2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Review - The Driver's Van
2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Fast Facts
Life circumstances force some folks to buy minivans. Others do so for the utility – coolness be damned.
Regardless of why one buys a minivan, he or she probably anticipates that the driving experience will be far from fun. But that’s not always the case – Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid (review forthcoming) isn’t a chore to drive. And Honda’s Odyssey is more engaging than the Chrysler.
Relative to the class, of course. We’ll get to that.
The Odyssey doesn’t take much of a journey into the unknown for 2021 – the changes amount to mildly refreshed styling and the addition of Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of driver’s-aid features, as standard. Honda Sensing itself gains new features.
The trim walk remains the same – LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite. Pricing starts at $31,790 for the LX, while an Elite like my tester starts at $47,820. Eye-watering pricing, perhaps, but then again the average transaction price is now over $41K. Given how the market has gone bananas between the time of my loan and the time I write this, that $47k almost sounds reasonable.
The exterior changes include LED headlights that Honda says are more powerful than before, a new front-bumper fascia, new fog-lamp housings, and a new “blackout” grille with chrome strip on top. A chrome strip also tops off the rear gloss-black trim. 19-inch wheels are offered on the Touring trim for the first time.
Interior changes are mostly minor, relating to trim and materials, with perhaps the biggest news being the addition of a third-row USB charging point on Elite and Touring trims, along with hooks for grocery bags in the cargo area and changes to the center console that Honda says makes it easier to manage charging cords.
There’s also a simplified switch system for managing the collision-mitigation braking system, lane-departure warning system, and the blind-spot monitoring system.
A 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque remains underhood, mating to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Let’s be clear upfront: No minivan will truly be on par with, say, a sports sedan, but the Odyssey is as engaging as these people-movers come. I’d probably stop short of saying it’s fun to drive, but it’s as entertaining to wheel as minivan can be. It’s better than the unremarkable competency of the Chrysler.
It offers adequate thrust for urban driving, and the ride is acceptably compliant, though it may be too firm for some tastes. This is the minivan for the Accord owner who reluctantly went in search of more space/utility.
Safety matters in just about every segment, but it’s often top of mind for parents, and minivans are obviously thought of as family vehicles. To that end, not only is Honda Sensing (adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, collision-mitigation braking with pedestrian detection, traffic-sign recognition, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and road-departure mitigation) standard, but so is a rear-seat reminder. There’s also a system that uses cameras to keep track of what’s happening in the rear seats.
Safety isn’t the only concern of the parent on the go – everyone likes to be coddled. And if you’re springing for the Elite, you will be. You’ll get an on-board vacuum, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charger, heated and cooled front seats, and rain-sensing wipers.
That’s on top of features that are standard on lower trims, such as LED headlights, third-row USB, Bluetooth, keyless starting, LED fog lights, sliding second-row seats, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, tri-zone climate control, heated front seats, dual power sliding doors, and navigation.
In fact, I am not sure I’d spring for the Elite, as the lower trims are quite well-equipped. Then again, there is an on-board vacuum.
Fuel economy is listed at 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway/22 mpg combined, regardless of trim.
Overall, Honda has executed a well-rounded package that marries minivan practicality with driver engagement. The Odyssey doesn’t feel quite as upscale as its Chrysler rival – or as the price tag would indicate – but like the van from Stellantis, it does the utility thing very well. And it’s about as fun to drive as can be, to boot.
The Odyssey and Chrysler both make solid cases for being tops of the minivan class – hence, the comparisons in this review – but the Honda is clearly the driver’s choice.
[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]
Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.
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