The Truth About Cars » Odyssey The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Odyssey Capsule Review: 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite Wed, 02 Jul 2014 12:45:58 +0000 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-001

The 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite is the Nimitz-class flagship of the suburbs. Many suggest it’s the only van for enthusiasts, if there can be such a thing. It must be true, there’s even a lightning bolt zapping down the side view and all.

Is the Odyssey the way for you to buy in without selling out?


On the suburban battlefield, the Odyssey demands respect. Honda will tell you it’s the best-selling single nameplate, though that’s likely to end soon. Combine the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country numbers and the total nearly doubles what the Odyssey shifts. Chrysler is going to consolidate its two vans into a single model, and even if the new Town & Country takes a bit of a sales haircut, there’s plenty of headroom. The Odyssey is likely to lose its single-model sales leadership.

Let’s avoid getting confused with the facts, though. Everyone loves the Odyssey. Motor Trend even went so far as to say it “doesn’t drive much different than our 2013 Honda Accord Sport.” Choose an Odyssey and you’ll even get validation from people who see automobiles as little more than white goods. It’ll wind up in a conversation that also includes front-loading high-efficiency washing machines, refrigerators with snack drawers, and radiant heat in the bathroom.

In the immortal words of Orson Welles, “fellas, you’re losing your heads.” I have driven both, and unless there’s a Tuna Boat option package, The Odyssey is not like the Accord.


I expected more supple responses given the way the Odyssey has been talked up. Instead it’s choppy. The Odyssey does handle well, so if you want to slalom, go right ahead. For family-hauling, the Toyota Sienna does a better job being compliant without floating. There is that 3.5 liter, 248 hp V6; a lively engine once you get it revving. Power lags the competition, but only a little, and 250 lb-ft of torque is right in the fight. The six-speed automatic transmission is newly standard across all Odyssey models, and it stays out of the way. The snarl of the V6 is great and the Variable Cylinder Management drops back to four or three cylinders when all six aren’t needed. Thanks to careful tuning and active engine mounts, the VCM system is virtually undetectable.

While I’m not reminded of an Accord, the Odyssey definitely drives like a Honda. The power boost of the rack and pinion steering is too light for my tastes, but probably just right for the buyers. It’s a little numb, too. The brake pedal is solid, easy to modulate, and clamps down on big four-wheel discs. That’s good, because there’s more than 4,000 pounds to stop. The suspension that can be harsh lets you corner with confidence hard enough to rip that ice cream cone right out of little Suzy’s hand and splatter it on the side window. Body roll is well-checked.


You just can’t beat a van for actual usefulness. Two powered sliding doors and a powered rear hatch open up a world of possibilities with ease. Load heights are low and the third row seat can be disappeared into the floor. With the seats stowed, the surface is lumpier than the the Chryslers, and you have to heave the second-row seats out to get the maximum cargo space. Because of its seating arrangement, the Odyssey has longer front seat travel. That’s important because it lets you find a comfortable driving position.

The seating design is flexible, giving you the option of three-across in the second row, or a “wide mode” with a console in between. All three rows are comfortable, though the first and second rows are where it’s at. Pop the second row seats out, stow the third row, which is easy, and 4×8 sheets of material will fit. Who needs a pickup?


The Touring Elite is the most comfortable Odyssey there is. It had better be, because it costs luxury car money. There is no inexpensive Odyssey. The base-model Odyssey LX starts at $28,825. You can step through EX, EX-L, and Touring before you get to the Touring Elite trim level and its $44,450 MSRP. The result of that spending is basically every feature that’s optional on lesser Odyssey trims is standard for the Touring Elite.

That’s all of the things. More climate zones than your house (3), rear DVD system with remote and headphones, even a friggin’ central vacuum. The equipment list reads like a rental property, for crying out loud. Features like a cool box in the center console, power doors and hatch, parking sensors, rear-view camera, and navigation are what other moms and dads will chat you up about at soccer. They’re all fine, and they create profit for Honda. Half of the extra features are more distraction, the other half make the Odyssey easier to use. The hard ones are the controls for the infotainment, a partner in maintaining the peace when there are miles to cover with restless natives aboard.


