The Swiss Army knife of minivans

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Honda Odyssey is like the Swiss Army Knife of minivans because of the great versatility it offers its owner. Instead of a collection of blades, scissors, toothpicks and corkscrews from the knife, the Odyssey is filled with Magic Seats, Variable Cylinder Management and Vehicle Stability Assist.

As Honda’s largest vehicle, the Odyssey, like the famous Swiss Army Knife, is noted for its ability to adapt to the user’s needs, quickly, effortlessly and sometimes invisibly.

The Odyssey setup can carry one driver and up to seven passengers. By adjusting the seating, the cargo capacity can expand from 38.4 cubic feet to more than 147.4 cubic feet.

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The state of the art 3.5-liter Honda i-VTEC V-6 engine adapts just as easily as the interior, by automatically adjusting to the driver’s needs. Under a full load or accelerating up an on-ramp onto the freeway, the engine is a tiger, unleashing the full 244 horsepower output Honda’s VTEC system. At cruising speeds, the same engine that pulls the big minivan from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.9 seconds, adjusts by deactivating two or three of the engines six cylinders to squeeze out the maximum miles out of each gallon of gas. The EPA estimates 17 mpg for city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. Our actual average during the week we drove it was 22.1 mpg.

Safety is a major concern for Honda engineers, so each trim level gets all the available safety equipment. It doesn’t matter if you buy the base LX for $27,025, including destination charge, or the Touring version with Michelin® PAX® run-flat tires for $41,775, you get all the available safety equipment from three-row side curtain airbags with roll sensor to Vehicle Stability Assist(VSA) with traction control to child-proof door locks. Many elements of this equipment also adapt to the needs of the driver. For example, the VSA system, if the roads get slippery and the system senses the Odyssey is about to spin out of control, the VSA system intervenes and brakes one or more of the wheels to try to keep it going where the driver is steering. Another example is the Brake Assist system that will automatically apply more pressure when it senses the driver is not pressing hard enough in a panic stop. Then there is the Electronic Brake Force Distribution that maximizes the brake stopping power by sending the braking power to the wheels with the best grip – automatically.

The Honda Odyssey is an amazing machine filled with features that make it comfortable and convenient for the passengers. Push a button and either side door slides open, another button opens the rear hatch for quick access to the cargo area, yet another button opens the glass panel in the roof to let the sunshine and air into the Odyssey.

We especially like the way Honda markets its vehicles. Other than a trim level and a choice of exterior color and seating color there are no options available. If you buy the most popular model, the EX-L, it available with a rear entertainment system and/or a navigation system or not. You simply buy the model that best fits your needs. When you buy the Touring version, like the one we drove, you automatically get the navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera and the DVD rear entertainment system with wireless headsets, so there’s no pondering…you get it all.

We think this type of marketing takes a lot of the give and take out of buying and make a lot of sense.

So how does the Honda Odyssey drive? It’s fun to drive. The agile handling, responsive drivetrain and comfortable interior lets you concentrate on driving or simply enjoy the ride. As you can tell, the Honda Odyssey is one of our favorite minivans.