SAN DIEGO -- After a series of not-so-scintillating product launches from Honda -- the Insight, CrossTour and CR-Z all received mixed reviews, at best -- getting the Odyssey minivan right was more than crucial. It was essential.
The new Odyssey's seven lead engineers and chief designer were well suited for the task. They have owned a total of 27 Odysseys, so they knew firsthand what needed to be improved.
The basics: The redesigned Odyssey is two inches wider, an inch longer, rides lower and is more aerodynamic than its predecessor. Under the hood it has a re-engineered version of its 3.5-liter V-6 engine, with variable cylinder management and estimated fuel economy of 18 mpg city and 27 highway.
As of now, the Odyssey is the only minivan with independent rear suspension. Combined with a more rigid body and subframe structure, that means more sensitive ride control and more precise handling. Honda made the brakes one inch larger in diameter and now claims best-in-class stopping distances.
In addition to improving performance and adding features, Honda also made the vehicle more stylish, with a signature lightning-bolt beltline. Honda says the vehicle will get five-star safety ratings in all measurements.
Notable features: The center console between the two front seats can hold a purse and is removable. Underneath the instrument panel is a "coolbox" that can hold a six-pack of soda.
As for seating, the second row can be fitted with three child seats but also can pivot outward by two inches so three adults can sit in comfort.
With six inches more legroom than the Toyota Sienna, the Odyssey's third row has enough space for three full-sized adults and with seats that also recline. The cantilevered foldaway function for the third-row seats is now performed with a single strap pull.
With the seats removed, the Odyssey can accommodate a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood, three mountain bikes or 10-foot 2-by-4 studs.
The entertainment system features a 16-inch hi-definition monitor with split-screen capability for kids quarrelling in the second row. The "song by voice" telematics system replicates the iPod operating system.