flares. Honda has not hidden the sliding door channels at the base of the window but left them partially obscured by a crease that runs the length of the vehicle.

All models come with two sliding doors, manually operated on the LX and electrically operated on all other models. The power windows in each of the side doors can be opened in the same fashion as in a car. The tailgate is electrically operated in the top-of-the-line Touring. The power doors seemed a bit reluctant to operate at times, less responsive to key fob commands than Toyota's sliding doors.

The Odyssey boasts Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure. The vehicle's crush zones have been re-engineered to provide better protection for occupants while lessening damage when hitting other smaller vehicles and pedestrians. Its body structure is rigid, a key element for crisp handling and a smooth ride. A low drag coefficient helps improve fuel economy and high-speed stability.

 

Interior Features
Inside, the Honda Odyssey is comfortable and convenient. It feels downright luxurious when ordered with leather trim. The materials are nice and the metallic-colored trim that runs across the center dash is attractive.

The driver's seat is designed to hold the driver more firmly and is positioned in a car-like setting. Power-adjustable pedals are available in the Touring model. The shift lever is mounted on the dashboard; it looks odd at first, but it's easier to use than a column-mounted shifter. A handy drink tray is provided between the front seats, but there's no center console.

The second-row bucket seats are comfortable.

The third-row seat is split 60/40 and folds easily into the well provided for it, and the headrests do not need to be removed before folding.

There's room for eight people with the optional PlusOne seat that fits between the two captain's chairs in the second row. If it's not needed as a seat it can be turned into a table or stowed in the floor in place of the Lazy Susan bin. If the PlusOne seat is not being used, the right-hand seat can be slid across to allow easier access to the third-row seats. This flexibility makes the Odyssey a versatile people hauler, but it's not the best in the class for hauling cargo.

The optional voice-activated DVD navigation system includes Zagat restaurant data. The large eight-inch monitor is positioned high on the dashboard for easy viewing. The voice-activated system responds to 637 commands and is smart enough to understand different accents and find locations without any need for input other than by voice. Apart from navigation, the system can be used to operate the radio and climate controls. We found the system responds effectively to voice commands.

The available DVD entertainment system features a large nine-inch widescreen display that folds out of the ceiling. For 2006, the DVD system comes standard on Touring models (previously it was only available with the navigation system). The wireless headsets turn on and off automatically as the ear pads are rotated. For 2006, XM Satellite Radio is standard on Touring models.

Who'd ever think of putting a Lazy Susan in a minivan? Honda has. No, it's not for serving food, but for adding an incredibly useful hidden storage area. The previous Odyssey had a storage well under the floor of the front seats for the spare tire. Honda engineers have moved the spare to a location in the rear. Instead of removing the round space under the floor where the spare used to reside they've turned it into a hidden storage compartment with a rotating compartmentalized bin. There's a small access panel in the floor between the two front seats for front passengers to get access and another bigger one in front of the center-row seats for access. So whatever stuff is stowed in the Lazy Susan, front or middle-row passengers can turn it for access. Ingenious!

Not as ingenious are the two glove boxes, which are more awkward for storage than one big one.

 

Driving Impressions
Underway, the Honda Odyssey delivers everything you could ask for in a minivan: a smooth ride, responsive handling, stability at speed and a smooth, powerful engines. Honda's goal with this latest-generation model was to produce a minivan with the handling of a European sedan.

The Odyssey belies its size on the road and handles like a premium sedan. It's not as dynamic as a European sports sedan, of course, but it's certainly better than an SUV. We found its handling and ride pleasant for long drives as well as around town.

During a test drive along country roads near the Honda factory in Alabama, we found the Odyssey offered a perfectly pleasant ride. It was neither too firm nor too soft. Granted, there is some road vibration. And there is some slack in the steering on-center: You can turn the steering wheel a few degrees in either direction before the vehicle starts to move. It was no worse than in a Chrysler Town & Country, however, and many people will not notice as it's a common trait of many large cars and most SUVs. All in all, it's an ideal vehicle for a long-distance drive.

Several laps around a race track showed the Odyssey to be stable at high speeds. And we were surprised how much we could chuck it into corners. We found we could drive hard enough into a sharp corner to feel the tires slip without any drama. We could not feel much body roll (lean) in corners, and an Odyssey lapping in front of us looked remarkably stable for a tall vehicle.

Parking is easy. The turning radius is among the tightest of any minivan, making it an easy to make U-turns and maneuver in parking lots. The park-assist system, with beeping tones that warn the driver of other bumpers front and rear, helps considerably when parallel parking.

Straight-line acceleration is good, better than other minivans. Yet despite having 244 horsepower going through the front wheels, the Odyssey is almost devoid of any torque steer.

The Odyssey's 3.5-liter V6 engine is smooth, powerful, clean and fuel efficient. The iVTEC V6 (intelligent Variable Timing and Electronic Control) that comes on the EX with Leather and the Touring model gets an EPA-rated 20/28 mpg City/Highway, which is better fuel economy than the standard VTEC that comes on the LX and EX, 19/25 mpg. The iVTEC engine does this by deactivating three of the six cylinders whenever you're cruising. We were never able to discern when the engine was running on three cylinders as there is no visible lurching or change in engine note, although a green dash light illuminates to tell you the system is working. Both versions of the V6 generate the same amount of power: 244 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (though the iVTEC generates its peak torque at 4500 rpm vs. 5000 rpm for the VTEC). If it looks like horsepower figures are lower for 2006, it's due to a change in how the Society of Automotive Engineers tests engines. No change has actually been made to the engines.

