Minivan wars are heating up, with automakers competing to see which can offer the most functional, pleasing living room on wheels. The Honda Odyssey is a top contender, boasting a dual-input rear video screen, which includes an HDMI input, and excellent voice control.
Honda updated its Odyssey minivan for the 2011 model year, significantly changing the body style and updating the cabin tech. In Honda style, there are no options, just different trim levels. Our review car was the very top trim Elite Touring.
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Honda continues evolving its new angular styling language with the Odyssey. Curves give way to straight lines and hard corners.
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The 3.5-liter V-6 uses three-stage cylinder deactivation, letting it run on 6, 4, or even 3 cylinders, as needs dictate, effectively changing the engine displacement.
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The styling of the Odyssey is very apparent on the sides. We like the way the door handles meet, but the rear looks like it is falling off of the car.
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Power sliding doors make for easy access to the two rows of seats in the rear.
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The ride quality in the Odyssey was good: not soft but rigidly comfortable.
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Blind-spot detection lights up a warning near the side mirrors when cars are off the rear quarters of the Odyssey.
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Rear seats fold flat into the floor with minimal effort, creating a large cargo area.
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In Touring Elite trim, Honda uses leather and faux natural elements, which succeeds in making the cabin feel comfortable and exhibit quality.
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Honda used to have a big problem with overpopulating the steering wheel and dashboard with buttons, but it has cut back in the new Odyssey, making for a more usable interface.
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The Touring and Touring Elite trimmed Odysseys get a six-speed automatic. Lesser trims get a five-speed, which gets worse fuel economy.
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The stack is not that well-designed in the Odyssey, as the controls for onscreen content are way at the bottom. If they were closer to the screen it would be easier for drivers to match button to screen activity.
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The new hard-drive-based navigation system uses maps with excellent resolution. However, there are no 3D maps.
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The navigation system shows traffic information, but did not seem to dynamically route around traffic jams.
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The POI database includes Zagat ratings for restaurants, with descriptive commentary.
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The Odyssey is one of the few cars on the market to offer iPod music selection through voice command.
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With the navigation hard drive, Honda makes it possible to rip CDs. Music on the hard drive can also be requested through voice command.
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The hard-drive music library uses this interface, which comports with the general screen paradigm also used for navigation and the phone system.
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The iPod library uses this simple list menu, not in keeping with the general design of the interface.
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With 12 speakers and a 650-watt amp, the sound system worked well for music and movies alike.
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The Bluetooth phone system copies over a paired phone's contact list and makes it available through voice command.
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The Odyssey is the only car so far to have an HDMI input for the entertainment system.
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The wide LCD can show two video sources side by side or a single source in the middle.