The Honda Odyssey is about function and making family life easier. It can carry a family of eight, or half a high-school soccer team, with all their coolers, balls, tents, shoes, whatever. It can tow a small trailer with a motorcycle or watercraft. It can carry 4x8 plywood flat on the floor, with 10-foot-long boards can be stacked on them, extending between the front seats when the convenient removable console is taken out. Best of all, it's loaded with conveniences designed to simplify life.
The Honda Odyssey was thoroughly redesigned and re-engineered for the 2011 model year, marking a new generation of one of America's favorite multi-purpose vehicles. For 2012, the only change, besides a new color, is that the 2012 Honda Odyssey EX gets some of the fancy electronic equipment previously reserved for the Odyssey EX-L.
Though still called a minivan, there is nothing mini about the modern minivan. The Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna, and Chrysler Town & Country are big passenger vehicles. If you need a true mini-van, you might consider a Mazda5. For many uses, and especially for carrying people, a Honda Odyssey or one of its competitors makes more sense than a full-size sport-utility or crossover. A minivan handles better, is roomier, and is more fuel-efficient than an SUV does.
The Odyssey is less expensive than a luxury SUV, gets better fuel economy, and has more cargo room, with greater flexibility in how the space is configured. Unless you need four-wheel drive or you tow a big car or boat, the Odyssey should work. Odyssey's third-row seats set a new standard in legroom, with as much space as the front seats in a Cadillac Escalade or even the Odyssey itself.
The Honda V6 engine leads the class in fuel economy and delivers 248 horsepower. A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard, but Touring models get a 6-speed automatic that delivers better acceleration and better fuel mileage. Honda is a leader in engine development and the Odyssey's V6 is smooth.
Comfort and poise are excellent, even with six large people on board. Six airbags including three-row side curtains are standard. The Odyssey leads its class in safety ratings, with 5 Stars from NHTSA and Top Safety Pick from IIHS. Honda boasts that it's the only eight-passenger minivan to ace both tests.
Odyssey's main competition is the Toyota Sienna, which offers more choices with a four-cylinder engine, a sport model and all-wheel drive available but not eight seats. The re-engineered Chrysler Town & Country is an eight-seat rival.
All 2012 Honda Odyssey models use a 248-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine, automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The only mechanical differences among them are wheels, tires and the number of transmission speeds.
Odyssey LX ($28,225) seats seven on cloth upholstery and uses a 5-speed automatic transmission. It includes front and rear manual air conditioning, eight-way power driver's seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, adjustable second-row seats, 60/40-split fold-in-floor third row seats, 229-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 five-speaker stereo system auto-off projector headlights, cruise control, reading lights for all rows, trip computer and 10 beverage holders.
Odyssey EX ($31,475) has eight seats and adds power sliding side doors, three-zone automatic climate control, driver power lumbar, second-row sunshades and multi-function seats, alloy wheels, removable front center console with two more cupholders, 2GB CD library and seven speakers with subwoofer, USB port, Homelink, Bluetooth, HandsFreeLink, intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) with 8-inch touch-screen, conversation mirror, security system, heated mirrors, wheel-mounted audio controls, auto on/off headlights, compass and outside temperature display.
Odyssey EX-L ($34,875) upgrades to leather upholstery and steering wheel-wrap, power moonroof, tailgate and four-way passenger seat, heated front seats, XM radio, front cool box, and auto-dimming mirror. Options: Navigation with voice recognition, FM traffic info, multi-view rear camera and 15GB disk drive; and rear entertainment with 9-inch screen, wireless headphones/jacks and a 115-VAC outlet.
Odyssey Touring ($41,180) gets 6-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels, and mild aerodynamic changes like side sills and mirrors with signal repeaters. Touring also adds to EX-L driver-memory system linked to reverse-tilt mirrors, an acoustic windshield, standard navigation and rear entertainment, third-row sunshades, third-row center armrest, multi-information display, corner and backup sensor indicators, fog lamps and ambient footwell lighting. Odyssey Touring Elite ($43,675) is a Touring model with blind-spot warning system, HID headlamps, and a dual-input 16.2-inch widescreen rear entertainment system linked to a 650-watt, 12-speaker 5.1 surround sound system.
Safety features on every Odyssey include frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, three-row curtain airbags, tire pressure monitors, electronic stability control, ABS, EBD, and brake assist.