The electronic support for drivers looks comprehensive on paper. It’s like Honda figured two screens are obviously better than just the single displays the competition offers, and my Odyssey also included blind-spot monitoring and a forward collision warning system. It’s confusing to know where to look for which controls, and some features require the control knob while others are driven via touchscreen. When using the audio screen there’s no tactile feedback, the layout is cramped, and it’s hard to stab the right spot when traveling at speed. It’d still be a bad idea even if the screen were responsive, which it isn’t.

Using Chrysler’s UConnect will make an Odyssey driver fall to their knees, weeping. At least Honda’s attention to detail tries to redeem the Odyssey. The interior materials are good, and even pieces you’d expect to feel flimsy, like the little change cup that folds out of the left side of the dashboard, are solid. While I hated the electronics, I thought the basics of the Odyssey provide firm footing to stand up to the abuse a family will deliver.


Minivans are do-it-all family vehicles, there’s no denying that. There’s only so much styling you can apply to a box on wheels, though the Odyssey does its best with a kink in the side view and crisply-creased surfaces. The Odyssey is most chic van to be seen disgorging your family, and the van scene has really changed since the turn of the century. Honda and Toyota have upped their van games and Chrysler has been the only domestic manufacturer willing to try and keep up.

Still, the Odyssey wouldn’t be my pick. It’s expensive. The electronics and secondary controls are infuriating. When you’re making the ultimate family-vehicle play, it’s going to take some abuse. The Odyssey may be the diamond of the field, but from the 2015 Kia Sedona, to the Chrysler vans, to even the Nissan Quest, there’s a lot of cubic zirconia options that are going to cost less, wear well, and be easier to use.

blue 2014 honda odyssey touring elite minivan against fence 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-002 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-003 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-005 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-006 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-004 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-007 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-008 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-009 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-012 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-013 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-014 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-010 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-011 ]]> 68
Hedonist vs Frugalist: 2012 Nissan Quest LE Thu, 26 Jul 2012 15:45:15 +0000


Minivans are indeed fewer in number.

Supposedly they should to able to hold six or seven.

But the truth is the buyers of these vehicles rarely have room for three these days.

See, I have dealt with hundreds of minivan buyers over the years as a small town car dealer and a writer here at TTAC. Nearly everyone I deal with considers no more than three minivans. To be frank, the majority won’t even consider two which is why Chrysler, Toyota and Honda minivans now control more than 88% of the North American minivan market.

What chance does the Nissan Quest have? Even after 20 years in the public eye?

Jacque Hedonist: Minivan designs have always struck me as different forms of breadboxes. Honda Odysseys and Mazda 5′s have nice little waves in their side profiles. While the Chrysler minivans and Kia Sedonas are the traditional upright breadboxes.

The Quest is a combination of the two. The front fascia is upright and traditional with plenty of chrome staring right back at you as you get ready for parenting duties. However the entire side is one curvaceous swoop with a flattish roof that seems to compress and slim down the portly proportions of a minivan.

Stefan Frugalist:  Looks always take a back seat to function when it comes to minivans. A seven passenger people mover like the Quest is no exception. However today’s minivan buyers will be in for a pleasant surprise if they decide to ever consider a top of the line LE model.


The inside is just plain opulent.

The leather seats are thick and supremely comfortable in all three rows. The materials used are top notch; especially compared to the cost contained plastics that are widely used by the competition.  If you are willing to look beyond the names, you’ll find that the Quest in LE trim offers the most comfortable interior in the entire segment.

