Capsule Review: Honda Odyssey

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
capsule review honda odyssey

Although I am a long-time critic of long-term tests of hideously over-equipped press cars, raising as they do the questions about Motor Trend’s objectivity, I can see the value of knowing how well a vehicle performs over the long-haul. So, as TTAC’s refocusing its efforts on those four-wheeled thingamabobs known as “cars,” I thought I’d weigh-in with a little encapsulated commentary on the family Honda Odyssey. Before I do so, I want to take this opportunity to tell the world that I have hatred in my heart for Honda’s Majesterial Rhode Island dealer. Suffice it to say, I have sworn off the entire brand because of the treatment received. Ahem. Michelin PAX tires. They blow.

In ’06, I opted for the top-spec LX Touring, which comes with run-flats. Big mistake. The tires are hard-riding, hard to find, hideously expensive, a direct and ongoing challenge the tire-pressure monitoring system and wear-out faster than– just step away from the similes Farago. Why would Honda equip their most expensive minivan with the world’s worstest tires? They ride so hard they make the van rattle. I’m ditching the plastic-filled donuts after the changeover to winter shoes, at a cost of $1500 or so. Breathe. OK, otherwise, the Odyssey is a peach. Especially the engine. The 244hp 3.5-liter six and five-speed autobox combo work as smoothly as Brooke Thomas and Dahlia Grey. There’s plenty of poke as and whenever, and the [fully-laden] highway mileage (with ECO) at 70ish mph is on the wrong side of the mid-20’s.

Handling? Yes, the brakes work well. The real test for the minivanistas amongst you (both of them): schleppage. In this the Odyssey excels. The second row captain’s chairs [almost] manage to separate squabbling sisters, and the third row is adult friendly, with space for their luggage and enough cupholders to satisfy your favorite cliché. The American-assembled box can carry seven adults in no-complaints comfort. With gen-u-ine fold flat seats in the way back, the Odyssey also serves yeoman-like duty as a pickup truck sedan. On the downside, the Odyssey is a petrochemical porcine. Seventeen miles EPA? Not on my watch. Truth be told, I get a secret thrill from refueling at the same rate as mondo-SUVs without any of the political blowback. The biggest downer: no MP3 jack (the new model is so equipped). High praise indeed.

[Real world photos coming…]

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  • Wardenr Wardenr on Dec 13, 2008

    Mr. Farago: As you are likely aware, many of the Odyssey, the Pilot, and the (Acura)MDX are built in Lincoln, Alabama (my home state). No doubt, the production volume they push in that plant must (regrettably)compromise some quality. Despite my long, fierce loyalty to their products, Honda can and MUST do a better job! The 4-speed auto trannys are notoriously failure prone, particularly in the V6-equipped models. Reason: 2nd-gear clutch pack gets inadequate lubrication and the differential bearings are substandard. The five-speed auto trannys ('03 and up) fare about the same. Honda Motor claims a 2 percent failure rate; 6 to 8 percent is probably closer to the truth. Honda also maintains they corrected these problems in 2002. These particular auto trannys were (purportedly) a joint-venture development between Honda and GM. (May God Forbid!) Honda subcontracted building to a Japanese supplier. But per what my local dealer says, Honda has since resumed designing and manufacturing its own automatic transmissions for its USDM vehicles. Honda Motor has a class-action suit against them involving their automatic trannys. However, if you have some "political suasion" with your dealer, and contact HMC directly (via the Honda Owners' Association)AND are nice to them, they will probably help you out with parts and labor. I recently acquired a 2002 Accord Coupe LX V6. No tranny issues thus far. But to play it really SAFE, I am adding a CompTech tranny cooler...and changing the fluid at least once per year, regardless of mileage driven. And while Honda's fluid is likely okay, I am inclined to switch to AmsOil or Redline. Helluva lot cheaper than a $4,000 tranny replacement, since my car is excluded from Honda's 96-month/100,000-mile extended warranty... The Odyssey and Pilot/MDX can be equipped with an optional transmission cooler (for a towing package)available from your Honda dealer. Seems to me cheap insurance...and a smart investment.

  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Dec 14, 2008
    Likewise, the Honda transmission problems are reason enough to go with the Sienna as the sole choice for a larger, reliable ‘mini’-van. To be fair, the transmission problem is no longer extant. Like the Toyota sludging issue (which gets brought up endlessly, evem though we're approaching ten years since the affected components went out of manufacture), we're talking about something that affected only the first few years of the lifespan of the second-gen Oddy, and the third-gen isn't affected at all. The Sienna is a good van, and I personally prefer it, but it's not mechanically perfect--but then, when your competition is bad (Hyundai/Kia; their vans are their weakest products) and abysmal (Chrysler), you can't help but shine. If you're in this market, it's really going to come down to brand and model preference. The Odyssey and Pilot/MDX can be equipped with an optional transmission cooler (for a towing package)available from your Honda dealer. Seems to me cheap insurance…and a smart investment. This is a good point, even if you don't tow. These are big, heavy vehicles with fairly powerful engines: the transmission will get hot, and it will suffer for it. A towing package and/or transmission cooler is a very good idea. I worry deeply about automatic transmissions in modern cars, especially as we reach six, seven and eight speeds and certainly in big power+big mass vehicles. That's a lot of mechanical complexity and associated stress. If something goes wrong, god help you. I have real bias towards CVTs if for no other reason than that they seem much, much simpler.

  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
  • Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”