Since its 1999 debut, the Honda Odyssey has been at the front of the minivan ranks. It combines superior styling, functionality and versatility. And it performs like a sedan masquerading as an eight-passenger van. The 2006 edition only further solidifies the vehicle’s pedigree.
Much of the Odyssey’s current styling and improvements were added in 2005. And there was no reason to mess with a good thing. In short, the Odyssey’s cavernous interior space, its well-designed seat configuration and overall comfort are hard to beat.
My test vehicle for the week was the Touring Edition, one of seven available Odysseys, and the most expensive. The minivan has a huge price range, with the LX model offered at $25,195 and the Touring edition with DVD Navigation offered at $38,495.
My weekly test included a frequently visited testing ground — the 400-mile round trip from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula. The journey always includes numerous driving scenarios: wide-open, high-speed Interstate 5 to the narrow, uneven side streets of Carmel.
Mini-vans are largely marketed toward families or for small groups. But for the last three years, I’ve traveled solo several times for several hundred miles in mini-vans. It’s hardly the most economically efficient choice. But with the Odyssey, the journey is pleasant despite the vast amount of unused space.
Climbing through the vehicle, though, a solo traveler can get a good sense of things.
The second row of seats, for example, has superior head room, and the bucket seats are adjustable into many positions. They can also be moved together to form a bench seat that can be slid forward and aft.
The third-row seat folds into the floor, which further extends available cargo space and alleviates a problem in other similar vehicles. A third seat not in use in an Odyssey doesn’t have to be stored elsewhere.
And if all rows of seats are in use, there’s a deep, rectangular space behind the third seat for additional cargo space.
Considering the Odyssey’s Touring edition is the line’s most expensive, the optional features simply enhance the generous offering of standard features.
The standard feature list on the LX model includes: remote keyless entry, AM/FM radio with CD player, all-power functions — locks to mirrors to windows. Subsequent higher-priced models include myriad offerings — power sunroof to navigation system, automatic headlights to power-sliding side doors.
The Touring edition has refinements]]> like satellite radio, rearview camera and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
I first drove the Odyssey in 2004. That year, the automatic shifting arm was positioned behind the shorter arm that operated the windshield wipers. More than once, I reached for the shifting arm and engaged the windshield wipers or windshield cleaning spray. The shifting mechanism is now a short-shifting lever efficiently positioned at an angle on the near instrumentation panel.
Driving the Odyssey is pleasant. While never mistaken for a powerful sedan or a zippy sports car, the 3.5-liter 255-horsepower, V6 engine fares well — better than some in either aforementioned class.
The drive to Monterey has winding steep inclines to stop-and-go situations. The Odyssey handles itself well and its does so with efficient steering, good visibility and a strong, quiet ride.
The Odyssey has two small issues. The rear view camera — visible on small screen in the stereo console — shows the area immediately behind the vehicle. It’s a nice feature, but the view is blurry and there’s a substantial trust factor learning curve — at least there is for me.
Likewise, both sliding side doors can open and close automatically via buttons of the keyless entry fob. But the function hasn’t quite been perfected. There’s a delay when opening or closing doors, and on more than one occasion, the doors stopped before completely closing.
Nonetheless, the Odyssey well deserves its position as the minivan leader. Like other Hondas, it’s hard to top in its class, whether used by a solo driver or a family on vacation.
Of course, if an Odyssey driver has only one passenger, the driver may spend a lot of time alone. The passenger could easily prefer to spend time in the comfort of their apartment in the back two seats.
Safety Features — Dual front, front side and side curtain airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 20 (city), 28 (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Extended Power train, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited mileage; Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
Price Range — $25,195 to $38,795.