Honda already has one of the most highly regarded minivans on the market, so how was the automaker going to move the needle for the all-new, fourth-generation Odyssey launching for 2011? Refine its successful formula.
“Refining” may not sound exciting, but Honda’s geeked enough about the wide array of improvements to the 2011 Odyssey they unashamedly call it “the ultimate family vehicle.”
Although it’s mostly based on the outgoing Odyssey’s structure (with the identical 118.2-inch wheelbase), the new 2011 model is 2 inches wider. The base Odyssey LX seats seven, the EX, EX-L and Touring trims seat eight passengers.
All seats, except the front pair, are removable. But one of the new trick’s Honda engineers developed is in the second row, where each outboard side of its 3-piece seat can slide sideways as much as 1.5 inches, enabling the seat to get 3 inches wider — and that’s where the new van’s extra 2 inches of width is used.
The Odyssey’s chief engineer says this “Wide Mode” feature was developed to make it easier to strap three child safety seats, which themselves are getting wider. We see it as a way for those sitting three-across to grab a little extra personal space.
Thanks to another inch of legroom, the Odyssey’s third row is a decently livable place, the extra room being augmented by the new degree of airiness imparted by the “lightning bolt” downward cut of the Odyssey’s side, allowing for more window space.
And a totally slick new fold-flat mechanism for that third row has them disappearing with little more than a yank of a single strap. You won’t find a fold-flat option for the second row seats, as you do in Chrysler minivans. Honda engineers say the seats can’t be as supportive, so the only way to lose the Odyssey’s second-row seats is to remove them.
The new Odyssey’s 3.5-liter V-6 has some revisions that yield another 4 horsepower.
The big news is a weight reduction of about 100 pounds and a cylinder-deactivation system for the V-6 means meaningful improvements in fuel economy. The base Odyssey LX, the EX and EX-L all do 2 miles per gallon better in the city and a significant 4 mpg better on the highway than last year’s minivan. Go for the Touring trim with its 6-speed automatic transmission and better aerodynamics and you get an almost giddy 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
The Touring Elite test vehicle proves the worth of the new 6-speed automatic in drivability, as it really moves out when you hit the right pedal. On higher-speed highway cruises, the extra gear gives more-relaxed sound levels — a feeling that might be accentuated by the special sound-deadening acoustic windshield all Touring models.
There are other reasons to go for the new Touring Elite trim level, at least if you’re into entertainment. The Touring Elite comes standard with a 650-watt, 5.1-channel surround-sound system with knee-weakening clarity and bass backing a delicious “ultra wide” 16.2-inch video monitor that can display two independent sources.
The Touring Elite trim comes in at a not-insubstantial price of $44,030, which definitely is pushing it for a minivan, we reckon. If you — or, your kids, that is — can get through their formative years without the killer audio/video system in the Touring Elite, the 2011 Odyssey Touring ($41,535) probably is the smartest buy of the Odyssey litter: you get almost the whole menu of high-end features, including the noticeably better 6-speed transmission. But you can buy into the Odyssey club as low as $28,580 for the base LX, which still comes to the party with the Odyssey’s best attribute: it’s actually okay to drive.
So we’re going to accept Honda’s claim that the 2011 Odyssey is the “ultimate family vehicle.” Once again, Honda’s nailed the minivan blueprint. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters
Next New On Wheels: Dodge Avenger
Next Bonus Wheels: Mazda6
2011 HONDA ODYSSEY TOURING ELITE
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 8-passenger FWD minivan
BASE PRICE___________________ $43,250 (as tested: $44,030)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 24-valve SOHC V-6 w/MPFI
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 248 at 5700 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 250 at 4800 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 118.1 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 202.9 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 36.7 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 21 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
FIAT COMING TO U.S.: Chrysler Group announces that the Fiat 500 Sport will be arriving to the U.S. marketplace with orders being taken by the end of the year. The Fiat is designed for individuals who demand that style and fashion can coexist with practicality and functionality. Matching its sport-tuned suspension, the Fiat 500 Sport features athletically styled front and rear fascias with a larger grille and flared aerodynamic treatment. The world-class 1.4-liter engine with Fiat’s state-of-the-art MultiAir technology powers the Fiat 500 Sport. MultiAir significantly reduces emissions while improving fuel economy and power delivery by up to 10 percent when compared to similar engines. (Source: Chrysler Group, LLC)
2011 FORD FLEX: For 2011, Ford Flex adds a fourth series to the popular three-row full-size crossover with the debut of the 2011 Flex Titanium, featuring blackout treatments to the lamps, additional unique styling interior and exterior accents, and 20-inch five-spoke painted luster nickel wheels. The Titanium series builds off the content of the high series Flex Limited with distinctive beltline molding, grille (black chrome finish), roof (black), mirror skull caps (black), liftgate (black chrome) and fog lamp bezels. (Source: Ford Motor Company)
AUTO REPAIR ADVICE: I own a 2001 GMC 4×4 pickup with poor braking. A friend told me that he read where you had a similar occurrence with your Chevy pickup and replaced the brakes. What brake brand did you use? Answer: I replaced the brake pads and rotors with Power Slot brake rotors and Hawk brake pads. That was over a year ago. Since the replacement, the Power Slot brake rotors are still in great condition with no rust, pitting, or brake pulsation. The Hawk brake pads are also in like-new condition. (Source: Ask the Auto Doctor, Motor Matters)
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010