By on March 16, 2011

For years Chrysler owned the minivan market. It helped that GM and Ford kept trying much different approaches, failing miserably each time. Then, for the 1999 model year, Honda introduced the second-generation Odyssey. Though Chrysler continues to sell nearly twice as many minivans as Honda, many of these are to fleets. Also, even at retail the Honda sells at a much higher average transaction price, indicating which minivan car buyers find the most desirable. With its redesign for 2011, does the Odyssey remain the most lustworthy minivan?

Designers hate minivans. Functionality is such a priority that it’s hard to do much beyond a basic box. Which might explain why, in with their latest, Chrysler’s designers have given us a basic box. Honda did much the same with the second-generation and third-generation Odyssey. (Though the latter, with some curves added to the mix, appeared bloated.)

But “clean and simple” isn’t Honda’s thing any more. So the fourth-generation Odyssey’s bodysides are marked (marred?) by a zig-zagging beltline and associated creases. While this origami won’t win any beauty contests—the Toyota Sienna is the most conventionally attractive current member of the segment—Honda’s designers deserve credit for their willingness to try something new. The unusual beltline and recessed area just above the rocker panel combine to make the new van appear much less bulky and sportier than the old one—and unlike any other minivan.

The new Odyssey’s interior is similarly the sportiest in the segment (such things being relative) courtesy of a stylishly raked center stack. But this rake also has a downside: it places the HVAC controls—unusually located above the audio system controls—too far away. Aside from this slip, the center stack controls are better designed than the average Honda’s these days, with large knobs for major functions. There aren’t as many buttons because it’s now necessary to navigate through menus, iDrive style, to perform many secondary functions. The buttons that remain are designed so they can be identified at a glance, with different shapes and only a few in each group. Interior materials are on par with Hondas past, and so better than those in the related Pilot SUV. They also appear less cheap than the oddly textured plastics in the Toyota Sienna.

The driving position is lower and less upright than in the Chrysler minivans, and so more car-like, while still providing much better visibility than in the new Nissan Quest. The shifter is located on the instrument panel, but lower down than on the Chryslers. This isn’t as handy a location for manual shifting, but then (unlike Chrysler and Toyota) Honda hasn’t seen fit to offer manual shifting in the Odyssey. The sporty theme is only skin deep? The seats are fairly firm and will be familiar to anyone who has driven a leather-upholstered Honda before. Not quite luxurious or especially comfortable, but supportive. The center stack and removable center console include a large number of intelligently designed compartments, one of which is chilled by the air conditioning. There’s even a grocery bag holder that folds out from the back of the center console, but it seems unlikely to survive much use.

Honda’s big functional innovation with the new van appears in the second row, where the outer seats can be shifted outward about an inch-and-half. The outward position makes it easier to fit three child seats or three adults. But then why offer the more inward option? Theoretically this provides more room for two occupants, especially if the small (but not as small as before) center seat is removed. But I positioned one seat outward and the other inward, and even moving immediately from one to the other could detect no evident benefit. The outward position does make the center armrest (created by folding the center seat) a bit of a stretch, but this could have been fixed by making the center seat three inches wider. Which would also make the center seat more comfortable. The view forward is less obstructed by the front seats in the outward position. The legrests on the captain’s chairs in the Toyota Sienna are another intriguing innovation that falls a bit short in practice, but between the two Toyota’s has the edge in terms of “will it ever be used?”

Whatever the position of the Odyssey’s second row seats, there’s plenty of room. Plenty in the third row as well. The Odyssey has the distinction of being the only vehicle available with over 40 inches of legroom in every row. The tape measure, while it might exaggerate the size of the difference, doesn’t entirely lie. Honda’s minivan is the roomiest subjectively as well as objectively. On top of this, the rear seats are about as high off the floor as you’ll find in a minivan, and so are better suited for adults than most.

The downside of the large second row seats: unlike the less comfortable captains in the Chryslers, they cannot be stowed beneath the floor. When folded they sit high atop it. Ninety-three cubic feet—nearly as much as the total in the Nissan Quest—will fit behind them. But for especially large cargo the second-row seats must be removed. Have people in both rows? The 38 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row is about twice as much as in the average large crossover and nearly matches the best-in-class Sienna.

Perhaps still shellshocked by the disastrous four-speed automatic in the second-generation Odyssey, Honda lags the rest of the industry in automatic transmission development. They’ve fixed it, why risk breaking it again? The 2011 Odyssey gets the company’s new six-speed, but only in the top trim levels. The midgrade EX-L soldiers on with the old five-speed. At 247, the 3.5-liter V6’s peak horsepower also significantly lags key competitors. So the Odyssey doesn’t feel as energetic as a Sienna or one of the reinvigorated Chryslers. Then again, how quick does a minivan have to be? The V6 deactivates cylinders while cruising to save fuel. In return for some occasional barely perceptible thrumming, it yields EPA ratings of 18 city and 27 highway. The Touring’s six-speed adds one MPG to each, but even the EX-L’s highway figure is a significant two to three MPG higher than competitors’.

The Odyssey has grown softer with each redesign, and now stakes out the middle ground not far from the Sienna. So the Honda’s steering is light and the chassis tuning is moderately soft. Compared to the Sienna it doesn’t ride quite as smoothly, with some mild jitters, but handles with a little more control and precision. What perhaps matters most: from behind the wheel the Odyssey feels very much like a car, if a large one. This used to quality it as the most driver-oriented minivan, but the 2011 Chryslers have leapfrogged it and then some. The revised “imports from Detroit Canada” have a less car-like driving position but handle much firmer and tighter while also traversing imperfect pavement with more composure.

But does this matter? Honda Odyssey owners have been satisfied with their vans’ ride and handling. Their #1 complaint: road noise. The new Odyssey seems quieter than earlier ones, and might even match the Sienna in this regard. But it remains possible that some road surfaces will inspire the tires to sing.

Honda clearly thinks highly of its new minivan: an Odyssey EX-L like the one tested lists for $35,230. A similarly equipped Chrysler Town & Country lists for $32,995 (while including about $800 in additional features based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool. A similarly equipped Toyota Sienna XLE is very close in price to the Chrysler ($32,975) though it only includes about $180 in additional features—and a pricey set of dealer-installed floor mats lists for a an additional $324.

So the Honda costs over $2,000 more than the others. Worth it? Against the Chrysler it’s a matter of priorities. The new Odyssey has higher EPA ratings, sleeker, more distinctive styling (which cuts both ways), and—perhaps most importantly—more comfortable, roomier seats. But the Chrysler performs, handles, and rides significantly better while offering the superior versatility of a second row that stows beneath the floor. So passengers vs. driver + cargo. The Honda is more closely matched against the Sienna, trailing a little in performance but offering a little more room. Styling is harder to call. The Toyota has a more conventionally attractive exterior but an oddly styled, overly plasticky interior. If the prices were close I’d likely opt for the Odyssey. But another $2,000? How much are those extra inches of legroom worth to you?