Hedonist: The luxury focus continues with dashboard features that seem to come straight out of a fully loaded Infiniti. You name the convenience, it’s there for your enjoyment. A Bose 13 speaker stereo system with exceptional sound quality. An 11 inch big screen for the second and third rows with headphones that offer the blissful quiet that rarely will come with rambunctious tikes. Dual sunroofs. Push button conveniences for nearly everything that needs to be folded or closed.  Even the 8 inch front screen offers front seat video pleasures when the vehicle is parked.

The Nissan Quest LE provides all of the comfort, safety and entertainment of a high end SUV, like an Infiniti QX56, for nearly half the price.

Minivan sales may have flagged over the last twelve years. But the value quotient is still as strong as ever if you compare them to similar sized SUV’s.

Frugalist: That value quotient to me depends entirely on the market segments you’re willing to consider. If you want space, plenty of power (260 hp. and 240 lb. of torque), smooth shifts with the CVT, and pure luxury for the family, then the Nissan Quest may be a good buy.

That is if all that mass is required for your commuting and travels.

But let us throw two nasty monkey wrenches into that equation.

Hedonist: The first is need. No, the two of us are not pondering the usual need vs. want equation. This Quest is far more competitive than most consumers will ever realize.

The issue I see is priorities. If you have three kids or fewer, a Toyota Prius V may represent a better alternative. The Quest only averaged 21 mpg with a fuel economy rating of 18 city and 24 highway.

The Prius V, rated at 44 city and 40 highway, averaged 49 mpg for us in mostly city driving. It essentially doubled the Quest in fuel economy while offering a surprisingly large seating space for three in the middle and plenty of room in the back. I showed both of the models to all of my wife’s friends. Even the ones who have already purchased minivans (who were the majority), said they would have opted for the Prius V had it been available at the time.

Frugalist: We don’t necessarily think that hybrid wagons will do to minivans, what minivans did to the Prius V’s large and bulbous ancestors. But SUV’s and CUV’s have already taken a huge chunk out of the minivan market over the past decade.

There may be a minor period of market adjustment. Still, we can easily see many potential buyers of minivans who have memories of being shepherded around in vans and larger SUV’s, moving even further into the world of hybrids and wagons as the ‘family vehicle’; especially if buyers can save $10,000 in the purchase price and another $10,000 in operating costs.

Hedonist: The second issue for us is the purchase price. At $43,000, a loaded LE model represents a heavy duty debt load. This is also true for the higher end models of the competition, and Nissan is offering substantial rebates, incentives and financing at this point.  As we mentioned before, if you’re looking for a minivan, and especially if you haul six or seven people, the Quest is definitely worth your consideration.

However, the overall value equation of a minivan is simply not there anymore if you have three or fewer kids and don’t haul huge masses of items on a frequent basis. Wagons, lower end CUV’s and compact SUV’s can all be had, well equipped, at $35,000 or less.

Frugalist: There is a reason why vehicles like the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are outselling all their minivan brethren. If you add all the models mentioned and couple the Equinox with its GMC Terrain sibling, you’ll find that not even the once 500,000+ strong Chrysler minivans can match the modern day sales numbers of any of these models.

As for the 2012 Nissan Quest, it has less than half the sales in the first six months of this year than the Prius V.

The Quest remains at or near the top of its class if you are looking at a minivan as a pure luxury vehicle.

The question is, “What will the consumer be looking for?” The times they are a-changin’ folks.

Note: Nissan provided gas, insurance and a full week of driving time. 

]]> 89
Piston Slap: If you must tow with a Minivan… Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:50:32 +0000
TTAC Commentator 70Cougar writes:
Dear Sajeev:

My wife has a 2005 Odyssey with 50,000 miles.  To date, we’ve had no problems with the transmission, but I keep reading about how the transmission on the Odyssey isn’t cut out for a vehicle that heavy.  I’ve been contemplating getting a utility trailer for it (although, shockingly, my wife isn’t too hip on having a utility trailer in the driveway) and, in the course of my research, I’ve found that a transmission cooler is recommended if you’re going to haul a trailer. Is it worthwhile to install a transmission cooler even if I don’t get a trailer?  Is there any downside to transmission coolers (e.g., the trans runs cold for too long)?

