2008 Honda Odyssey Touring Review
WITH CAREY RUSS
2008 Honda Odyssey Touring
If you routinely need to carry five to eight people and a large amount of cargo, there are only two real choices for a vehicle: a full-size SUV or a minivan. If regular heavy towing is a necessity, it may be the SUV. But not necessarily - the latest iteration of Honda's Odyssey minivan is rated for 3500 pounds. If not in the Civic Hybrid class for fuel economy, the 2008 Odyssey does get further on a gallon of regular unleaded than a large body-on-frame SUV. And variable cylinder activation, called "Variable Cylinder Management"(tm) or VCM by Honda, further improves fuel economy in the models that use it.
Although it was a very different take on the minivan niche when introduced in 1995 - with no sliding doors, just car-like regular doors, it would be called a "crossover" today - the Odyssey joined the minivan mainstream in 1999. If it seemed to be just another minivan at that point, that's what the market wanted, and the `99 Odyssey introduced a feature that has been a hallmark ever since - the disappearing third row "Magic Seat"¨. Rather than removing a heavy, bulky seat, the Odyssey owner who needed to change between passenger and cargo use could just easily stow or unstow the split-bench seat into or out of the rear load floor.
The third generation continues to evolve, and has the biggest changes since its debut a few years ago. Most apparent is a mild restyling, featuring the new face of Honda as seen on the newest Accord. The lineup consists of (in increasing order) LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring models. The EX-L and Touring get a standard power front passenger seat and available Bluetooth¨ HandsFreeLink connectivity. The EX-L now has its rear-view camera display integrated into the rear-view mirror - the Touring's remains in the navigation system screen - and the Touring has programmable exterior mirrors. New colors and textures are found inside, and LX and EX models get new seat fabric. All versions now have an auxiliary audio input jack and MP3 or WMA CD capability.
Before spending last week with a 2008 Odyssey Touring, the last time I was in an Odyssey was late 1998, just after the second generation was introduced. There have been changes, but nothing revolutionary, since then and the Odyssey, especially in line-topping Touring trim, is still at the top of the premium end of the minivan segment. With its spacious, comfortable, and useful interior, quiet ride, good handling, high safety ratings, plus all of the electronic conveniences and entertainments expected in an entry-luxury sedan, the Honda Odyssey Touring is a stealth luxury vehicle.
APPEARANCE: No pretense here. The Odyssey is a minivan, and proudly so. It is the box it came in, all the better for a commodious interior. Well, ok, two boxes, the large main cabin and smaller hood. The main difference from last year? The bold, angular chrome grille, now six-sided much like that of the newest Accord. Large, bright headlights give it character. Strategically-placed angles and character lines keep it from looking boringly slab-sided.
COMFORT: Space, configurability, and access are the reasons for a minivan, and here the Odyssey Touring shows its mettle. With two sliding doors (here power-operable, via the remote fob, buttons near the driver's seat, or by pulling the handles) and a power rear liftgate, plus the wide front doors, access is a snap - without the step-in height of an SUV. With all seats in place, there is real room for eight, in comfort, no squeezing necessary. The well into which the third seat goes is a great place for groceries, as errant small round fruits and vegetables can't roll out into difficult-to-recover places. There is another small underfloor space ahead of the second row,which is split 40/20/40 with fore-and-aft and seatback adjustability for the outboard sections. The power-adjustable front seats are the equals to those in a similarly-priced luxury car for comfort and support. The Touring has leather seating surfaces, power accessories, including pedals, a good AM/FM/XM/6CD/auxiliary audio system, an easy-to-use touch-screen DVD navigation system with backup camera, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and tri-zone climate control among its comprehensive list of standard features.
SAFETY: The current Odyssey has received five-star ratings from NHTSA for its performance in frontal and side impacts, in large part because of its Advanced Compatibility Engineering(tm) unibody structure. Dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags are augmented by front side airbags and three-row side curtain airbags with rollover sensors. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist stop quickly and repeatedly. Front-seat active head restraints and daytime running lights are new for 2008.
RIDE AND HANDLING: First-rate vehicle dynamics are in Honda's engineering DNA, and just because the Odyssey is a minivan is no reason to leave that out. The original Odyssey was the first minivan with a fully-independent suspension, and the second continued that. Ditto the current, with MacPherson struts in front and double wishbones at the rear, just like many sports sedans. The unibody structure is tight and rigid, with no discernible noise-causing flex. The springs and shocks are tuned more firmly than in most minivans, for a moderately-firm but still quite comfortable ride with little body roll. Steering response is also better than the average minivan. At over 4600 pounds, the Odyssey is no lightweight, and that weight is noticeable, but it is very light on its feet for its size.
PERFORMANCE: All versions of the 2008 Odyssey have a 3.5-liter V6 engine matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, with front-wheel drive. But there are two engines, both with blocks and heads made of aluminum alloy. The engine in LX and EX models uses Honda's VTEC¨ variable valve timing and lift technology to make 244 horsepower (at 5750 rpm) and 240 lb-ft of torque (at 5000 rpm), with an EPA mileage rating of 16/23. EX-L and Touring models get i-VTEC, which adds variable cam phasing, and the newest development of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), Honda's cylinder deactivation system. With the new VCM, either two or three cylinders can be deactivated while cruising in low engine load conditions, to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Mileage rises a bit, to an EPA 17/25. I got just over 18 in mixed, mostly non-highway driving. Importantly. Active Noise Cancellation and the Active Control Engine Mount system cancel pretty much all noise and vibration from the engine at all times, for a smooth and near-luxury quiet driving experience. All systems are completely transparent, and more than merely adequate power is always available.
CONCLUSIONS: With space, comfort, and all of the amenities, the 2008 Honda Odyssey keeps its place as the benchmark premium minivan.
2008 Honda Odyssey Touring
Base Price $ 40,010 Price As Tested $ 40,645 Engine Type 24-valve single overhead cam aluminum alloy V6 with variable cam phasing and lift and multi-mode cylinder deactivation Engine Size 3.5 liters / 212 cu. in. Horsepower 241 @ 5700 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 242 @ 4900 rpm Transmission 5-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 118.1 in. / 202.1 in. Curb Weight 4639 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.3 Fuel Capacity 21 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P235/60 TR17 Michelin Energy LX4 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / disc, ABS, VSC, BA standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent double wishbone Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 25 / 18 0 to 60 mph est. 10 sec Towing capacity 3500 lbs. OPTIONS AND CHARGES Destination charge $ 635