Mike Ulrey of Honda Bloomfield provided the tested vehicle. Mike can be reached at 248-333-3200.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.


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82 Comments on “Review: 2011 Honda Odyssey...”


  • avatar

    Great Review.

    I didn’t know Chrysler was doing well in the minivan market.

    Funny thing – my friend’s mom needed a new minivan to shuttle their grandmother around in, and I took her to Chrysler and she bought a Town and Country. Now despite what all the nay sayers claim about Chryslers: SHE HASN’T HAD A SINGLE PROBLEM WITH IT IN 3 YEARS.
    Nor, have I had any problem with either of my Chrysler 300′s.

    With the new equipment in their new cars I think they’ll continue to stay on top.

    • 0 avatar
      Almost Jake

      I live outside Detroit and speak to a lot of domestic car owners who say their vehicles have had no problems or been very reliable. Only when pressed do I lean that they do in fact have issues, but they have leaned to accept failures as normal wear and tear.
      For example, my 89 Ford Probe needed new front struts, front wheel bearings, brake pads, and CV boots every 60,000. My 84 Honda Civic never needed any of those items replaced and had 155,000 when I sold it.

      My point is that domestic car buyers accept a higher failure rate and don’t realize (or admit) that many Japanese imports require little more than gas/oil. I took my Civic to the dealer for new plug wires when it had 130,000 miles. The dealer told me the wires were still within tolerance and that they did not need to be replaced. My domestics typically required new wires every 60,000 to 70,000.

      I am very critical and expect my cars to run flawlessly for many years before requiring maintenance. My in-law swore his Toyota Camry never broke. However, once he sold the vehicle, he rattled off a number of chronic problems that plagued the vehicle during the four years he owned it.

      We all have a level we accept as normal, and that level differs with each person. I’m not trying to be inflammatory, I just think that people forget or want to believe they made a good purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      In 2008, I drove a brand new Chrysler Town & Country that was provided for use during a Chrysler executive retreat(on our tax dollars) at the Four Seasons in San Diego. When I tried stowing the second row seats, trim pieces were broken off, tangled the mechanism, and then gleefully ejected themselves when I got the seat open again. It was pretty reminiscent of previous Big-3 experiences.

    • 0 avatar
      burnout

      It was a very good review…well-written and pretty fair.  I did notice that the model reviewed was the Odyssey EX-L without the rear-DVD system.  Most families with kids will opt for the EX-L with the DVD.  Also, for travelling, roof rails & crossbars are a must.  Unfortunately they are both considered accessories with Honda.  So when you add the DVD package and the roof rails/crossbars, plus destination, it pushes the MSRP to $37,203 (per Honda’s own website).

      As a comparison, my 2010 Grand Caravan’s window sticker MSRP was $31,715.  That included the 4.0L V6, power everything (to include liftgate), heated first and second row seats, and the dual DVD entertainment system (which means a separate screen for the second AND third rows).  Amazing options and nearly $5,500 LESS than the Odyssey!!!

      If you guys are saying “Wait Burnout, you’re talking a 2010 and Mr Karesh is reviewing a 2011″ …for a truly apples to apples comparison I just went to the Dodge website and optioned a 2011 Grand Caravan Crew with the same options as my 2010.  I added the Entertainment Group #1, Power Liftgate, Passenger Convenience Group, and Driver Convenience Group.  The MSRP for the 2011 Grand Caravan Crew is $31,910 (which includes a $750 discount for my zipcode).  Only $195 more than my 2010, and still nearly $5,300 less than the Odyssey!!!      

      Mr Karesh also mentiioned the Stow and Go, and that Honda doesn’t have anything like it…so when the Honda is optioned similarly, and compared to the Grand Caravan with its amazing price, the Honda is definitely NOT the best choice for the mini-van buyers of the world.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @Almost Jake
       
      The 1989 Ford Probe was a Japanese car – a Mazda. I bought one in 1988 and was doing on the road sales. I had to do a tune up as I churned over 60K miles in a bit more than a year – the Ford dealer sent it to the Mazda dealer as none of their techs had been trained on the 2.2 and they didn’t have the parts.
       
      I put 185K miles on my 5-speed Probe – original struts on all four corners along with all wheel bearings.
       
      In 185K miles I had to replace a battery, an alternator (95K miles), a radiator (at about 160K miles), and a clutch (135K mles). Oh yes, I did brake pads/shoes from time to time.
       
      I drove the piss out of that car. I auto crossed it almost every weekend in the summer months and being young and dumb drove it like it was stolen the rest of the time.
       
      Fazda did a great job – and I loved my Ford Probe. Second most reliable car I ever owned. But the 1989 Ford Probe mechanically was anything but an American car.

  • avatar
    jaje

    We must also consider a large majority of caravans are sold to corporate and rental fleets with the latter significantly pushing down their average transaction price.  I can’t find on the InterWeb but doesn’t the Odyssey still the most important sales ranking by selling the most to retail sales with the highest transaction prices (making it quite a cash cow).

    Chrysler for so long though that being the best of Detroit was enough and it is nice to see them now seriously competing with all competitors now.

    • 0 avatar

      If Chrysler minivan sales are at least half to fleets, then the Odyssey is the retail leader. It’s pretty amazing they can do this while also charging higher prices.

    • 0 avatar
      Norma

      Well, sales are still ranked by individual models, right?

      Sales in 2010:
      T & C 112,275
      Caravan 103,323

      Honda Odyssey 108,182

      It doesn’t take a lot of fleet sales for Town & Country to rank behind Odyssey in retail sales.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I seem to recall reading somewhere, can’t remember where right now, that Honda generally tries to avoid selling to fleets and have generally higher transaction prices because of it. If I’ve just restated your point, I apologize.

  • avatar

    Can we really say that Ford failed at the minivan game and not consider the success they had with the original Windstar?  When it was released it was a leap over everything else on the market at the time.  Chrysler, of course, released their updated minis a few years later with the dual sliding doors and Ford lost its minivan crown that it held for such a short time.
     
    Anyway, I find the new Odyssey looks hideous in photos but much nicer in person.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Oh you mean the (Sucking)Windstar?  I will give Ford credit for at least trying hard(er?) than GM did with FWD minivans.  GM seemed to think that styling alone would sell minivans.

    • 0 avatar

      The Windstar arrived eleven year (two full product generations) after the original Chrysler minivans. It had a single model year as the best-in-segment, after which Ford returned to also-ran status despite spending hundreds of millions to try to keep it competitive.
       
      So, not much of a success.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      When it was released it was a leap over everything else on the market at the time.

      No, it wasn’t.  It rivalled Chrysler for powertrain problems and Ford didn’t seem to even want to do the whole two rear sliding doors thing (remember King Door?) almost as much as GM, well, GM didn’t seem to want to build a winning minivan at all, so that’s not fair.

