WHAT IT IS: OK, so maybe you haven’t been dreaming of a minivan, but that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t enjoy driving the Odyssey, even if you don’t have kids. While most drivers have a preference for the ever-popular crossover form factor, the minivan is actually superior in most every way except ride height. Granted, I was driving Honda’s top-of-the-line Elite trim, which will set your wallet back a hefty $49,335, but even the entry-level trim, the LX, offers a great experience and starts at a much more palatable $34,000.
All of the Odyssey trims come with the same 280 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, which is perfectly fine. I do wish that there was a hybrid option, like Toyota offers, but I’m sure they’ve done the math on whether to offer it or not. The big selling points of moving up to the Elite trim (a $5,000 premium over the touring trim) are a hands-free power tailgate, a wireless phone charger, an 11-speaker stereo system with multi-zone audio, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and some other exterior trims bits. One of my favorite features is the CabinWatch/CabinTalk system, which is added on touring and elite; this allows you to view live video of the second and third row so you can glance at your vehicle occupants without turning around while driving. The CabinTalk system uses a microphone to send your voice through the rear speakers, and on the Elite, will broadcast your voice into the headphones that the rear seat entertainment uses. Kids will not have the ability to feign ignorance when you are asking them a question.
The driving experience is, well, van-like in that it is smooth on the highway and the steering feel is pretty dead. The 280 horsepower is plenty and provides plenty of oomph for any on-ramps. Visibility is really good and I loved all of the places to put your drinks and stuff all over the interior. No complaints from adults that I threw in the second row in terms of personal space for a few hour road trip, so what more can you ask for?
MPG: 22 combined/19 city/28 highway
Price: $49,335 as-tested with every option.
Upsides: Comfy. Safe. Lots of storage.
Downsides: Minivans will probably never be cool.
Wrap-up: I joke about the coolness of minivans, but the reality is that they are the ultimate utility vehicle. They do just about everything extremely well and the Honda flavor does all of the minivan stuff extra well. I don’t want to bury the lede too much on my Toyota Sienna article that comes out in the next paper, but I liked the Odyssey quite a bit more. Not because it is extra exciting, but it delivers a damn solid experience in every facet. The tech is not breaking any barriers, but again, it just works, and that is what parents carting a bunch of kids and stuff around really want.