2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L
The 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L comes very near to the top of this model line, making it one smooth and sophisticated minivan. The 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 is unobtrusive, which also unfortunately applies to its power delivery in some situations; it just isn't enough to move this big box smartly in cut-and-thrust city driving or climbing hilly freeway passes. But at least it never sounds harsh while being slightly feeble.
You won't mind that it takes a little longer to accelerate from point A to point B, because you'll be well cosseted in a good if somewhat incomplete array of technology that includes DVD navigation, a rear-seat video entertainment system, and XM Satellite Radio. Strangely, iPod integration and Bluetooth hands-free technology are not available.
Seat and storage configurations are a big deal on a minivan, and the 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L shows up with a stowable second-row seat and a 60/40-split third-row seat. Suffice it to say, this vehicle swings easily from microbus to small van and back with a minimum of huffing and puffing.
Our 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L, with its navigation system and DVD rear entertainment system, is an entire trim level, not just a collection of options or an option package. The list price for an Odyssey in this trim level is $34,595. The only technology option available beyond that is a subwoofer for $319.The 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L's navigation system is fronted by a nice, big LCD that is motorized to drop down and reveal the CD changer behind it. The navigation system is clear and easy to program and understand, though not quite possessed of the smoothest-looking bitmapping we've seen. But it's a standard Honda unit, and we've had no real complaints about it with other Honda vehicles. Press a button, and the navigation screen motors down flat to reveal the six-disc in-dash CD changer, which unfortunately does not play MP3 CDs.
Passengers bearing iPods will be stuck using their earbuds in the 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L because it doesn't offer an iPod-integration option, nor does it offer a Bluetooth hands-free option. These two omissions are a pair of odd no-shows in a car that otherwise seems to embrace a convenience-tech message.
Drawing your attention away from what the 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L doesn't have is a rear-seat entertainment system, based on a large 9-inch drop-down LCD. The screen is bright, sharp, and wide. A wireless remote control drops down from the same place where the display lives and allows for easy and flexible control of the system. Wireless headphones round out the package and cleverly turn themselves off whenever you fold the ear cups flat for stowage in the seat-back pouches.
The 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L's power side doors may seem a mite extravagant until you've owned a minivan for a while and realize your arms always seem out of joint from heaving those big doors to and fro. The driver has a set of buttons for powering the doors, or you can just start the door's opening or closing sequence with its handle; a motor wakes up to finish the job. Training family, friends, and other passengers to remember these are power doors that don't need muscling home is an endless task.
We could also mention the lazy Susan mounted below the floorboards for sneaky storage, or the rear-passenger conversation mirror integrated into the drop-down sunglass holder, but you get the idea: This is a minivan with serious creature comforts, once you get past the fact that it assumes you will hold a phone to your head and leave your iPod at home.