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.
The Odyssey EX-L's navigation screen is big and bright, and it folds back to reveal the CD changer.
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 control unit above the Odyssey's rear-seat LCD can be popped out and used as a remote.
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.
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.