The Honda Odyssey remains at the top of its class.
With a face that a cleaning-obsessed Soccer Mom could love, the vacuum cleaner-equipped 2015 Honda Odyssey Minivan sucks. But that could be just what parents of an active brood of kids are looking for when it comes time to shop for a family van.
But not just for parents anymore, the Odyssey uses simple conveniences to help push the envelope in minivan design and style. The end-result is a vehicle that would fit in, whether the owner's primary goal was to deliver flowers or the family, with the bonus of being able to quickly clean up any mishaps that may have occurred along the way.
What is it?
Having the ability to carry as many as eight passengers puts the Honda Odyssey near the top of the class when it comes to abilities. Powered by a 3.5-liter iVTEC V6 engine that makes 248 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, it's definitely not a slug. Well, not quite a slug. The multi-point fuel-injected engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to drive the front wheels.
This newer-gen V6 includes Honda's variable cylinder management (VCM) system, which allows it to use all six, three, or four cylinders, depending on the engine's workload. For example, while hard acceleration will have all six cylinders firing, highway cruising may shut off two or three cylinders to minimize engine wear and fuel consumption.
The unibody structure of the Odyssey, which borrows bits from the Honda Accord and Pilot, plus an Acura crossover or two, rides on a MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink double wishbone rear kit that makes this probably the most car-like driving minivan in the segment.
The 2015 Honda Odyssey is available in five trim levels ranging from base LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and our high-zoot Touring Elite version. All are well equipped, some just a little more well-equipped than others. For example, the base LX is only available in a seven-passenger configuration. As such, stepping up to the higher trim levels, like our Touring Elite model, includes such features as a 16-inch widescreen video display for the rear seats, a cool box at the base of the dashboard to add some chill to canned or bottled drinks, and a two - three - three seating configuration for a maximum amount of utility. And that's before we even discussed the HondaVAC vacuum cleaner.
Though not ground-breaking, the Odyssey includes thoughtful items that will help drivers who might otherwise become distracted while carrying a full load of mulch from the home improvement store or a full team of little leaguers to their pizza parlor awards dinner at the end of the season. They include an expanded view driver's mirror, Honda LaneWatch, and Collision Alert, as well as an 80-degree view of the passenger side roadway, and a multi-angle rearview camera for normal and top-down views all around the vehicle. The aforementioned HondaVAC boasts of more power than a typical handheld vacuum and includes a hose that can reach to the far hinterlands of the Odyssey's interior.
What's it up against?
Competitors to the Odyssey include the Chrysler Town & Country, a newly refreshed Toyota Sienna with optional all-wheel-drive, the Nissan Quest, and Kia Sedona. Word on the street says there may be a redesigned Odyssey for model year 2017.
How does it look?
Redesigned in 2011 and receiving various refreshes since that time, the Odyssey appears slightly futuristic, even with side panels that don't quite look like they flow from one to the next. In fact it looks like the rear third of this Honda came from a totally different vehicle. Still, it manages to impress in its looks and utility.
Totally functional, our Odyssey featured useful fitments including driver and passenger-side rear sliding doors, as well as an automatic functioning liftgate. All can be opened using the remote control key fob.
And on the inside?
Just as clothes can make the man, features can make the minivan. In the case of the Odyssey, all the little bits add up to quite a lot. Items like active noise cancellation, and a standard rearview camera, offer welcomed driver assists, while the below-console cooler with room for six water bottles or conversely a dozen juice boxes. The Wideview display screen will enthrall and in some instances, quiet the younger charges that may occupy the rear seating area.
About those rear seats: Our Odyssey included a configurable middle seat that can be used to separate kids who are in the "Mom, he won't stop touching me," phase. Additionally, they offer side or middle aisle access to the third row. By the numbers, the Odyssey offers 38.4 cubic feet behind the third row, 93.1 cubic feet behind the second, and 148.5 cubic feet behind the front row seating. That's just about right for hauling the 60-inch flatscreen back home to the man cave.
But does it go?
Hauling a nearly full load of seven passengers and their things really showed the Odyssey's capabilities. Granted, this is not the most powerful engine in Honda's product portfolio, that title going to Honda Performance Division's Indy Racing mill. Still, the iVTEC V6 still manages to show its polished performance in all tasks that are asked of it.
But sometimes more than just a smooth operator is needed, especially when carrying around a curb weight of 4,613-pounds, in addition to seven passengers. We found it sometimes necessary to jab at the accelerator to cause a downshift, which created more revs for quicker entry and passing into rapidly moving expressway traffic.
Still, the Odyssey never once balked or offered any undue feedback, instead choosing to do its job quietly. Credit the active noise cancellation for allowing us to use our inside voices when conversing.
From a handling point of view, the Odyssey impressed with its low, hunkered down feel that translated into secure cornering with lack of body roll on winding roads. Steering was well modulated, without the sloppiness or numbness on center that is sometimes found in other minivans, not to mention cars in the mid-sized sedan segment.
Leftlane's bottom line
Thanks to ongoing improvements to interior fitment and utility, not to mention a quiet ride, the Honda Odyssey remains the class of the field. Between the underdash coolbox and the 16-inch big screen display, why would you ever want to leave?
2015 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite base price, $44,600. As tested, $45,430. Destination fee, $830.
Photos by Mark Elias.