Honda Odyssey Is the Go-To Bus for the Child-Endowed

By Casey Williams, MyCarData

Parenthood brings an adjustment of your vehicular responsibilities. In question are little red Miatas, powerful Corvettes, and fancy-pants sport sedans. Nope, they won’t do. If you doubt that, try fitting a modern child seat between seatbacks. Or, a stroller into the trunk. Boppys, diapers, formula, toys, and extra clothes (baby can erupt like a volcano—from either end).

Given the hassle of flying, drives will be long and frequent. It all makes a mini-van like the Honda Odyssey seem essential. It’s the all-income go-to bus for the child-endowed.

It sure ain’t sexy, but that’s hardly the point. Honda tries, though. The Odyssey is a sleek tube with dual sliding doors, bold front facia, elegant rear styling with LEDs, and chiseled flanks that give it some character—as do its signature “Z” windowline and 18-inch alloys. It looks well-made and upscale.

Survey owners and I’ll bet my next cheeseburger—pickles and all—that the number one reason they purchased an Odyssey was its interior. It’s wide, easily sitting three across in the middle row. It’s also flexible, offering a rear seat that folds into the floor, a middle row with removable center seat, and power-adjustable front chairs.

Our Touring Elite model comes with tri-zone automatic climate control, leather seats (heated up front), navigation, and a rear-seat entertainment system with wide screen that can be split for multiple movies or video games. Surround audio, USB input, Bluetooth, Pandora, and SMS text messaging add enjoyment. 

Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, and LaneWatch blind spot camera make drives safer.

Should my cheeseburger, pickles, onions, cereal, cat food, gummy dinosaurs, or mulch end up on the floor, Honda’s prepared. Odyssey Touring Elite models come standard with HondaVAC(TM), claimed to be the world’s first in-vehicle vacuum cleaner. It’s tucked in the rear interior panel with hose and attachments. So cool, it won the 2014 VIP Award from Good Housekeeping.

Odysseys are all about hauling stuff; but at least they put power to pavement like an Acura. The only engine is a 3.5-liter 24-valve V6 that produces 248 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. Variable Cylinder Management pauses three cylinders to improve fuel economy when cruising. It connects to a new 6-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoother and improves fuel economy, rated 19/28-MPG city/hwy. If that doesn’t excite you, pretend the sounds come from a Honda IndyCar engine (this may require a stiff drink while somebody else revs the puke out of it).

There’s much to like about the Odyssey, but the infotainment controls not so much. It took me 30 minutes to find Elvis Radio and get it into a mode that scrolls through stations instead of pre-sets. And, why do I need a touchscreen in the lower dash next to a joywheel that controls a screen in the upper dash – both of which do the same thing. Voice commands are bewildering. A direct tune button would also be nice.

And, by all means, when I set the system (or a power seat), I expect it to stay as commanded until commanded otherwise. My sister owns an Odyssey and she hasn’t figured it out either. Maybe we’re just genetically stupid… Honda should do what Chrysler did: Let Garmin design the controls.

I’m too cool for a mini-van, but I get why people buy them. If you want to set sail across Mother America, they are perfect—perfect to haul up to eight passengers in climate-controlled, fully-entertained, thoroughly-safe, and stylishly-endowed comfort. Maybe on a long drive, say from the Statue of Liberty to Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll figure out how to use the infotainment system. Given how nice the rest of the van is, you may not want to.

A base price of $28,825, or $46,476 as-tested, Odyssey compares with the Chrysler Town & Country, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, Dodge Grand Caravan, and limo-van services.

2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite
Eight-passenger, FWD Minivan

Powertrain: 248hp 3.5-liter V6, 6-spd auto trans
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels: 18-inch/18-inch alloy f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
Must-have features: Space, pace
Fuel economy: 19/28 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Lincoln, Ala.
Base/as-tested price: $28,825/$46,476