2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L review: 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L

There is a lot of clever technology in the 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L's engine bay, which is not what you'd expect from a vehicle that seeks neither amazing gas mileage nor exceptional performance.

But the Odyssey EX-L's 3.5-liter, SOHC V-6 engine seeks optimal gas mileage through the use of cylinder deactivation, a much-maligned technology. Honda calls it variable-cylinder management (VCM), and it's standard equipment on the EX-L. By exploiting the controllability of Honda's VTEC valve train, engineers were able to devise a largely hydromechanical system to close and idle the valves and injectors on the rear three cylinders on this transversely mounted engine when the car doesn't need them.

VCM introduces all kinds of weird harmonics and attendant vibration, but Honda answers that issue with several assaults on harshness. First, there's the active-control engine-mount system (ACM), which adjusts the three solenoid-equipped engine mounts to anticipate a lumpy engine cycle and tense up against it.

The rear cylinders on this transversely mounted V-6 deactivate when not needed for better mileage.

No matter how well such a damping system works--and it works well--the human ear is an amazing instrument, with the ability to pick up on the uneven combustion cycle of a half-dead V-6 and detect a huffing or booming sound. Honda conquers the aural issue with standard active noise cancellation (ANC), which is specifically there to detect such ugly engine noises and phase them out by producing inverted audio via the stereo speakers inside.

The 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L's engine is controlled by a drive-by-wire accelerator, which certainly is the key to keeping this system smooth; drive-by-wire prevents you from surprising a half-dead engine with an instantaneous demand for power that would force it to perform a decidedly inelegant reactivation of the sleeping three cylinders. The Odyssey's engine-management computer is able to intercept that demand for acceleration and feed it to the engine with no more level of urgency than it can handle smoothly.

Finally, this i-VTEC engine develops its peak 240 horsepower about 500rpm less than that of the lesser Odyssey models with standard VTEC valve train, which also contributes to its general smooth behavior.

It all adds up to an impressive symphony of technologies that has one goal: using cylinder deactivation to achieve efficient gas mileage (20mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway) without any harshness that would be antithetical to Honda.

It works. You know the rear half of the cylinder bank has shut down only when a green light on the dash comes on to announce ECO. Switching of engine modes from three- to six-cylinder is absolutely seamless on the 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L. This is impressive, but on the other hand, these mileage figures are only slightly better on the lower-end EX and LX versions of the Odyssey (19mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway) that don't carry all this intricate technology and the moving parts that go with it.

The 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L is a family vehicle, so of course Honda loads it with safety technology. Our EX-L, and all Odyssey trim levels, include dual-stage, dual-threshold front air bags, front side air bags with passenger-side occupant detection, three-row side-curtain air bags with rollover sensors, electronic brake distribution, ABS, and a vehicle stability-assist program with traction control. Only the top-of-the-line Odyssey Touring is available with a tire-pressure monitoring system, with location and pressure indicators. Warranty coverage is 60 months/60,000 miles and 60 months/unlimited miles for rust.

What you'll pay

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