      It was better (for a given value of “better” that doesn’t include repair frequency) than the gutless Previa and the tiny first-gen Oddy, but Chrysler pistolwhipped it six way from Sunday.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford couldn’t quickly add a left side slider to the Windstar because all of the rear HVAC and electrical conduits ran through that wall. To re-engineer the Windstar twice–first for the “quick fix” king door, then to add the left side door–they spent nearly as much as it would have cost to re-do the entire van. So much had to be relocated and re-engineered.
       
      I was inside GM at the time. GM lucked into engineering their 1997 van for two doors because they designed it to be sold in Europe, and it would need a left door in the UK. But, by the same token they made their van too small for the US market.
       
      One of the Chevrolet marketers quipped that they should start referring to the “king door” as the “ding door.”

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I have to agree with carguy622. My Grandparents had a LOADED first-year Windstar, digital dash, trip conputer, leather, rear A/C, literally every single possible option on that thing. It was a quantum LEAP over the Chryslers of the time in every way. Except reliability, where it was an absolute, utter turd of the largest magnitude. Ford managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with that car. But that trait did not show up for a couple years. When it was new, that thing was AMAZING! Of course, there was the TINY detail that it also cost damned near $40K in ’94(?). I think they came out in early ’94 as ’95 models.

      Sad thing was, my Grandparents liked it so much that they actually bought another one in ’00-01, whatever the last year pre-Freestar was. That one had the both-sides sliding doors and a lot more go, but was just as big a turd mechanically and not nearly as nice inside.

      That one got Cash-for-Clunkered for a Jetta for my Mom when the second tranny blew (she is my Grandparents care-taker these days) but they decided that was too small and traded it for a loaded Routan. Too hard for for folks in thier late-80s to get in and out of the Jetta, though they very much liked the car.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh well, seems I’m mistaken.  Thanks for the corrections, and I do remember the King Door.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian


    The unusual beltline and recessed area just above the rocker panel combine to make the new van appear much less bulky and sportier than the old one—and unlike any other minivan
     
    I noticed that.  In darker colours the oddy looks a lot less bulky and much lower and more wagon-like than most other vans.  In lighter colours, though, it looks kind of weird.
     
    When I first saw it, I thought “this is probably what the Mercedes R-Class ought to have looked like”.
     
    Aside from this slip, the center stack controls are better designed than the average Honda’s these days, with large knobs for major functions. There aren’t as many buttons because it’s now necessary to navigate through menus, iDrive style, to perform many secondary functions. The buttons that remain are designed so they can be identified at a glance, with different shapes and only a few in each group.
     
    This I didn’t find, or at least not versus the Sienna and Caravan.  The buttons are all pretty similar in shape and too close together.  Plus, there’s buttons for things that the others use knobs for.
     
    But it does look nice, whereas the Sienna’s look rather odd.
     
    Honda’s big functional innovation with the new van appears in the second row, where the outer seats can be shifted outward about an inch-and-half
     
    If they could have shifted whole inches sideways this could have been useful in seven-seat mode when you need to aid ingress and egress to and from the third row.  I was disappointed to learn it didn’t do this.
     
    As for the lack of Stow’N’Go: the more I think about it, the more I think it’s for people who mostly carry stuff.  A few people I know with SnG vans rarely use the feature because either a) they’ve carseats in the second row, and/or b) all sorts of detritus in the under-floor bins.
     
    What I found to be a real bummer with this car and the new Sienna is that both are kind of coarse compared to the models they replaced.  The Oddy seems a little looser, the Sienna rougher-riding.  Both are noisier (especially the Sienna), and seem a little less luxurious.

    • 0 avatar

      While the Americans have been upgrading their interiors, the Japanese have been downgrading theirs. But at least the new Odyssey doesn’t seem as cheap as the current Pilot (or the current Sienna) inside.
       
      The Ody and Sienna are now much more similar in ride and handling than they used to be. As I’ve probably said too many times already, the Chrysler feels very different from both of them. I drove a new Grand Caravan to and from the Honda dealer. While I drove the Honda the difference didn’t seem terribly large, but then I got back in the Dodge and it was night and day.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I noticed that.  In darker colours the oddy looks a lot less bulky and much lower and more wagon-like than most other vans.  In lighter colours, though, it looks kind of weird.

       
      Here’s something weird I’ve noticed.  For me most bulky vehicles look less bulky in dark colors.  (The current Chevy Traverse springs to mind, in white it has a gigantic a$$, in dark colors it seems to shrink.)  But the Toyota Sienna is the opposite.  In dark colors it makes an Imperial Star Destroyer look tiny.  What’s the deal with that?
       
      This Honda on the other hand looks like a giant Prius wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “In dark colors it makes an Imperial Star Destroyer look tiny.” Educator Dan – you just made my morning! Ha ha ha! I have nothing else to say! Except for this: the rear kink on the Odyssey only works on a 1957 Chevy. Not here. Now I’m done.

  • avatar

    This is the third of my three recent minivan reviews. Why review so many minivans? Aside from wanting to see how the revised Chrysler compared while I had it for a week, I find the challenges they pose to designers and engineers fascinating. You can compromise functionality, ride quality, and so forth so much more when designing a sports car. In contrast, a minivan must do so many different things well that it’s always interesting to see what’s been achieved.
     
    With the Chrysler, I’m clearly amazed that they made this sort of vehicle both handle and ride so well–with the simplest possible suspension design as a basis.
     
    With the Odyssey, I still cannot figure out how they carved out so much more room than the others. Three rows each with over 40 inches of legroom is quite an achievement. I also admire how much they were able to do to make it appear sporty, even if van appears broken from the rear three-quarter angle.
     
    With just about any of these minivans I enjoy checking out all of the different storage compartments. A lot of thought tends to be put into these.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      ” I find the challenges they pose to designers and engineers fascinating. You can compromise functionality, ride quality, and so forth so much more when designing a sports car. In contrast, a minivan must do so many different things well that it’s always interesting to see what’s been achieved.”
      Totally agree.  I am much more impressed by minivan designers than designers of say, the Bentley Mulsanne, a car the costs 10x as much as the Chrysler 300C yet is fundamentally not that different (both are large RWD cars with OHV V8 engine)  Engineering is the art of exquisite compromise.  It’s much easier when money is no object.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Rear hatch hole reminds me of a whale shark’s agape mouth.

  • avatar
    340-4

    I’ll wager that the price difference will be even larger than $2k once incentives are factored in for the GC or T&C.
     
    I priced out a pretty loaded GC R/T (is it strange to want to test drive a minivan?) and it was cheaper than the Honda. Plus it comes in orange! Wonder what the 9-speed auto will do for acceleration and mpg’s….
     
    This article makes me want to go drive the two back to back. I’ve never felt the desire to test drive the Sienna.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I have been hatin on the Caravan R/T for a while now… but I didnt know they were going to offer it in orange!!  That changes everything… I am now imagining one with Viper racing stripes, or maybe a SuperBee logo with some deep dish 20s…  maybe I was too quick to judge!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I think the logic behind the side shifting middle row seats is that by moving them towards the center, the kids are safer in the event of a side impact.
     