My wife has a 5 mile commute (10 miles round trip) and we hope to keep the van at least another 5 years.

Sajeev answers:

Before we start, it’s time to change your transmission fluid.  The reason is twofold: transmission fluid has a finite lifespan, and it will die at the mere sight of a utility trailer attached to its minivan home. I love minivans for their efficient use of space and command seating position, but their transaxles are never good enough.

I think every minivan needs the largest external transmission cooler possible behind the front bumper.  That is almost as important as regular fluid changes.  If you plan on towing anything, carrying enough people/cargo to make the rear springs sag, and/or live in a climate that’s brutal on transmission fluid temperatures, both are mandatory. I’d consider annual transmission fluid changes on any minivan that tows on a regular basis, at highway speeds.

A downside to transmission coolers?  Not that I can think of. Because transmission fluid gets far hotter than engine coolant (hence why many tranny coolers are just a heat exchanger inside the engine radiator) the odds of being too cold aren’t a big concern.  But if you aren’t a Houstonian like yours truly, maybe you will need a radiator block-off pad for your front bumper…in the Yukon Territory.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.
]]> 37
Piston Slap: The Anchorman Plays Valve Roulette Tue, 13 Sep 2011 08:05:42 +0000  

Stay Classy, Honda!


TTAC Commentator Anchorman33 writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Love TTAC, and the Piston Slap series.  I’m not a fixer, mainly because of time and space, but knowing a community like the B&B/TTAC is out there definitely makes me think about my automotive choices more than I ever did before.

I’ve got a 2006 Honda Odyssey that’s coming due for it’s 105k mile service.  I’ve had it for about the last 3+ years and done basic maintenance, to include changing the brake and transmission fluid about 10k miles ago.  don’t know when/if they had ever been changed before.  It’s been in at least two wrecks, rear ended before I bought it and not fixed properly – the driver’s side rear bumper has about a 6″ bolt holding it on; and side swiped on the drivers side about 18 months ago, fixed properly.  I  Overall it’s an ok ride,but definitely showing it’s age cosmetically and mechanically.  The current plan is to keep it for another 6-8 months and replace it with a new(er) van that’s a keeper.

The local independent shop (SoCal) is quoting me $1100 for the timing belt, water pump, radiator hoses, fluid and oil change.  Local dealer is saying $1850 for all that plus valve adjustment.  My question for you and the Best and Brightest is, how big of a gamble is it to just change the oil and hope the rest of the items can make it 8-12K more miles?  I obviously don’t want to blow up the motor, but I’m having a hard time swallowing that much cash outlay on an older than its age/miles would suggest vehicle that I’m planning on getting rid of in less than a year.  Thanks.

Sajeev answers:

I am 99% sure this motor is an interference engine. In plain English, that means if you don’t change the timing belt, you play a fun game called “Valve Roulette.” If you win, pass that repair bill to the next chump that buys your wagon. If not, the game will eat your motor and you’ll be out thousands for a replacement. I rather hate interference engines with belts (instead of chains), for this reason alone. And while I do love Hondas, especially the Odyssey, this is another time where a later model Ford/Chrysler(?)/GM minivan is a less stressful, much more wallet friendly alternative.  Then again, nobody blames you for avoiding Buick Terraza DNA in your ride.

But I digress. Is this game worth the risk? In my mind…absolutely not.  Pay for the fix, save all your receipts and put that baby on craigslist when its time to get a new van.  Mention the service history, mention the care and attention put into this vehicle.  It will sell, and the money put into the belt will pay off when the right buyer shows up. And they always do, in a hurry…all it takes is the magic of service receipts and a properly worded craigslist posting.

