2011 Honda Odyssey Review – More of a Good Thing

Thursday January 13th, 2011 at 11:11 AM
Posted by: twain

By Twain Mein

Pros:

  • More utility than a Swiss army knife. This is one car that can handle most anything you throw at it, including seating for 8 passengers and lots of space.
  • It offers a limousine-like 58 cubic feet up front and in the second row seats, as well as 38 cubic feet for parcels (behind the third row) and up to 149 cubic feet with the seats folded flat
  • Car-like driving despite its behemoth size
  • Thoughtful and convenient features such as the “magic” third row seats, low rear liftover, “conversation mirror”, and built-in cooler for drinks and sandwiches up front
  • Serene ride and luxurious appointments
  • The family-hauler records a respectable 19 mpg

Cons:

  • Exterior styling is a step backwards
  • Minivan stigma
  • Not available in all-wheel drive

Driving impressions
Though minivans have a negative stigma, I was excited to drive the new Odyssey. Rolling up in traffic, looking down at other commuters, I was as pumped as if I were driving a BMW 7-series. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t challenged to any drag strip races and women drivers didn’t pay me a second, let alone first, look. Hah! Little did they know what they were missing!

This car has it all – leather, beautiful appointments, Bluetooth®, navigation system, and the intangibles of practicality. I had a stupid grin driving this rig as if it was the best car on the road. But for some reason the 2011 model didn’t feel as vault-like as the previously tested 2008 Odyssey model. It felt slightly less refined, though I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

2011 Honda Odyssey with Tessa at the wheel

Styling
The styling of recent Hondas and Acuras has been a bit disappointing, most notable with the Acura TL. They have transitioned from elegant and flowing lines, to more “dramatic statements” that leave me cold. Unfortunately, the new Odyssey suffers the same fault. In particular, the third row windows feature an abrupt drop in the third window crease. It steps down from the second row, giving a drooped-butt appearance to an otherwise attractive car. Why didn’t they just continue this in a straight line? The effect is irritating.

Build
Hondas have excellent build quality though their sedans and coupes often feel a bit “light”. The minivan, on the other hand, is positively Sherman tank solid. In particular, the sliding doors operated with the precision and sturdiness of a bank vault door. The seats seemed bullet-proof and immune to abuse from rambunctious kids clamoring about.

2011 Honda Odyssey

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
The interior of the Honda Odyssey is like a safe haven from shark-infested waters. Inside, it is truly serene. Beautifully appointed leather seating comforts passengers throughout. The “three (er, six) on the tree” gear shifter is easy to use and its location frees up space for the massive center console that features an ingenious “coolbox”. The coolbox is a bin on the floor that has cooled air circulated in to keep drinks and snacks cool for the ravenous youth that typical mini-van owners will be hauling.

In the second row, my girls were thrilled to watch their favorite DVDs on a wide screen monitor. Honda has designed the monitor to be wide yet not overly deep, so it doesn’t block the view while the driver is looking in the rear-view mirror. Well done!

power sliding doors and liftgateOne-Motion 60/40 Split 3rd-Row Magic Seat16.2 inch ultrawide rear entertainment system

Going way aft, the third row “magic” seats are amazing. By simply tugging on their tether, you can pull up or push down the third row seats. Upright, they have excellent head room and acceptable leg room for my six foot frame. Folded, they disappear flat into the rear storage bin. Additionally, this rear storage area is located about knee-high which makes it incredibly easy for shorter Moms to place daily groceries. This really is an incredibly well-thought out car.

Nits? Though powered by 650 watts, the sound system wasn’t remarkable. The speakers seemed “flat” and didn’t offer a lot of dynamic range. Additionally, using the Bluetooth connection for my iPhone was somewhat problematic in that it didn’t automatically turn on. I had to manually turn on the connection each time I entered the car to use my cell phone with the internal system.

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