    I actually like the new Odyssey, but have reservations about the price.  I thought the Sienna was overpriced when it came out a year ago, but seeing this $2K higher seems like a reach.  Is it worth the premium over Chrysler?  Certainly, you’ll make it up in repair rates easily (I own a ’99 GC — trust me).
    But the thought of dropping $38 large just to get the 6-speed seems nuts.  When the Caravan finally does die, looks like we’ll replace it with a 5 year old Ody or Sienna in the $16K range.

  • avatar
    derek533

    I guess I may be the only one on TTAC who appreciates the Quest much more than the Odyssey.  The interior is much nicer, it will have some decent incentives, and it doesn’t look like everything else on the road.  I frankly think the new Odyssey is hideous.  Disclaimer though, my wife drives a Flex (I convinced her to get it) so you know that I am actually a fan of boxy type designs.
     
    It looks as if two different vehicles were fused together.  Either that, or a heck of a bad photo chop job.

    In any event, I am glad to see a resurgence of minivans although they aren’t so “mini” anymore.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Like all recent Honda’s this van just looks odd. The zig-zag side reminds me of the Genesis Coupe’s back side window droop, you keep looking at trying to figure out “what were they thinking”. My only guess is it allows little ones to have a better view out the window since it drops to their level. But it just looks broken, like the something heavy sat on the back bumper and pulled the whole back end down. A quick glance at photos almost looks like a bad Photoshop job, like someone grafted the back end of another vehicle onto it.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Honestly, I would probably go with the Toyota in this segment, mainly because of my wife.  She hates the exterior of the Odyssey.  The sliding door rails seem to be a focus point on the Odyssey, like the designers wanted them to stick out.  On the Sienna, they are tucked just under the windows and are hardly noticeable.
     
    The extra MPGs are a really nice here for a family hauler.  Any idea on how much real world economy is in this segment?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      My Mom has a ’10 VW Routan (which still has the old 4.0L motor), my Aunt next door has an ’11 Odyssey (loaded, top trim, with 6spd). Any on-paper mileage advantage to the Honda is not to be found in the real world, they both are averaging ~19mpg in mixed suburban woman-of-a-certain-age driving. Maybe the Honda could eek out a couple MPG more on a loooong highway trip, but I really doubt it. That cylinder deactivation is largely theoretical in the real world at 75mph+. The Honda is smoother, the Routan feels faster.

      Having driven both, even the ’10 Routan is a far more competent driving car than the new Honda. The Honda is somewhat nicer inside, but it also cost damn near TWICE as much, given the discounts on the Routan. These are minivans, not luxury cars, excessively nice is a drawback, IMHO, it is just going to get wrecked by children and dogs anyway. With the exception of the really loaded ones like my Mom’s and Aunt’s, they are bought by Grandparents. BTW, my Aunt cannot for the life of her figure out the stereo, she got her grandson to set it to her favorite station and does not touch it!

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I am starting to think that all auto manufactures are gaming the MPG system to do great in the test while real world driving tests do not follow along with the same results.  Interesting to hear that they get the same mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Of course they game the system. The test is a known quantity – do you really think that given today’s computer horsepower in cars that the car can’t recognize that it is being driven on an EPA test cycle and adjust things accordingly? Hybrids in particular, IMHO. Certainly the cylinder deactivation in the Honda pretty much never happens in the real world of much higher speeds and heavier feet than the test cycle.

  • avatar
    Joe

    It’s great to see so much life in the minivan segment. My wife and I have a 2010 Odyssey which we have really enjoyed. I don’t care for the look of the new Odyssey, but this is a subjective judgement. It appears Honda was going for more of a CUV look than the traditional boxy minivan look.

    We recently had a 2011 Sienna as a rental and I have to agree with Michael’s comments on the interior plastics. The texture of this plastic looks like Toyota couldn’t decide between simulated leather or woodgrain. I also don’t understand the need for a gated shifter on the dash. Otherwise, this was a nice van. The ride was quiet and the engine is peppy.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    I think the price difference between the Chrysler and the Honda will be made up at trade in time. Chryslers have much lower trade in values than Hondas.

  • avatar
    cmus

    I know that styling is subjective, but “…the Toyota Sienna is the most conventionally attractive current member of the segment…”?  Maybe the 2010 (maybe, I don’t actually like it, but at least it is really really boring), but the 2011 is a train wreck.  I was actually surprised that Renault-Nissan was able to out-ugly the 2011 Sienna with their new Quest, even given R-N’s skill in crafting ungainly boxes.
    The Honda doesn’t look bad, a step down from the previous one I believe, but not bad.  That has been Honda for a decade now, each new iteration being less attractive than the one before it.
    The Chrysler siblings, for my tastes, are easily the class of the field appearance-wise.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2011 Sienna looks just like the 2010, which was the first year of the current design. The 2004-2009 Sienna always looked ungainly to me.

      http://www.toyota.com/sienna/photo-gallery.html

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I agree on the Chrysler.  Not beautiful, but handsome in a quiet, refined way.  The Honda is trying way too hard, I hereby christen it the Oddity.
       
      For those keeping score at home, this is my second pro-Chrysler post today, I think that’s my quota for the year.

    • 0 avatar
      cmus

      Ahh, didn’t realize that we were on year 2 of the current Sienna “swagger wagon” design (which I still think is awful).  Thanks, Michael!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      There was a restyling in 2006 that took a lot of visual bulk off the Sienna’s nose and improved it, in my opinion.
       
      The new Sienna is kind of strange by comparison. The shape is ok, but the front looks amateurish in all save the SE, where it looks a little more cohesive but rather overwrought.

    • 0 avatar
      allythom

      The current Sienna made its debut as a (very) early 2011 in Feb 2010.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course. I need to start checking these things before I type them. I’ve been much more careful when writing reviews than when posting comments. With the new Sienna it seems like it’s been around forever. But just a little over a year.

      I tend to focus on the side view when evaluating the design of a car unless the front is truly godawful. Other people focus on the front. This, among other things, can lead to different opinions.

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    Any chance you could get your hands on a 2011 Town and Country? I know its essentially the same as the Caravan (and there is already a review on it here), but supposedly it’s interior and ride NVH are supposed to be a bit better than the Caravan.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    @Mr Karesh,
    “But then why offer the more inward option?”
    The inward position allows the 2nd row seats to recline without hitting the thick rear quarter wall/wheel well.
     

    • 0 avatar

      We have a winner!
       
