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2016 Honda Odyssey SE Last Look Review By Carey Russ

2016 Honda Odyssey SE
2016 Honda Odyssey SE


2016 Honda Odyssey SE

It's no great secret that the current version of Honda's popular Odyssey minivan will be replaced for model year 2017. It's been around with only a moderate amount of change since 2011 ( 2011 Honda Odyssey Concept Reveal At 2010 Chicago Auto Show ), and those changes mostly reflect the rapid evolution of electronic communications, convenience, and safety systems. The biggest changes were for 2014, when a six-speed automatic transmission was specified for all trim levels, all the better for both highway fuel economy and acceleration in traffic. Also made standard at the time were useful features including 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.

With a new version coming, Honda could be excused from doing much to the current Odyssey. But that wouldn't be the Honda way. Seeing it out is a new trim level, called unsurprisingly the SE, for "Special Edition". Placed between the value-oriented EX and leather-equipped EX-L, the SE adds a rear-seat entertainment system (an option in the EX-L), the HondaVAC™ built-in vacuum cleaner otherwise offered only in the premium Touring Elite, and standard Sirius/XM satellite radio and an extra power outlet. Upholstery is the same cloth as in the EX, and while the side sliding doors and power-operated and can be controlled via the fob, the tailgate is manual. As in all Odysseys, maximum versatility is ensured by the 60/40 split-folding third-row Magic Seat®. It folds easily into the well behind when cargo use beckons, and that well keeps errant groceries from becoming foul-smelling surprises or science projects.

As with all current Odysseys, power for the SE is from a 248-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with Honda's "Variable Cylinder Management" (VCM) cylinder deactivation system for improved highway efficiency and a six-speed automatic transmission for improvements in both acceleration and cruising efficiency.

I spent the past week with a new Odyssey SE. If not as luxuriously-equipped as the Touring Elite that was the last Odyssey I've driven, it had all the necessities and then some. No leather upholstery or power tailgate or heated seats, but the same ultra-versatile seating system, power sliding doors, a rear-seat entertainment system, and yes, the vacuum cleaner. No kitchen sink. As ever, the Odyssey is one of the most engaging minivans to actually drive, as opposed to merely operate, and if the 22 mpg I got for the week doesn't seem so great, compare that to the results from an SUV that can actually carry third-row adult passengers in comfort. Minivan wins! If you need to transport six or more people and/or that much stuff on a regular basis, a minivan is the way to go. And the Honda Odyssey continues as one of the best.

APPEARANCE: It's a minivan, so it's expected to be the box it came in, subject to a bit of styling. There have been no noticeable changes to the Odyssey since the 2014 freshening that gave minor revisions to the grille, lights, and hood. It's long and wide, all the better for stuffing full of people and things, and the "lightning bolt" zig-zag lower line of the side windows is its most definitive styling feature.

COMFORT: This is the important part of a minivan, and the Odyssey will not disappoint. Like all of the competition, it's not really "mini" -- note the size difference if you see one and a surviving 80s minivan together. But that, and efficient space utilization, means plenty of useful passenger and/or cargo room, in many configurations. Leg, head, and elbow room will not be a problem, anywhere inside.

The 40/20/40 second row parts are separately adjustable fore-and-aft and for recline, with the center seatback folding forward for an armrest with cupholders and open storage, and all parts fold and tumble. In passenger position, the third row is split 60/40, with either part folding into the "Magic Seat" well for a flat floor. There are ceiling climate system vents for both rear rows. Third-row access is by manually sliding the relevant second-row part forward.

Back up front are very good power-adjustable seats. Small windows under the windshield pillars add visibility in critical spots. Materials are mostly synthetic, cloth for the seats and textured plastics for interior panels. Windshield glare is a non-issue. The steering wheel is manually adjustable for tilt and reach, and has a leather rim and controls for information, audio, phone and cruise systems.

Instrumentation is simple, visible, and functional. Information, including from the right rear LaneWatch camera, is displayed on the top of the two screens in the center stack, controlled from the wheel or buttons and knobs at the bottom of the stack. The lower touchscreen controls audio (here AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, rear DVD system, USB, iPod, and jack inputs, and Bluetooth streaming audio including Pandora and Aha), phone, more information systems.

Compartmentalized storage is important in a minivan, and there are plenty of large and small spaces throughout the cabin. Everyone has water bottle and cup holders galore. The vacuum cleaner can reach around the passenger/cargo area, up to the back of the front seats. It's comparable to a small handheld vacuum in suction.

SAFETY: The Honda Odyssey was the first minivan to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, back in 2014. It also has a 5-Star rating from NHTSA. Honda's "Advanced Compatibility Engineeringâ„¢" 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 Assistâ„¢ system offers further protection. 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 a few years back added some weight; aluminum panels for the hood, front fenders, and lower front control arms removed some. The SE tips the scales at just over 4500 pounds, but a carefully designed and calibrated, fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension keeps it surprisingly agile. This is likely the most driver-oriented minivan. Body motion during 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: The 2016 Odyssey SE sends the current generation of Honda's minivan off with value and usefulness.

2016 Honda Odyssey SE

Base Price                      $ 34,425
Price As Tested                 $ 34,255
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                     4520 lbs. (est)
Pounds Per Horsepower           18.2
Fuel Capacity                   21 gal.
Fuel Requirement                87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires                           P235/65 R17 103T 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
Towing capacity                         3500 lbs.

Special Edition Discount                -(1050)
Destination and Handling                  88
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