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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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.