      Thanks. Suddenly the feature makes sense. It’s also clearer why they didn’t state the real reason, as it points out a limitation of the van’s design (though certainly not a major one). Either three people can have enough room or two can recline.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      You are welcome :-)
      We have a 3rd gen (2006) Odyssey.  Only the passenger-side 2nd row position adjusts laterally, that requires taking out the center seat and creating a 2-seat “bench.” (It’s a design inherited from the 2nd gen)  In 3-seat mode the compromise position can only partially recline, and results in a very narrow center seat.   The new design is an improvement.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    The Honda Odyssey V6 now makes less power and uses more fuel than the Sonata Turbo 4.  Hyundai could make a “game changer” if they come out with a new V6-less, Turbo-4 powered Sedona minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      The Honda V6 is pushing a lot more weight and frontal area through the air.
      Turbos are better now, but I’m not sure a turbo four is ready to take on the task of powering a large, heavy vehicle. No doubt we’ll find out before too much longer.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      The Sonata/Optima turbo 4 puts out
      274 hp @ 6,000 rpm;
      269 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm

      The Odyssey V6 puts out
      248 hp @ 5700
      250 lb-ft @ 4800

      So on paper the Odyssey is no match against the Sonata turbo 4 in either hp or torque, with only the Sonata’s peak hp arriving 300rpm higher (although the Sonata turbo @ 5700rpm is almost certain to exceed 248hp).  These are crank output numbers.  Frontal area and vehicle weight are irrelevant here.

      The Sonata turbo has much better fuel economy when installed in the lighter sedan, so it’s reasonable to assume it may at least equal the Odyssey’s economy when powering a 4000+ lb minivan (Keep in mind the Sonata turbo powered van could be shorter and lighter while still matching Odyssey’s interior roominess)

      It’s basically the same idea as Ford’s EcoBoost Flex or EcoBoost F-150.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      sching

       I’m not sure a turbo four is ready to take on the task of powering a large, heavy vehicle.

      There is precedence in the Mazda CX-7′s Turbo 2.3L four pushing 4,001 lbs (according to Mazda USA’s site) in the AWD model.  Not a minivan, but even today, two tons is nothing to sneeze at.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      KitaIkki, I think you’re on to something here.
       
      The better mileage comparison is between the Sonata Turbo and the Accord V6, which uses essentially the same powertrain as the EX-L model Odyssey (5spd auto instead of 6).  for 2011 the Sonata Turbo gets a 22/33/26 city/hwy/combined rating vs. the Accord V6′s 20/30/24.  The Sonata Turbo also uses a 6spd auto, allowing them a “premium” feature as standard equipment per their recent custom.
       
      sching, citing the CX7 as an example of a small turbo 4 in a heavy vehicle opens the door for Michael to cite that vehicle’s repair record from TrueDelta…IIRC there were a significant number of engine and turbo related reliability problems.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Sonata turbo has much better fuel economy when installed in the lighter sedan

      That’s because it’s not spooling up.  Turbos are really great for fuel economy when they’re not providing much boost.  When they are they suck gas like there’s no tomorrow.  In a ~3300lb sedan (and if you tune your powertrain enough, in your 3300lb sedan on the EPA cycle) you can stay off boost fairly often.  In a 4500lb minivan?  You’d be dipping into it a lot more.

      My Saab 9-3 was like that: you could use the boost gauge as an instant fuel economy meter. Keep out of “red” and you’d return acceptable mileage.  Stay out of “yellow” and you’d return mileage that would challenge a subcompact.  Keep it in red or yellow constantly and you’d challenge pickup trucks at the pump.

      Turbos are effectively displacement-on-demand.  Or rather: virtual displacement: there when you need it, not there when you don’t.  Honda’s VCM and Chrysler’s MCDS work the same way, only with turbos you’re not hauling around half an engine that you’re not using, and have less internal friction when you do dip into it.

      This is why the highway mileage on turbo cars can be amazing: highway is steady-state, low- or no-boost.  Essentially, you’re driving an NA four. I highly suspect the Sonata Turbo is very adroitly tuned and that buyers, and especially boost-hungry buyers, won’t see close to EPA.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      Even if the Sonata turbo 4 manages to only equal the Honda V6 in fuel economy, the space and weight savings will still give Hyundai a unique competitive advantage.  I would be surprised if Hyundai is not already developing a turbo 4 powered minivan.  It’s a natural progression from their innovative lineup inline-4 only Sonata/Optima mid size sedans.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Honda no longer offers a roof rack as standard.  That makes the van look lower and sleeker.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    There are a few of these sitting in the Honda lot about 200 feet away from me. What a disaster, looks wise, IMHO. I never thought much about Honda’s styling, as it tended to be endlessly boring, but now it’s just getting weird for weirdness’ sake. My neighbor is buying one soon, he buys nothing but new Hondas, his wife buys nothing but 2 year old Toyota 4Runners. Recently, both of them have had their faith in both Toyota and Toyota shaken when the last ones have both had major issues. The wife dumped it for a year newer 4Runner, but the hubby is riding it out so far. He’s had an amazing number of loaners lately, including an Odyssey.
     
    I still chuckle when my camcorder’s face recognition locks onto Honda after Honda when cars are pulling into the dealership.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Honda’s “zig-zag” belt line offers better visibility for the 3rd row, so it is a functional design.  The Sienna has very high beltline for the 3rd row (the bottom 25% of the 3rd side window is painted opaque, to hide the sliding rail mechanism.  Honda’s low mounted, exposed sliding rail helps in this regard as well)  Chrysler’s hidden sliding rail suffers the same problem (very small actual 3rd side window)  Honda puts function over form here.

  • avatar
    rutgersftw

    I think we’ll just stick with our ’01 Ody.  It rattles like the devil and sounds like the top’s down on the highway, but the engine @ 103K still runs smoother than the Routan the VW dealer picked me up in yesterday.  When the transmission inevitably implodes, I’ll probably buy one of those basically-half-price Routans or Dodge GC since this new Ody can cost more than a freakin BMW 335d.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      rutgersftw, consider checking out the 2005-2010 (third generation) Oddys.  We like our 06 quite a bit more than our 00.  It’s so much quieter I have a hard time seeing how people still complained about Honda interior noise, but then I remember the 2010 Accord test drive and rental I had; the current Accords are far below what I expect from Honda.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    I realize automotive styling is subjective, but I find the 2011 Honda Odyssey a very unappealing vehicle.  The designers of the Odyssey were obviously trying to get away from the basic box and perhaps trying for a more distinctive look but in the process blew it.  The zig-zag belt line makes no sense whatsoever, the rail for the sliding door is poorly placed and looks awkward-on the Chrysler and Toyota vans it is tucked under the window.  Then there is that so called “lightning bolt” on the side and the recesses on the lower body that look like last minute add-ons.
    Personally I much prefer the appearance of my 2008 Odyssey, its styling is much simpler and cleaner.

  • avatar
    Coley

    This is my first post, although I’ve enjoyed reading the articles and comments on this site for a few months now.

    I’m posting now because, in part, I’m going to buy an Odyssey or Sienna later this year.

    There is a $2k premium on the Odyssey over the Sienna across comparable trim lines.  I think I can justify that, however, with the improved fuel economy.  With an extra 5 mpg on the highway, and gasoline approaching or surpassing $4 per gallon, we’ll easily make back that $2,000 over the (hopefully) 200k+ miles we own it.

