How do you improve on something that’s clearly at the top of its game already? If you’re Honda, you make it more stylish, more family-friendly, roomier, lighter, more powerful and more efficient. For dessert, you throw in a heap of new technology features.
Honda’s all-new styling for the 2011 Odyssey (MSRP $27,800), which comes in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite trim lines, incorporates a striking “lightning bolt” beltline that makes the van stand out, even in the sea of vehicles parked outside your local supermarket or big-box store. Odyssey’s eye-catching sheet metal is further accentuated by window glass that dips down at the rear. No mere style , the unconventionally shaped greenhouse profile has a very real and practical function on the inside: third-row passengers get more light and better outward visibility – a boon, especially for riders who find the rear-most seats claustrophobic in other vehicles. There’s more shoulder room in the way back, too, since Honda mounts its sliding door tracks and motors lower in the bodywork than its biggest rivals.
As the list of changes goes, those barely scratch the surface. Everything else in the passenger compartment is all new, starting at the driver’s seat. Comfortable front captains’ chairs face a completely redesigned instrument panel. The driver looks at a highly legible gauge cluster, and the sweeping dashboard is made of top-quality materials with plenty of soft touch-points, creating an upscale feel. The primary controls have been regrouped for optimal usability with the interfaces for climate, audio and navigation/infotainment services more intuitively placed than in last year’s model.
The 2011 Honda Odyssey EX-L and higher models feature a Cool Box at the bottom of the instrument panel’s center stack, which can hold up to six 12-ounce cans or four 20-ounce bottles. Pressing a button turns on the chiller, which cools independently of the climate control system’s settings. Bottom line: cool drinks, and no more melty candy bars.
The three-mode second-row seats of the 2011 Honda Odyssey incorporate a new “wide mode” configuration that is sure to answer the prayers of many parents. The outboard captains’ chairs can slide out laterally by up to 1.5 inches each, and (with the removable, multi-function center seat in EX and higher models) up to three large child seats can be installed across the second row using the LATCH connectors. Two more sets of LATCH anchors are installed in the third-row seats, too. The 60/40-split third-row Magic Seat folds away with a single pull. When the seat is up, a six-foot adult can still sit back there comfortably with headroom to spare (up to 39.7 inches in the front and 38 inches in the rear).
Traveling with a vanload of friends or family with up to 15 cupholders full of beverages can get messy, so at the rear of the removable center console (in EX models and higher), the new Odyssey has a simple-to-use trash ring that tucks away when not needed. Pull it out, however, and it can accept a small garbage bag or a regular plastic shopping bag to collect the empty juice boxes and other garbage that you accumulate out on the road.
One of the customer requests Honda set out to address with the 2011 Odyssey was more in-cabin technology. The new van’s EX-L trim is available with either a 15GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD) 246-watt audio system with USB Audio Interface and Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition or, alternatively, a nine-inch Honda DVD Rear Entertainment System with a single RCA input and 115V power outlet. The Odyssey Touring includes both navigation and rear-seat entertainment.
In addition, an entirely new, range-topping trim has been added for 2011, and it includes a unique set of technical amenities.
The 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite upgrades the audio to a 650-watt, 12-speaker 5.1 surround-sound premium audio system with a 15GB HDD, then adds Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation and the new-for-2011 16.2-inch Honda DVD Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System with High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI®) port. The widescreen display can show up to two video sources simultaneously, and the HDMI port means one of them can send high-definition content. Also exclusive to the Touring Elite are HID headlamps and a Blind Spot Information System.
On the road, the 2011 Odyssey gets a bump in power and torque over the 2010 model, plus an available six-speed automatic transmission in Touring models (LX through EX-L trims benefit from Honda’s proven five-speed automatic). Even with the new numbers of 248 hp and 250 lb/ft of torque, the Odyssey’s fuel economy improves 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, thanks in no small part to Variable Cylinder Management technology that seamlessly deactivates two or three of the 3.5-liter V6 engine’s six cylinders when they aren’t needed. The revised suspension delivers a supple ride for long trips without sacrificing any of the athleticism that makes the Odyssey fun to drive, even when your route gets twisty.
Safety and security are paramount, so the 2011 Odyssey features standard Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, Brake Assist, multiple threshold front airbags, side-curtain airbags with rollover sensor for all three rows and front side airbags with Front Passenger Occupant Position Detection, which can tell if a child or small adult is in the passenger’s seat and will adjust as necessary. If the passenger is leaning into the door, the system will disable the airbag to prevent it from firing while the passenger is in the deployment path. Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure enhances protection by distributing the forces of a crash more evenly, reducing passenger injury. A rearview camera is available as well.
There are many improvements and innovations made to the 2011 Honda Odyssey all across the lineup. Whether you shop for an economical Odyssey LX or the techno-cruising Odyssey Touring Elite, you are getting the best minivan Honda has ever produced. Considering just how good the last Odyssey was, that’s saying something.
Based on 2011 EPA mileage estimates, reflecting new EPA fuel economy methods beginning with 2008 models. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.