My wife and I weren't too surprised when we learned almost four years ago that we'd be having twins. After all, her mother has siblings who are fraternal twins, and although they tend to skip a generation, fraternal twins are hereditary. Still, we knew having two new people in the family meant we'd need more space. Among other accommodations, we decided to buy a used 2003 Honda Odyssey. It's been an excellent vehicle, but it's getting up there in age and mileage. Certainly there's no shortage of families that are in the exact same situation.
To see if Honda's latest minivan is just as good as the much-loved Odysseys that preceded it, we spent the better part of a week behind the wheel of a 2012 Honda Odyssey Touring. While the road noise issue was fixed with the previous generation van that was sold from 2005 to 2010, this new van achieves a new and altogether golden type of silence - two quiet toddlers. Not only is this van even quieter than the previous Odyssey, the optional rear entertainment system with an ultra-wide display can play video from two different sources. This means fewer arguments about what to watch. Thankfully, we needed just one video as our three-year-olds remained in an Elmo-induced trance as long as the DVD ran. Wireless headphones on their ears meant we could listen to music or news up front while the kids were glued to the tube.
But, the DVD system required some parental discipline. Using it only for longer trips meant we could still enjoy conversation or singing a song together on short jaunts. But even if you do break under the pressure and pop in a video for a short trip, the Odyssey's more rectangular wide screen doesn't hang down as low and that means it doesn't block too much of the view out the rear view mirror.
That drawback is the Odyssey's size, one of the very characteristics that makes the vehicle so good. Yes, it's big - big enough that our family can fit along with the grandparents or aunts, uncles and cousins. The Odyssey's capacious and flexible seating, which now includes LATCH anchors in the third row, is its best attribute. But the size of the vehicle, particularly when maneuvering in parking lots or tight city streets, can be an issue. The new Odyssey is significantly bigger than our old one. But, it includes some technology to accommodate the driver.
The backup camera, for example, may have prevented the cracked taillight lens that our '03 suffered during last spring's beach trip. And that rear parking camera on the Touring has three distinct and adjustable views - normal, wide angle and a look straight down at the rear bumper. The blind spot monitors on the 2012 are helpful, too, as is the newly available Bluetooth on the EX version. The additional length of the 2012 (1.7 inches) is hardly apparent. But, at 3.6 inches wider than the second-generation van, the new Odyssey is obviously tighter in parking spaces and on narrow drives. Thankfully, any fuel economy penalty resulting from the size increase is offset by cylinder deactivation and a six-speed automatic transmission. The only down side here is that the transmission seems too eager to upshift, sometimes even jumping up one gear in the middle of a steep hill, which cut down on power for a second or two. This is probably done to raise the Odyssey's EPA fuel economy rating which is pretty impressive at 19 mpg city / 27 highway for the Touring Elite like our tester.
Active engine mounts and noise cancellation keep the driver from detecting activation and deactivation of cylinders.
The old Odyssey hauled just four people to the shore for that beach trip last spring. But when packing, few decisions were made about what to bring. Instead we just tossed in everything we thought we might use. Even with just two kids in the family, the minivan is a superb family car that's like a living room on wheels.
This latest Odyssey is even better. It's spacious, quiet and big. The size may be a drawback for some but the new Odyssey's striking new look combined with the versatile interior mean it's one of the best all around family cars available. Odyssey loyalists will not be disappointed.