    The allocation of features and prices, however, is what really drives me crazy with the Odyssey.  My wife definitely wants leather (“easier to clean up after the kids” is the practical justification).  However I don’t care to spend $1,500 to $2,000 extra for a navigation system when I have a $120 Garmin that works just as well.  I feel similarly about the DVD player; even more outrageous is the fact that they (and others) want almost $2k for a small LCD screen and a DVD player, and it doesn’t even include Blu-ray capability.  This is 2011!  Honda’s answer?  There’s an auxiliary HDMI input (on the Touring only,  I think, not necessarily the EX-L with DVD).  In a few years, having only a DVD (not Blu-ray) player in the car will likely be as quaint as a conversion van with a VCR.  A family with three kids could buy EACH KID a personal iPad for the price that Honda is charging for a simple DVD player.  That’s insane.

    No problem,  you think, that puts us in the EX-L for $32k (buying service price).  But here’s the rub.  The EX-L includes standard the back-up camera and its large, associated screen in the dash (pictured above in the review).  So if I’m going to be frugal about it, I now have to fit a small, portable Garmin on top of the relatively large, and bulging LCD screen; and that looks ridiculous.  The map will be small, and the radio station frequency will be displayed in huge numbers. What’s even more frustrating is knowing that most of the expense of any GPS system is the screen and interface–NOT the actual GPS sensor.  But still, Honda says, cough up an extra $1,500 if you want us to add to the EX-L that little $20 software feature in order to make your already-existing screen include a navigation function.

    Of course, I could just forget the leather, save a few grand, and go down to the EX.  But that backup camera probably is a good safety feature, particularly for my shorter wife, considering the ever-decreasing visibility of today’s cars.

    So I guess that puts me in the category of EX-L with GPS for $34k.  And my kids, on long trips, can keep watching their DVD’s on their portable screen. (Or, more likely, they’ll probably steal my iPad once the oldest graduates pre-school, she already has a couple letter/spelling apps)  There is no EX-L with GPS and DVD; Honda mandates you buy the Touring if you want that.  For $37k (buying service price).  $37k.  Ouch.  Well, it does come with the 6-speed auto, which would be nice (Again, why is Honda so stingy with what others consider to be basic technology?  Are they trying to be GM in 1985?).  Then again, with the Touring at $37k, we’re now a full $10,000 higher than a perfectly functional and nicely equipped EX.  How did we get here???

    Then there’s the Sienna.  Save $2k, but burn fuel in all 6 cylinders all the time.  Who knows?  But it does have the 6-speed auto across the lineup.  So I can get the XLE (similar to Honda’s EX-L, funny, right?) for $30k instead of $32k, with leather (I don’t know about back-up camera) but sans GPS or DVD.  Seems reasonable.  I’d have to see 1) if there is a backup camera on the XLE, and if so 2) How it’s integrated into the dish.

    Or, for $35k I can jump up to the Sienna Limited, with everything.  Mostly useless Ottoman-recliner seats (but would those work for a young child who’s graduated from car seats but still isn’t very tall?), GPS, DVD, and that second moonroof that has really intrigued my wife?

    I’m almost leaning toward the Sienna, even though I’ve been a long-time Honda/Acura owner, and have never owned a Toyota before, because I want to punish Honda for unnecessarily playing miser with their GPS system and their 6-speed tranny.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Honda has ALWAYS been stingy with options, forcing people into higher trim levels, shouldnt surprise you now.

      What I think is really crazy is the idea of spending $32-37k on something the kids are going to destroy anyway.  :)

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect they’re being “stingy” with the 6-speed tranny to make sure that the bugs are all out before putting it in many vehicles. If they end up having to replace them, they’re better off if they only have to replace a relatively small number.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Regarding the Blue-ray complaint. For the size and resolution of the on car LCD, there is no advantage of the Blue-ray whatsoever.

      Regarding the 6-speed auto, why do you need a 6-speed? Possible answers are: better acceleration, or better fuel efficiency. But is the Honda inferior to the Toyota in these two regards? No. Then why the complexity?

      Simply put, you don’t know what you are talking about.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I believe it is perfectly acceptable for hundreds of thousands of Americans to dump their hard earned wages into a Honda Odyssey. It is a perfectly suitable vehicle for them. It makes them feel smart and fashionable. They believe the vehicle will make them appear stable, financially well off, and intelligent because everyone knows that people who buy these vehicles must be doing it for other reasons than enjoying a drive because these vehicles suck to drive. Driving a minivan around is like drinking decaf coffee, you taste something familiar, but it has absolutely no kick to it. Minivan owners recognize that their vehicle is the Bud Lite of transportation. The Odyssey is the Michelob Ultra, in that it has even less taste, but a higher price than Bud Lite.

    As the owner of a minivan and the father of a few pre-schoolers, the thought of buying a $40,000 vehicle so that it can be pooped, peed, barfed, spilled and destroyed from within seems to be completely insane. Any family vehicle selling for this price is like putting your toddler into disposable mink diapers. The only thing that keeps a family van from exploding from excessive fecal bacteria is the fact that Goldfish crackers contain fecal bacteria fighting antibodies capable of neutralizing van drippings. Maggot filled garbage cans on a summer afternoon have nothing on what kids can do to the interior of a new minivan. People who actually spend this kind of money on a family vehicle need to take a break from what is currently passing as parental wisdom among couples striving to keep up with the Jones. Get a clue and buy a vehicle that can has an interior capable of handling a high pressure car wash hose when your kids inevitably have projectile vomiting episodes in the way-back seats.

    The more options you put into a family vehicle, the more difficult it is to pay off the vehicle, keep it clean and keep it maintained. The manufacturers of these vehicles claim that their products are reliable. Well, what I can tell you is that reality dictates that you do not have the time to fix anything that goes wrong in a $40,000 family vehicle. You have kids, dummy, and you do not have time to sit in a vinyl lounge chair as the Honda dealer fixes your van’s little owies. Another reason is because your other vehicle, (if you can actually afford to have another vehicle), won’t accommodate your spouse and children in a manner that will satisfy them so the idea of taking your $40,000 family vehicle to the dealer for servicing will not be appealing, resulting in your $40,000 family vehicle having maintenance problems. After a while, you will be discovering that all those options, nice plush interior, and other internal parts will start to fester like open sores without wound care. Family vehicles are like ambulances and taxis, they are needed 24/7. The more your family vehicle has, the more than takes them out of action when needed.

    This does not mean not having children. You are supposed to. Your equipment is not merely for recreative purposes. Children are the purpose to life. Like a Monarch butterfly, you have a role to play in the perpetuity of life on Earth. That said, it means that as you tend to your offspring, you are to be intelligent enough to not saddle it with a choice which wastes your wages. That means buying a disposable family vehicle. The Honday Odyssey is the antithesis of what you are supposed to do with your assets. When you consider how fast any vehicle depreciates, you are committing fiscal suicide, regardless of brand. My Odyssey driving friends bragged about their vehicles resale until they actually saw how fast an Odyssey with a long history of transmission troubles ends up being valued only slightly more than a Chevrolet Lumina without wheel covers. I don’t recall Honda sending their previous Odyssey buyers a check as a refund to help offset their vehicles’ lost resale value, did they?