On the flip side, this van isn’t exactly in the best of shape. And timing belts don’t blow out immediately after they reach their intended service mileage.  If you think you’ll keep the miles down, feel free to forget about it and pass some bad vibes to the next owner.  It probably won’t hurt your karma, especially with the magic of trading in a vehicle to a faceless dealership. With any luck the dealer that eventually sells it (I suspect yours will go straight to auction) will have the belt serviced, but that’s not your problem.

Too many variables to know for sure, too much time to overthink them all.

Stay Classy, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]> 35
New or Used: A Truck For My Love Fri, 26 Aug 2011 19:43:36 +0000  



Matt writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I think it’s time to replace my wife’s 2005 Honda Odyssey EX-L. It’s got 48,000 on the clock and has developed a few problems over the years. Power side doors that get wonky on really cold days, a slow leak in the AC system, a leak somewhere around the windshield, and an intermittent airbag light most recently, to name a few. None of these things is that big a deal, but considering that my wife has held a grudge against me for convincing her to buy a minivan in the first place, they are just mounting evidence in her case to replace the Ody.

Don’t get me wrong, we both admire the van. It’s a good highway cruiser, gets OK gas mileage, and can haul massive amounts of stuff. But we have no passion for it, and we’ve decided that we’re secure enough to get a vehicle that we really WANT, not just tolerate. I’m normally the type to hang on to a car for at least 100K miles, but I’ve had to hear complaints for 6 years, and I’m ready to give in. Besides, I still use my 2001 Accord as my daily commuter to the train station and back, and since I just dropped $2,000 on all the 100K service items, I intend to hang on to it. Besides, I like it. But back to the van…

The replacement probably has to be new. Wifey hates used cars…something about having to deal with other people’s problems and dirt. She claims she’s open to the CPO route, but usually she finds something wrong. Seems like many of these off-lease cars were formerly smokers’ cars, and she’s insanely sensitive to any odors, even after intensive detailing. Fortunately, she’s not affected by the toxic gasses leeching out of the plastic on brand-new vehicles. But I digress.

90% of the time she’s using it for normal soccer mom duties, hauling our little ones aged 5 and 7. It has to be an SUV/CUV. My love has always wanted a truck and has been denied her whole life, so the idea of a jacked-up station wagon appeals to her very much. And please, 4WD/AWD only—apparently it’s necessary for all those 2-3 in snowfalls Chicago is famous for. Towing isn’t much of an issue, since there are no 10,000 pound boats to tow in my future, for now.

Three rows of seating would be nice, but we’re on the fence. Honestly, we only use the third row 5-10 times a year. But when we do, it is nice to have. Built-in navigation is a must (tired of the Tom Tom falling off the windshield unexpectedly and scaring the bejeezus out of me), and I’m kind of a gadget guy, so I’d like something with all the latest cool bells and whistles. Even though I know that it just ups the chance of something breaking.

Oh, and it has to be somewhat truck-like. My lovely bride isn’t fooled by a Forester, so there’s no need to even go there. If it doesn’t look like a truck, it won’t make the cut. I figure I’m not going to get out of this without spending $35-45K, and have promised her that she gets to make the decision, as long as she keeps it reasonable. No Audi Q7s or ‘Slades in her future, then.

The candidates:

  • 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee – Probably tops on the list right now. If we go this route, it’s got to be a Hemi. It’s my money, and if I want to be stupid with it and get gas mileage in the teens, then so be it. It would just be too hard to pass up the chance for a big-a** V8. It does OK on the gadget test, but without three rows, we get a bit nervous. We’d have to go for Limited or Overland trim.
  • 2011 Dodge Durango – I thought it would be a good candidate as a pseudo-Jeep Grand Cherokee with a third row, but my partner didn’t think it was truck-enough.
  • 2011 Ford Explorer – Scores high on the bells-and-whistles test, but my wife thinks it’s ugly on the outside. The usable third row would be a plus, though.
  • Honda Pilot – A strong contender until the latest crop of competitors came out. Besides, we’re sort of over the Honda thing. We’ve been driving them for 15 years, and frankly, their quality has gone down. I think my ’01 Accord is a better car than the Ody in many ways – except for the 2 failed transmissions, which I’ll save for a future Piston Slap question.
  • Acura MDX – Wife has always liked this, though it starts to get a little pricey as you option it up. Regarding quality, see “Honda Pilot above.”
  • Toyota Highlander – She thinks it looks “kind of luxurious” on the inside but I think Toyotas are bland. It is nice that you can get a third row.
  • Toyota 4-Runner – She likes it because it looks tough. She hasn’t driven it though, so I’m thinking that she might change her tune after some extended time with it.
  • GMC Yukon – This is truckish, all right. Saw it at the auto show and my wife loved it. Cons: third row is kind of a joke, and it scores low on the gadget department.

