Honda's redesigned 2011 Odyssey enters a minivan segment that's more advanced than ever before. If you can afford a minivan like the 2011 Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, or Chrysler Town & Country, you'll experience familymobiles that have become bigger and more refined across the board.
The Toyota and Chrysler have also benefitted from design and powertrain tweaks for the 2011 model year, meaning it's a good time to be in the market for a minivan. The Honda Odyssey remains one of the better vehicles in the class from a performance perspective and has numerous interior enhancements to make your next family roadtrip as smooth as possible.
Interestingly, one of Honda's goals when engineering the 2011 Odyssey was creating a minivan with more style. The surprise is that the Odyssey has arguably become one of Honda's most attractive vehicles. A downward kink in the rear side windows helps form what Honda calls the "lightning bolt," or body surfacing that makes this full-size vehicle more visually engaging than you thought it possible for a minivan.
All Odysseys are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that's not much different from the engine in the outgoing minivan. Unlike the 2010 Odyssey, Variable Cylinder Management technology allows the engine to function on the power of three or four of the six cylinders and is standard on every Odyssey trim for 2011. The 2011 Odyssey has 248 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 250 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. Honda still reserves the most fuel efficient technology on the most expensive trims: a five-speed automatic is standard on the LX, EX, and EX-L trims while a new six-speed unit comes on the Touring and Touring Elite models.
Even 2011 Odysseys with the five-speed automatic receive better fuel economy than the outgoing Honda peoplemover. Most Odysseys are rated 18/27 mpg city/highway with the six-speed automatic Odyssey minivans rated 19/28 mpg. That's impressive mileage on vehicle that's 202.9 inches long and at least 4300 pounds.
Just like previous Odysseys, the new one drives well. Motor Trend magazine found much to like about the 2011 Odyssey, noting the new Honda corners with less body roll than the Toyota Sienna. The steering feels a bit overweighted at low speeds but is ideal at highway speeds. Improved brakes apply "with a reassuring firmness," the magazine says. Importantly, ride quality is better on the 2011 model and there's less noise in the cabin than before. The new Odyssey's cargo area is cavernous, with 38.4 cubic feet of space behind the third row and 93.1 cubic feet behind the second row seats.
Having a quiet cabin is especially important in this seven- and eight-passenger minivan with all the available entertainment technology. An optional 16.2-inch display can show two different sources of programming side-by-side, like a movie and a video game. Wireless headphones prevent passengers from hearing a cacophony of sounds. Odysseys at the EX-L trim or higher have an eight-inch TFT LCD screen that can show information about the vehicle, sound system, or the rearview camera image. Called i-MID, the technology is another version of the screen Honda is now introducing on the 2012 Civic lineup. The new navigation screen is eight inches and has better graphics than the screen in the outgoing car. A blind spot monitoring system is another new and optional feature.
Even so, good safety ratings are standard on the Odyssey. The 2011 Odyssey received an overall five-star rating (out of five stars) in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the Honda Odyssey - along with the Toyota Sienna - a Top Safety Pick for the 2011 model year.
It's a shame that Honda reserves the most fuel efficient Odyssey trims to models that cost more than $40,000. At the 2011 Odyssey's $28,580 base price, there's still plenty of minivan goodness to keep everyone happy - including, perhaps, the driver.