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Updated 2014 Honda Odyssey Minivan - Sets Minivan Benchmark, Review By Carey Russ

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Honda Odyssey Minivan


2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite Review

For families a minivan is the way to go, and the 2014 Honda Odyssey continues as one of the best.

For 2014, the third generation of Honda's Odyssey minivan gets its first mid-product cycle freshening. No surprise there, such is the nature of the auto industry. And yes, there are the usual minor changes to the front and rear styling, and tweaks to the interior styling as well. More importantly, all trim levels get a six-speed automatic transmission, for improved fuel economy and performance. Structural upgrades led to its being ranked as a "Top Safety Pick+" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). All models also get standard Bluetooth® connectivity, a four-way power front passenger seat, the Expanded View driver's watch-the-kids-in-back mirror, and a Pandora® interface with an SMS text-messaging function.

New options include Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot monitoring system and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems, found only in luxury vehicles when the current Odyssey debuted back in 2011. The top-level Touring Elite model gets clean with a standard in-vehicle vacuum cleaner, the HondaVAC in addition to the full suite of safety, information, and entertainment equipment that befits its premium status.

With the new standard equipment, the "base model" LX has all of the basics and then some. Above that, the EX offers the LaneWatch system, push-button start/stop, the HondaLink communications and connectivity system, and wiper-linked headlights. The EX-L and EX-L RES (Rear-Seat Entertainment System) add FCW and LDW. The EX-L With Navigation and the Touring add a multi-angle rearview camera, and the Touring Elite means the vacuum, HD Radio, and Neural 5.1 Surround audio. No kitchen sink yet.

Power for all is a 248-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, with cylinder deactivation and a six-speed automatic for optimum economy with performance.

My test vehicle for the past week was a new Odyssey Touring Elite. At a $45,280 MSRP (with $830 destination charge, minus local taxes, license fees, and such) it's the ultimate family vehicle for a well-to-do family. It does have the appointments and comforts of a luxury sedan (and then some), and considerably more room inside. Most importantly, the basic package is good enough that even the more pedestrian trim levels should be just fine for more budget-minded family transportation -- and this is a minivan that gives a pleasant driving experience, so Mom and Dad don't have to resign themselves to mere operation of a transportation appliance, as useful as the built-in appliance in the left side of the Touring Elite's cargo compartment may be. Fuel use is frugal for the Odyssey's size, with EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 28 highway. I got 22 mpg overall, in mostly city and surface street use. Compare that to a similarly-sized and comfortable eight-passenger SUV or crossover and no, those with "third row" jump seats not useable by anyone over three feet tall don't count. If you need to transport six or more people and/or that much stuff often, a minivan is the way to go. And the Honda Odyssey continues as one of the best.

APPEARANCE: While the basic shape stays the same, and the definitive "lightning bolt" zig-zag line of the lower side windows at the rear of the sliding doors continues, there are subtle changes. The headlights and grille have black surrounds. Cutlines in the hood more closely follow the shape of the grille, and the lower intake and foglamps have been revised. At the rear, the taillight shape appears unchanged, but incandescent bulbs have given way to LEDs with perimeter "light pipes".

COMFORT: As outside, the 2014 Odyssey's interior is familiar but just a little different. There are no radical changes, and none were needed. It's as comfortable, versatile, and in Touring Elite trim, luxurious as expected. In all models, small side windows under the windshield pillars add visibility in critical spots. Although the overall design is unchanged, instrument and interior lighting has been upgraded, and more chrome trim adds brightness without being distracting or causing glare. Center stack controls -- for audio, navigation, electronic, and climate systems -- have been redesigned for easier use. Climate controls are simple knobs and separate from the two touchscreen interfaces. Dual screens allow easy use of navigation and access to audio and other information simultaneously. All current entertainment options are included at Touring Elite level (and most others) -- AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, CD, jack, USB/iPod, and Bluetooth streaming audio.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The front seats have a comfortable high-eyepoint seating position, and here are both power-adjustable. The steering wheel, leather-wrapped here, has controls for audio, cruise, phone, i-MID information display, and navigation systems. It's manually-adjustable for both tilt and reach allowing the perfect driving position for all drivers. The shift lever is, as ever, mounted near the steering wheel on the instrument panel. Storage is plentiful, including a locking glovebox and a cooled compartment between the front seats. Second-row passengers get business-class accommodation with a 40/20/40 split, each section separately adjustable fore-and-aft and for seatback angle. Or folding. Real adults fit easily in the outboard positions. The center is best for small children. The wide-screen DVD system is located above, to keep rear passenger entertained. The two-piece third row is the familiar "Magic Seat", with each section disappearing into the flat floor when not in use and a convenient well behind it when up. All the better for keeping grocery bag contents from becoming new life forms And yes, Touring Elite means power sliding doors and tailgate, controlled from the fob and strategically-placed buttons. The HondaVAC's hose can reach all interior spots and power lasts for about 20 minutes after the car is turned off.

SAFETY: The 2014 Honda Odyssey is the first minivan to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. It also has a 5-Star rating from NHTSA. Honda's "Advanced Compatibility Engineering™" unibody structure improves passenger protection and crash compatibility, especially in frontal and frontal offset collisions. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution stop quickly, and the Vehicle Stability Assist system offers further protection. In upper models the FCW and LDW systems alert the driver to possible imminent disaster. There's a full complement of airbags, dual front with passenger detection, front seat side, and three-row side curtains with rollover sensing.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Structural reinforcements have added some weight, aluminum panels for the hood, front fenders, and lower front control arms remove some. With all of the luxuries, the Touring Elite tips the scales at over 4600 pounds, but a carefully designed and calibrated, fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension keeps it surprisingly agile. Body motion is most activity is minimal, always good with small children in the far rear. Width is not excessive; all the better for parking, but this is a long vehicle. Steering and handling response put it at the front of the minivan class, and the brakes work well.

PERFORMANCE: You need maximum power for acceleration, but not for steady-speed cruising, especially on a reasonably level highway. Honda's 3.5-liter single overhead cam alloy V6 uses i-VTEC variable valve lift and cam phasing and Variable Cylinder Management, which allows deactivation of up to three cylinders when cruising at steady speed to combine accelerative ability with highway economy. Low, low ratios and overdrive fifth and sixth gears also help there. Active engine mounts and a noise-cancellation system mitigate any change in engine noise or vibration in various modes. With all cylinders firing, maximum horsepower is 248 (at 5700 rpm), with the torque peak of 250 lb-ft at 4800. And plenty of useful low-end torque for dealing with traffic. If "minivan" means "slow" to you, think again. 0-60 time is around 7.5 seconds, just keep the kids strapped in tightly. Getting into fast traffic is no problem, and the blind spot system helps in merging. EPA fuel economy is 19 mpg city / 28 highway. In my week of mixed driving I got a 22 mpg average.

CONCLUSIONS: Honda's Odyssey continues to set benchmarks in the minivan class.

2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

Base Price			$ 44,450
Price As Tested			$ 45,280
Engine Type			SOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with
				 cylinder deactivation and i-VTEC® valve 
				lift and duration management
Engine Size			3.5 liters / 212 cu. in.
Horsepower			248 @ 5700 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			250 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		118.1 in. / 202.9 in.
Curb Weight			4613 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		18.6
Fuel Capacity			21 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/60 R18 102T Michelin Primacy mxv4
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, VSA, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent double wishbone
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		19 / 28 / 22
0 to 60 mph				7.5  sec

Destination and Handling		$ 830