SAN DIEGO--After a series of not-so-scintillating product launches from Honda--the Insight, CrossTour, and CR-Z all received mixed reviews, at best--getting theright was more than crucial. It was essential.
The new Odyssey's seven lead engineers and chief designer were well suited for the task. They have owned a total of 27 Odysseys, so they knew firsthand what needed to be improved.
The basics: The redesigned Odyssey is 2 inches wider, an inch longer, rides lower, and is more aerodynamic than its predecessor. Under the hood it has a re-engineered version of its 3.5-liter V-6 engine, with variable cylinder management and estimated fuel economy of 18 mpg city and 27 highway.
As of now, the Odyssey is the only minivan with independent rear suspension. Combined with a more rigid body and subframe structure, that means more sensitive ride control and more precise handling. Honda made the brakes 1 inch larger in diameter and now claims best-in-class stopping distances.
In addition to improving performance and adding features, Honda also made the vehicle more stylish, with a signature lightning-bolt beltline. Honda says the vehicle will get five-star safety ratings in all measurements.
Notable features: The center console between the two front seats can hold a purse and is removable. Underneath the instrument panel is a "coolbox" that can hold a six-pack of soda.
As for seating, the second row can be fitted with three child seats but also can pivot outward by 2 inches so three adults can sit in comfort.
With 6 inches more legroom than the Toyota Sienna, the Odyssey's third row has enough space for three full-sizee adults and with seats that also recline. The cantilevered foldaway function for the third-row seats is now performed with a single strap pull.
With the seats removed, the Odyssey can accommodate a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood, three mountain bikes or 10-foot 2-by-4 studs.
The entertainment system features a 16-inch hi-definition monitor with split-screen capability for kids quarrelling in the second row. The "song by voice" telematics system replicates the iPod operating system.
What Honda says: "We wanted to create a vehicle that got away from the conservative stigma applied to minivans," said Catalin Matei, the Odyssey's chief designer, a father of three and owner of seven Odysseys.
Added chief engineer Art St. Cyr: "We had a hard time distinguishing minivans from across a parking lot."
Compromises and shortcomings: The slide rail for the second-row doors mars the sheet metal, but incorporating it into the beltline would have meant crimping 4 inches of shoulder room in the third-row seats. The third-row windows do not pop open for venting.
The base Odyssey has a five-speed automatic; higher trim levels get a more costly six-speed box. All-wheel drive will not be offered. Officials expressed doubts that a hybrid version will be added.
The market: The minivan segment is off 50 percent compared with the boom years. But unlike other categories, minivans may not be coming back to pre-recession numbers. The base price of the Odyssey is $28,580, including shipping.
The skinny: Although down on power compared to the Sienna's V-6, the Odyssey feels more nimble and accurate. The improvement in interior features, fitments, and tactile surfaces means the segment has a new mark to shoot for. Honda nailed this one.
(Source: Automotive News)