    The Honda Odyssey is the Martha Stewart of family vehicles. While it makes a fantastic first impression with strangers and impresses people you don’t know, it is a vehicle designed for parents with nothing else to do with themselves than spend valuable family time harping over spilled sippy cups, tooling around with a van filled with cleaning supplies to keep it’s interior from being quarantined by the Board of Health, and worrying about every carpet stain, seat seam, cubholder, DVD player screen and window streaking. Instead of being worry-free, the fact that you are carting around bioharzards in mini-humanoid forms in a $40,000 vehicle will keep you up at night as you realize how fast your $40,000 is threatened by reality.

    Be smart. Don’t spend more than you have to on a new family vehicle. And don’t touch a used family vehicle unless you have had tetnus shots and a radiation suit to wear as you drive it around.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      LOL! Great post!

      As I have pointed out before – folks with little kids don’t buy loaded minivans. If they buy a minivan at all they by base Caravans, Sedonas, and other $20K kid-mobiles. Maybe a few buy lower model or used Odysseys. The “Yummy Mummy” types who WOULD pay $40-45K for one wouldn’t be caught dead in one, they all drive upscale SUVs and let the kids ruin them instead. Loaded minivans are mostly bought by empty nesters for the occasional grandchildren visits and carting the dogs around. And because they are easy for older folks to get in and out of. Taller than a car, big doors, not so tall as an SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      VanillaDude: Ha ha ha, you’ve done it again! You just made my Friday and so, so true! That’s beautiful! K cars forever – that’s what we soldiered on with when our kids were young and we never looked back, nor felt the least bit inadequate. When the first Chrysler minivans came out, we couldn’t afford the 8K or so, so our base-model Reliant very reliably carted us happily wherever we needed to go. If the day was hot and we wanted A/C, we used mom’s AMC Concord. Fun times, the 1980′s, fun times! @mmm4ever: Also beware of the Honda dealer-installed options they try to pawn off on you as well – that adds a lot to the bottom line and makes your wallet considerably lighter.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      Hmm….things sure have changed in 40 years or so. My sister and I would have been shot for doing anything remotely detrimental to the interior of any vehicle we ever traveled in. As far as I can recall, virtually all the cars of my neighborhood friends were kept spotless on the inside and woe betide any of us for messing them up.
       
      When did it become OK for kids to do just what the hell they like and be pampered and pandered to at every turn?
       
      You younger folks can blame us oldies for a lot of the world’s ills but bratty, spoiled kids (and cruddy vehicle interiors) is all on you guys!

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Forty years ago vehicles needed weekly maintenance. Our fathers and grandfathers kept the interiors cleaner because they had a garage full of regular auto maintenance tools and set time aside each week to perform that maintenance. Consequently, they spent more time with their cars and the cars looked it. Forty years ago, cars often did not last more than three years and few brands bragged about an ability to go beyond 100,000 miles. So the vehicles you remember were newer, had better maintenance and a lower cost of entry than newer family vehicles today. Today’s children spend more time in the family vehicle than forty years ago too. Today’s family vehicles are on the road more than comparible vehicles from forty years ago.

      Most of us do not remember being pre-schoolers. Most of us have zero memories of how well the family vehicle was maintained when we were pre-schoolers. Most of us have no idea as pre-schoolers what brand of family vehicle we were carted around in. We might be able to tell someone what the color of the family vehicle was, but we probably couldn’t tell anyone what parental stipulations were placed upon us when we rode in it. So your memories are probably not comparable to the reality I described.

      If your pre-school memories regarding your father’s family vehicles are as acute as you allude they are, then I would not have wanted to have ridden with your father, or in his car. It sounds as if he cared more about the interior of his vehicles than about your pre-school memories. Pre-schoolers should not be forced to recognize the interior cleanliness needs of the family vehicle enough to remember it forty years later. Just as you casually defined today’s pre-schoolers as spoiled pampered brats, I can just as casually define your world as so anal retentive that you are willing to lash out at pre-schoolers in the manner you just had.

      Putting pre-schoolers in a $40,000 Honda Odyssey is like using a Audi Combi as a chicken truck. It might impress strangers, but it is a waste of money that neither the kids, nor the chickens can appreciate – unless they had a father like yours.

  • avatar
    SimonAlberta

    I really wonder how much difference, in the real world, $2000 makes to most peoples’ choice when they are spending over $30k?
     
    I was in the car sales biz many years ago and we could lose or gain $2000 with a slight adjustment to the interest rate or length of contract etc.. In any case, dickering can take care of much of it.
     
    Aside from all that, many of my customers would end up buying something completely different from that which seemed to match their stated requirements. For example, one couple came in looking at a Windstar and drove home in a Mustang.
     
    I guess I’m saying that I don’t think $2000 is all that significant in the scheme of things but I’ve never been very disciplined with my own money so I’d be interested to hear what others think.

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      In response to some of the conversation points my post started:

      Vanilla,
      I enjoy reading your points, but in some cases I think you’re contradicting yourself (somewhat).  On one hand, you’re saying that spending more than $32k (or whatever figure) is ridiculous for a car that will shuttle pre-schoolers, but you also point to Simon that cars are now lasting longer than ever.  If we’re planning to keep a van like this for 12 years or more, and over 200k miles, than the per-year or per-mile cost isn’t as egregious as it sounds initially.  And to your more colorful points, leather seats can definitely be a plus for all those clean-ups.

      Simon,
      I agree with your point about the $2k can be gained back by a quick flick of the interest rate.  I think that this is precisely why car manufacturers can get away with charging $2,000 for a $100 DVD player, or $50 GPS receiver.  Because for most buyers, it’s not $2,000; it’s only an extra $25 per month–or whatever it is.  But I refuse to think in those terms.

      So yes, while I laughed at Vanilla’s point about these vans going to the empty-nesters because that describes my in-laws and a few others I know, it’s also true that there are parents of young kids who have been fortunate enough to be able to afford a luxury like this, and yet they are still frugal (or cheap) enough to not want to buy a GPS system that costs 20 times its market value.

  • avatar
    burnout

    That was my point above, the savings is actually much higher than two thousand…the Chrysler’s price point is higher, whereas a similarly equipped Grand Caravan is the better to compare with for price.

    A 2011 Grand Caravan Crew, compared with a similarly-equipped Honda Odyssey EX-L, is nearly $5,300 LESS than the Honda!!!!

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    If we’re planning to keep a van like this for 12 years or more, and over 200k miles, than the per-year or per-mile cost isn’t as egregious as it sounds initially.

    Have you ever seen one of those cribs that sells for a whole lot of money that claims you can convert it into a toddler bed, then a bed for a single kid, then a day bed when the move off to college? One bed for the entire time your child lives with you, then you can turn it into furniture so that no one can know you ever had a kid? The next step would be if the manufacturer claimed that you can convert it into a nice coffin when you kick off, so that you will never have to buy another piece of furniture again!

