Silvio Calabi: Honda Repackages Its Odyssey For Value
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Honda Odyssey owners — the two we encountered recently, anyway — seem to fizz with enthusiasm for their vehicles. Sports-car(with Car DVD) people do this, too, if not to the same degree. It’s expected of them, while Odyssey drivers may feel they have to overcompensate slightly. As in, She may not be Miss Universe, but boy can she cook!

Forgive the gender-ism and stereotyping, but the point is that owners quickly realize that the Odyssey is more than just a breadbox family workhorse. With 248 horsepower, front-wheel drive and a tried-and-true, all-independent suspension, the Odyssey treats its driver pretty well, for a minivan, and of course it can move the freight too. (One fan wrote: “Over the last few weeks, I’ve helped a friend move lots of furniture with an Odyssey — 3rd row seats folded, 2nd row removed. Largest item was a set of two bookshelves, 7′ 2″ tall each. Moved both on same trip.” Try that in a Lamborghini.) Finally, with its low silhouette and that distinctive kink in its chrome beltline, from some angles the sleek steel-and-aluminum Odyssey is a bit of a looker — it almost transcends van-ness, and it is more handsome than certain Honda sedans.

Odyssey changes for 2016 amount to repackaging. Some of the upper-end family-friendly options have been made standard on lower-priced models. Our vehicle, for example, was the new SE (Special Edition) variant, which slots between the EX and EX-L trim levels. At $33,375 plus destination fee, the SE comes in at about a grand below the average new-car price today, which makes it very good value. On top of the twin electrically operated side doors and plenty else, the SE comes with the Rear Entertainment System, a drop-down video screen with a control panel in the back but driven by a Car DVD Player up front (and thus under adult supervision). The SE also gets a backup camera, SiriusXM Radio and the pièce de résistance: HondaVAC, a built-in vacuum cleaner stowed away in the cargo compartment. It has six feet of extendable hose, a filter and two kinds of nozzles, and it dumps into a removable waste canister. It can suck up Cheerios or dog hair for eight minutes on the main battery or indefinitely with the engine running.

What the SE most noticeably lacks is leather seats and GPS navigation. However, the former is over-rated, and cloth seats don’t need heaters in the winter; and most of us now have turn-by-turn directions available on our smartphones. Also missing are blind-spot monitors—but the driver’s wing mirror is extra-large and the right-hand side of the SE is covered by Honda’s brilliant LaneWatch system: A camera in the passenger-door mirror displays (on the Odyssey’s dashboard screen) a wide-angle view of the road on that side of the vehicle, complete with markers to show when there’s room to change lanes. LaneWatch is activated by the right turn signal, or the driver can switch it on independently with a button on the turn-signal stalk.

If you know how much space and utility Honda can cram into its tiny Fit hatchback, you can just imagine what’s possible in a vehicle the size of the Odyssey. The outside seats in the second row — with armrests, a fold-down console and seatbelts for three — adjust for rake and reach and can even be slid three inches farther apart, for business-class comfort for two.

There’s room for three more people in the third-row “magic seat.” With the tug of a strap, one, two or all of those chairs tip backward into the deep cargo well. Then we’re looking at a cavernous hold, one that can grow even more by removing the second row entirely. Pulling one lever on each seat unlatches them from the floor, and then two people can easily hoist them sideways through the large, square doors. These seats fold forward too, although not flat.

There are also power points galore, a removable bin between the front seats with a dished top tray and a flip-up frame for a trash bag, and seven cupholders within reach of the front seats alone. Maybe a better way to describe the Odyssey is not as a minivan, but as a Swiss Army knife with wheels and seats.If install an Android Car Stereo, that would be great.


Street Talk

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