Auto enthusiasts hate minivans for a reason; they are not fun to drive and usually look dull. You see, the long and tall body usually ends up on a FWD layout which in turn has a problem dealing with long wheelbases. It is no fluke large cars tend to be RWD or AWD. FWD just gets its agility killed once mated to a long wheelbase.
Enough with the boring technical stuff and let’s move on to the subject; the updated 2014 Honda Odyssey. Its platform is shared with the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX and since it is equipped with all-around independent suspension it might just handle better than expected. The body has minor updates compared to last year and the most significant change is the new 6-speed automatic transmission.
Prices start at $29,990 for an LX and go all the way up to $48,050 for a Touring just like our test vehicle. The number of features on-board is larger than Greece’s dept, worth mentioning is the integrated HVAC system, power sliding doors and tailgate, 8-passenger seating with One-Motion 60/40 Split 3rd-Row Magic Seat, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning, Blind spot information, Tri-zone automatic climate control, Leather-trimmed seating surfaces with leather-wrapped steering wheel, moonroof with Integrated 3-row sunshades, HandsFreeLink bilingual Bluetooth, Honda DVD Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System with 16.2-inch display and integrated remote control, 115-volt power outlet, RCA video input, 2 headphone jacks and 2 wireless headsets with personal surround sound, Removable front centre console with storage and flip-up trash bag ring, Multi-angle rearview camera, HDMI® (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) input jack, Fog lights, Auto-leveling High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights with auto on/off (wiper-linked), 18″ aluminum-alloy wheels, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) x5, Anti-lock Braking System, Vehicle Stability Assist, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) II body structure, Active front seat head restraints, Three-row side curtain airbags with rollover sensor and Smartvent™ side airbags.
When it comes to looks, the Odyssey is my personal pick as it is the least boring to look at out of the bunch. Shaped like a 5,153mm chisel, it splits the air apart and travels at speed. The massive wheels are essential to comfort levels but also look commanding and fill the wheel arches. The keyless entry system works very well and on the key itself you have control over the power sliding side doors and tailgate.
The Top Safety Pick+ cabin is also extremely roomy and versatile. Driver and passenger have ample space and seating comfort similar to a home theater couch. Ergonomically, the large dashboard is well laid out and most of the controls are easy to reach and operate. The materials used are all hard plastic but are well put together for a tight rattle free interior. The second row in the default position is very roomy in all three dimensions. Headroom, legroom and width are all exclusive to the minivan category and will satisfy any volume requirements. Versatility is also addressed well as all seats can slide, recline or take a hike. Being able to access the third row without removing the child seat from the second row is a very useful feature. Space at the third row is a bit tighter, but two adults and a child will be able to travel without complaints, increasing seating capacity to eight instead of seven. The best news is that the cargo area behind the third row is an impressive 846 lt. Stow the third row away and you ll have 2636 lt to work with, while stowing the second row too will create a nice little camping space for you to spend the night if needed. Maximum cargo volume is 4205 lt.
Under the hood, Honda’s popular 3.5L i-VTEC® V6 is the only engine option available. Updated with Variable Cylinder Management, it outputs 248 bhp and 250 lb-ft of torque. It feels very smooth, refined, quiet and powerful enough to move even a fully loaded cabin. Mated to the new very good 6-speed automatic gearbox, the performance gain compared to last year’s models is obvious. Fuel economy during our very cold weather test remained relatively low despite the snow blizzards we were driving through. On the combined cycle, 11.7 lt/100km was recorded and only regular unleaded is required.
On the road the Odyssey pleasantly surprised us. The MacPherson strut front and Multi-link rear suspension work very well with the stiff chassis. The variable power-assisted steering is direct and well weighted creating a much more engaging driving experience than I had in mind. Handling and vehicle dynamics are numb due to the long wheelbase but for a minivan it handles very well. Ride comfort is exceptional, noise is well suppressed and long distance traveling is a joy for the whole family.
Overall, the Odyssey is an amazing minivan that delivers more than what a modern day family could possibly ask for. Fully equipped it gets pricey, but considering the safety and convenience for the precious smiles you ll be transporting, it is worth every penny.
Limited traction in deep snow