The brakes work well. Every Odyssey comes with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Vehicle Stability Assist, Honda's electronic stability control system. This system works in conjunction with the drive-by-wire accelerator and ABS to modulate the brakes while managing the throttle and ignition. If the vehicle starts to lose grip on a tight turn on a slippery surface, the system automatically slows the engine and gently applies brakes to stop the vehicle from skidding out of control. In a test on a soaking skid pad we found the system works well. Fortunately it only works in emergency situations so it's not distracting during normal spirited driving. It can be turned off, though we recommend against doing so.

Booming road noise, especially from the rear seats, was a common complaint of the previous-generation Odyssey. Honda claims that the current vehicle is much quieter with increased amounts of sound-deadening material and floating sub frames that keep suspension and tire noise more isolated. We had no complaints about noise while driving the different models. The Touring model and the EX with leather benefit from high-tech noise-abatement features. When the i-VTEC engine with VCM is only running on three cylinders there is a natural imbalance, which can produce drumming sounds and vibrations. To counteract this, the engine is mounted on special active control engine mounts that electronically adjust themselves to counteract engine vibrations. Further booming sounds are reduced by an active noise control system that automatically sends an out-of-phase sound through the loudspeaker system to cancel out engine noises; it also works when the engine is idling.

Michelin's PAX run-flat tire system comes on the Touring model and it's a truly worthwhile feature because changing a tire can be dangerous, especially in high-crime areas. The Michelin PAX system is better than traditional run-flat tires because there is no significant ride-quality penalty. Run-flat tires have in the past relied on super-stiff sidewalls to support the car when the air is lost, which usually results in a harsher ride. We were hard pressed to notice any difference in ride or handling between the Touring and other models. Michelin's PAX system uses a solid plastic ring that wraps around the center of the wheel like a rubber band. When deflated, the tire presses against it and uses it for support. In a demonstration while driving with a flat tire we noticed deteriorated handling, but the vehicle was certainly controllable in a safe manner. Honda says the vehicle can be driven up to 50 mph for 125 miles with a flat tire. The wheels and tires are a special size and require specialized equipment to change, but Michelin says it can have a set mounted within 12 hours within 125 miles of almost anywhere in the U.S. From a practical standpoint, that should work just fine; you won't be able to buy just any tire when you go to replace them, but Michelin makes superb tires.

 

Summary
Anyone who appreciates the versatility of a minivan coupled with the driving characteristics of a car will delight in owning a Honda Odyssey. The Touring model is especially compelling for drivers who a versatile luxury utility vehicle that rides like a car. Perhaps that's why Honda calls its Odyssey a premium adventure vehicle.

New Car Test Drive correspondent John Rettie filed this report from Alabama, near the Honda assembly plant.

 

Model Line Overview

Model lineup: Honda Odyssey LX ($25,345); EX ($28,395); EX with Leather ($30,795); Touring ($36,595)
Engines: 244-hp 3.5-liter sohc 24-valve V6
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard): dual front advanced airbags, front seat side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags, anti-lock brake system (ABS), brake assist, electronic brake distribution with traction control
Safety equipment (optional): front and rear parking sensor system; run-flat tires
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in: Lincoln, Alabama

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Honda Odyssey Touring ($36,595)
Standard equipment: leather seats, electrically adjustable foot pedals, three-zone automatic climate control, power glass moonroof, electrically adjustable foot pedals, AM/FM/CD system with XM Satellite radio, DVD Entertainment system, power door locks, mirrors, windows, intermittent wipers, remote keyless entry, power liftgate and side doors, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensor system, run-flat tires and tire pressure monitor system
Options as tested (MSRP): Navigation System ($2,200)
Destination charge: 550
Gas guzzler tax:  
Price as tested (MSRP): 38795
Layout: front-wheel drive
Engine: 3.5-liter sohc 24-valve V6 iVTEC
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 244 @ 5750
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 240 @ 4500
Transmission: five-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 20/28
Wheelbase: 118.1
Length/width/height: 201.0/77.1/68.8
Track, f/r: 66.7/66.8
Turning circle: 36.7
Seating capacity: 8
Head/hip/leg room, f: 39.2/57.0/40.8
Head/hip/leg room, m: 39.6/64.4/39.6
Head/hip/leg room, r: 38.4/48.5/41.1
Trunk volume: 147.4
Payload:  
Towing capacity: 3500
Suspension, f: independent strut with coil springs
Suspension, r: independent double wishbone
Ground clearance:  
Curb weight: 4378
Tires: 235-710R 460A Michelin PAX run-flat tires
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc with ABS, Brake Assist
Fuel capacity: 21.0

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of 2005-08-08 00:00:00.0 .
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-33-HONDA - www.honda.com


Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.
New Car Test Drive

Copyright © 1994-2009 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

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