So, what do you think guys?

Steve Answers:

You need to figure out if this is the time to be a ‘keeper’. My brother’s family is going through one kid who is college bound and two others who will be of driving age in the next four years.

They no longer need the ‘BIG’ vehicle as a long-term keeper. You may be in the same boat as time goes on.

If we’re talking about the ‘thou shalt’ of making your wife happy, for now, I would look at the Highlander and Yukon. They are both well-designed vehicles and should keep her happy… until your needs change. Or until gas prices potentially zoom up to the ionosphere.

You know me by now. I love safety, and don’t believe for a minute that bulk and bloat equate to it. A front wheel drive midsize to full-sized cars would be a far better long-term value for you. However I’m not married to your wife.

If she’s stubborn then just make her happy. Or for a nominal fee, I can ask some old friends of mine from Jersey to help do some ‘traditional’ persuading.

Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

Not that it’s a problem per se, but the crux of your quandary is your wife’s perception of trucky-ness. It’s all good, as I have a rather severe distain for the automotive buffalo butt. As such, I suspect a look at all large crossovers on any one of the automotive shopping websites will help narrow down the choices. An Acura MDX should hit all the size/tech requirements, except Acura doesn’t make anything even remotely truck like. I will second the Toyota 4Runner, even if its not the most efficient package on the market. That said, go all out and grab a Ford Expedition: with SYNC+Navigation and an unbelievably well executed third row (folded or in use) you may never care about the “shamefuel” mileage. (snort)

Or just screw it and get a Lincoln Town Car with winter tires. Solid axle, BOF construction and stupid-durable suspension makes it more of a truck than most of these limp wristed pansies, that’s for sure.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

]]> 38
New or Used: Anything for Another Irish Car Bomb? Wed, 22 Jun 2011 13:45:13 +0000

Michael writes:

Towards the end of the year, we may be in the market for a minivan (Honda Odyssey… this is not the advice I’m looking for, but feel free to weigh in). We have two cars we own outright: 2004 Toyota 4Runner and a 2006 VW Passat with 75K and 65K miles on them, respectively.

Both are in good working order, no issues other than the sign of age. Both have V6 engines.

Question: which one to trade in? I figure they are both worth about $10k trade in based on KBB, with the VW potentially worth marginally more (I could be wrong there). I’m leaning towards trading in the VW since it will depreciate faster and is more likely to have issues as it continues to age and wear.

What are your thoughts (now being greedy)…on both the trade-in AND the minivan choice?

Steve Answers:

Neither. Unless you are having another child and your current rides won’t accommodate another car seat.

If you enjoy what you have then keep what you got. It’s that simple. The Passat is definitely the less reliable of the two if you look at all the data and reviews out there. But who knows? You may have one of the good ones! In which case you better change the middle names of one of your children to Tiguan for good luck!

It sounds like you have two solutions in search of a problem with your current rides. But if you must have a 10k minivan… I would skip that Odyssey. It is the most hysterically overpriced family vehicle on the planet. If you’re spending $10k on a family ride I would look more towards a Mazda 5 if you want a ‘family vehicle’ with a bit more sport.