    Reality says that you will most likely not keep your Honda Odyssey for it’s entire life. Unless you are a horder that sends your kid off to college packed up in his old diaper boxes, you will most like move onto a vehicle that does not remind you of his sippy cup days. You will have spent a great deal of money with the intention of never buying another vehicle ever again while he can be used as a tax deduction on your income tax, in the real world you will most likely not get your money’s worth.

    Another way to put it would be if you bought a Pontiac Aztek with the camping options. You spent a whole lot of money buying a curbside eyesore but since you spent extra money getting the attachments to turn it into a pup tent curbside eyesore, you justified spend the extra money you didn’t need to spend.

    Or, you got yourself a new kitchen gadget that can both clean strawberries, chill whipped toppings, and snip the end off that expensive cigar for only $500 because it could do so much around the house – uh, did I also mention that it could also convert into a dog vacuum?

    The Honda Odyssey is an expensive answer to a question no parents with small children should be asking. “Did you see the handy cubbyhole in our van that we use as a Diaper Genie?”

  • avatar
    Coley

    Vanilla,
    Funny.  We bought one of those cribs, but then we inherited a toddler bed from my brother’s kids.  For the second baby, we just bought a used crib–less of that “everything should be just right for the baby” pressure.  The first crib is still enjoying very useful service at the grandparents’ house, though.  I don’t know if we’ll ever convert it, but it’s getting a lot of use.

    If you saw the odometers on the two cars we have currently–a Honda and an Acura–I might be able to convince you that we don’t ever sell cars for more than their eventual scrap value.  And, btw, we’re keeping both of our current ones when we get the van; I’ll simply alternate driving them to work. 

  • avatar

    Alot of noteworthy comments here about the Odyssey, (price>packages) but the “lightning bolt” style is so refreshing.. I guess im a book by its cover guy.

  • avatar
    sastexan

    I just bought an Odyssey. Micheal’s review is good, but there are a few points missing from here that the demographic shopping for a van would be interested in:

    The Odyssey’s seats are infinitely more adjustable and useful than any other van. First, there are 5 LATCH anchors – 3 in the 2nd row, 2 in the back. Being able to put an infant seat in the center 2nd row is awesome – with two car seats, you can still use one side seat to slide back and forth (when car seat is secured in any 2nd row outboard seat, it will not slide). Second, the stowable 3rd row is very easy to use – for height-disadvantaged people, the Sienna is a long (and back-stretching for others) reach, needing real leverage. Third, each seat in the 2nd row can be moved independently. Fourth, the 2nd row seats’ slides are in the seat itself, not the floor – where in the Sienna they will get full of goldfish, fruit snacks, spilled drinks, etc., gumming up the mechanism and being a huge pain to clean out.

    The Sienna drives more like a 4 Runner than a Camry – high and floaty – which the Odyssey really does drive like a (stretched) Accord. The Sienna has the better drivetrain, but the Odyssey is more than adequate (maintained 80+ MPH without a struggle on an initial road trip, loaded, A/C cranked).

    The Sienna is the only other van with an 8th seat – but that seat is really narrow and uncomfortable (and unusable for a car seat). However, it can be stowed in the back of the van – which is nice.

    The Sienna’s touchscreen nav system is very yesterday’s technology – and blocks passengers from using as soon as it is in motion. The Honda’s hard-drive based system is really fast, has free FM traffic (which works but won’t reroute you), simple to use menus, and is easy to see, high up on the dash.

    Although the Sienna has a few tech things superior to the Odyssey (push-button start available – the Honda has an electronic start, why do they stick with that gigantic key with the remote in it??; fantastic backup camera; great engine / transmission), the Honda just trumps it every which way sideways in usability. And when you equip them similarly, despite Michael’s tool and assertion above, the pricing isn’t that much different out-the-door (although it is harder to find a Honda dealer willing to negotiate).

    I have never been a Honda fan – but the more I compared the vans, the more apparent it was that this van was designed by engineers who cared about how it was used, rather than marketers just trying to get it sold.

  • avatar

    I agree with all the comments about the design / functionality being superior, but as an owner I’ve encountered a major problem with Honda’s new battery management system for the Odyssey. I’m not alone – MANY owners have experienced problems and have reported it to Honda but they refuse to fix it. See:
    https://sites.google.com/site/hondalowbatterydefect/ or simply Google “honda low battery defect”
    for lots of details and owner reports of the problem. Beware before you buy an 2011 Honda Odyssey!!!

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      Most of the issues are on the early manufacture date Odys. Regardless, it is just an annoyance – not a real problem – people haven’t had cars quit on them in random places – a few have had dead batteries. Mostly it seems that Honda put in a bad batch of batteries. The good dealers are just replacing them if the message comes up. Interestingly, one of the cars we test drove (actually took home overnight) gave that message – after I had spent half an hour sitting in it with it not running playing with all the controls. The 5 or 6 subsequent starts, it didn’t give the message – even after short trips.

      Look up the Odyssey forums for a few lengthy discussions about this problem, but it’s not that big of a deal.

    • 0 avatar
      gmechoc

      There has been a recall for this now. They have fixed it..had mine done yesterday!!!

    • 0 avatar
      gmechoc

      We bought our Honday Odyssey 2011 in January of 2011 and we love it. This is our fourth van, first three were Chrysler products. The Honda has the absolutely best ride of all of them and it is roomy and comfortable. I love the looks of it, it has a sporty look, all my friends have commented on the sporty look of it. My husband is 6’4″ and fits comfortably. We have three grandkids and the room is unbelievable. would’t trade it for anything…

  • avatar
    MillerTime

    Excellent review.

    I am a life long Honda owner, and for the first time I am giving Toyota a serious look. Every review I read says buy the Odyssey, but it’s in the comments, either from owners or other perspective buyers that give me pause. Add a little of my own experience with my last Honda purchase (’08 Civic LX) and buying the Odyssey is not such a no-brainer anymore.

    My biggest issues: Lack of sound deadening. My current Civic is far louder on the road than my previous ’03 was, and everything I see on the new van is that it’s quieter than before, but still not as quiet at the Toyota. Then there is the cost. I can get into a nicely equipped Sienna at the local dealer for $35k. I can’t even get a roof rack (at all) or fog lights for that from Honda. Finally, I am still hearing about transmission “shudders” on even the newest 2012 Odysseys. When I asked my mechanic, he said there were some ’11′s and ’12′s coming in for independent checks, as the Honda service managers were saying it was “normal behavior”. Anyone that had an early 2000′s Accord or Odyssey remembers this line clearly, I’m sure. He said it was the old torque converter issue coming back again, mainly on the 5 speed transmissions. Apparently they need to flash the new models just like they did the old ones. As of right now, there is no fix.

    I want to stay loyal to Honda, but right now, they are making it hard.


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