From its reintroduction in 1999, Honda’s Odyssey has been an unqualified success story.
Over the years, this minivan has become more powerful, with a host of up-to-date upgrades and engineering goodies. But its basic dimensions have remained about the same. Why mess with success?
The 2011 version comes in five trim levels, all with a powerful and silky-smooth 3.5-litre V6 engine that develops 248 horsepower.
Transmission is a five-speed automatic, with Honda’s Grade Logic Control system which automatically finds the best gear combination based on driving conditions and engine speed. Honda has been using it on various models for at least a decade – the Pilot, for one.
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The 2011 Odyssey also has Honda’s Advanced Variable Cylinder management system, which shuts off up to half the cylinders during certain driving conditions. A little “eco” light on the dash lets the driver know when it’s in play and increases the Odyssey’s fuel economy in town and on the highway. In 2011, it was only available on the EX-L and Touring models.
Eight people can fit into one of these, no problem, and the second-row seats, though heavy, are all fairly straightforward to remove and reinstall. They also tilt forward for easy access to the back. The rear windows also open and the recessed floor in the back luggage area accommodates the third-row seats, which fold into the floor.
With everything folded away or removed, there’s 4,173 litres of cargo space, with an under-floor storage area behind the front seats. The base LX version doesn’t have power side doors, but those that do feature dash-mounted buttons, interior switches, and/or the key fob.
This generation of the Odyssey has improved noise, vibration and harshness over the previous year. Rivals, such as the Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona, are, up to this model year, much quieter to drive. This was a pervasive problem with many Honda products and the company apparently dealt with it in 2011.
There are lots of modern conveniences here. The Touring model, for example, has tri-zone climate control, leather interior, power-adjustable pedals, power rear lift-gate, heated front seats, rear DVD player and a navigation system.
One thing that remains unchanged is the Odyssey’s surprisingly good handling. This generation of the Odyssey still has a high driveability factor. Then, as now, it was the benchmark when it came to people carriers.
There are no safety recalls from either Transport Canada or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States. But the latter organization had six technical service bulletins on file, including:
- “clunking popping or clicking from the front of the vehicle while turning”;
- issues with the power steering pump;
- spark plug fouling;
- random software issues;
- “rolled backwards while the transmission was in Park”;
- “engine consumes too much oil”;
- “brakes grind frequently.”
Consumer Reports liked the Odyssey but not overly so. It received an “average” new car prediction from this organization, with an expected reliability of two per cent below average. Still, it got top marks virtually across the board, except for suspension issues and the ubiquitous “squeaks and rattles.”
Some comments to CR from owners:
- “second row (seats) too heavy to move – have to really want to do it”;
- “plenty of luggage room behind the third-row seats”;
- “voice controls can be confusing somewhat.”
From a base price of around $30,000 in 2011, the Odyssey has held up reasonably well. There seems to be a large disparity between the base LX and top-of-the-range Touring models, but these days, you can expect to pay anywhere from $13,000 to $19,000.
2011 Honda Odyssey
Original base price: $29,990
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Torque: 250 foot pounds
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city, 7.1 highway, with regular gas
Alternatives: Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage, Volkswagen Routan, Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, Nissan Quest
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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