If the minivan has to be full-sized then I would go completely against the TTAC grain and buy whatever hasn’t been knocked too hard by actual owners from Carsurvey, Edmunds, Consumer Reports and TrueDelta. I despise Sedonas. Others hate Freestars. Quite a few folks will turn their noses at Quests, Caravans and the GM brood. In truth minivans were mostly cheap and interchangeable during the 06 thru 08 period. Even the cheap ones will last to 200k.

Siennas and Odysseys were premium offerings for their time. But they had mixed reliability and are poor values in the used car market. My number one? An end of the model run 2007 Grand Caravan with a great owner and very low mileage. Think Florida retiree vehicle. You will spend far less than 8k on one and be all the better for it.

Sajeev Answers:

Disclosure time: Michael is a friend, former manager and 100% straight shooter. While I have no (current) need to suck up to him, I must admit he’s rather awesome. Plus he nailed his own query, which must count for something!

The Passat is the trade-in for obvious reasons: even if your initial VW dealership gripes originally mentioned (as co-workers) went away, it’ll never be the value proposition of a 4Runner. And the Odyssey is a perfect new vehicle for the family. Not that the Odyssey is a perfect minivan, it’s rather expensive. And both the transmission and displacement-on-demand engine left many folks (including TTAC’s Robert Farago) upset at the service department. The former shouldn’t be an issue, and let’s keep our fingers crossed on the latter.

Because I don’t see you liking the alternatives from Nissan, Toyota and Chrysler. Maybe a stylish Buick Enclave or Ford Flex Titanium is worth a look. Maybe not. Tough call. Too bad every decision isn’t as simple and awesome as the time you introduced me to the Irish Car Bomb.

I could certainly use another one after all this Minivan talk!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

]]> 49
Review: 2011 Honda Odyssey Wed, 16 Mar 2011 20:36:51 +0000

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.

Ody front quarter Ody instrument panel Ody rear quarter 2 Ody side Ody engine Ody front seat Ody IP 2 Ody rear Ody cargo Ody third row Ody front quarter 2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Ody front Ody rear quarter Ody-thumb Ody second row

]]> 82
2011 Honda Odyssey: Homer or Strikeout? Sat, 19 Jun 2010 17:47:34 +0000

How does he stand now in your eyes, this captain,
the look and bulk of him, the inward poise?

Homer’s Odyssey, Book 11 lines 391-392

]]> 47
Yet Another Recall Edition: Honda’s Odyssey Brakes Full Of Hot Air Wed, 17 Mar 2010 09:37:49 +0000

Usually, we don’t report every recall (you’d be pretty tired of it pretty quick,) but in the interest of things being in the spotlight, please be advised that Honda will recall more than 410,000 Odyssey minivans and Element small trucks from the 2007 and 2008 model years, says Associated Press. According to Honda, over time, brake pedals can feel “soft” and must be pressed closer to the floor to stop the vehicles. The problem has been traced to the device that powers the electronic stability control system, and lastly to ye olde brake problem. The gizmo can allow a small amount of air into the hydraulic brake lines. And as shade tree mechanics and shady mechanics alike know: Air in the line can be hazardous to your health.

Letters to owners should go out toward the end of April – parts availability is rearing its head. If you have one of the above captioned vehicles, and your brakes feely mushy, your dealer will bleed the lines for free, which should fix you up until the part arrives. According to Honda, technicians will put plastic caps and sealant over two small holes in the device to stop the air from getting in.

]]> 12
Honda’s Space Oddity Wed, 10 Feb 2010 23:23:04 +0000 Is it me or has the new Odyssey Concept, which is supposed to preview the styling of the next-gen model, taken a few too many protein pills? Let’s hope that the production version (arriving this fall) will capture a little more of the original Odyssey’s clean, stripped-down look. Remember, if we’ve learned anything from the Nissan Quest, it’s that minivans can easily be overstyled into irrelevance.

Honda Odyssey Concept Honda Odyssey Concept Honda Odyssey Concept Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 67