First Drive: 2005 Honda Odyssey
Page 1: Intro
BIRMINGHAM, AL – Safety and security are not sexy, which is what makes reading, or writing, a minivan story about as riveting as watching C-SPAN during Congressional “vacation” breaks. But stick with us, here, because the redesigned 2005 Honda Odyssey is something special, and anyone thinking about buying a family vehicle needs to learn more about the latest iteration of the modern minivan benchmark.Honda first introduced the Odyssey in 1995, equipped with a four-cylinder engine and four conventional side doors. In reality, it was more like a tall station wagon than a minivan, yet it cultivated a loyal following among consumers who wanted lots of space combined with unwavering reliability and the fuel economy that a small engine could provide. Plus, it was the first van to offer the clever “magic” third-row seat that folded into the floor.
In 1999, Honda redefined what a minivan should be with the much larger, more powerful, and more conventional second-generation Odyssey. This vehicle was radically successful for Honda, and buyers waited months to pay more than sticker price for a chance to own one. In a segment that had traditionally inspired as much passion and interest as self-adhesive envelopes, this consumer ruckus was downright unnerving. For this redesign, Honda added second-row seats that could serve as a bench or individual bucket seats, plenty of room, a 210-horsepower V6 engine, top-notch safety scores, and better looks – all in addition to that “magic” third-row seat.
With people lining up at Honda dealers to wait for their turn to pay extra for a minivan, it didn’t take the competition long to realize that the Japanese automaker had done something right with the second-generation Odyssey. Mazda’s smaller MPV came closest to matching Honda thanks to several innovative features, at least until Nissan and Toyota arrived with brand-new editions of the Quest and Sienna. But it wasn’t until the 2004 Toyota Sienna went on sale that the Honda Odyssey’s luster truly began to fade.Not to worry. In traditional Honda fashion, no grass is growing beneath the Odyssey’s tires. For 2005, the Honda Odyssey is completely redesigned, and though the result is not as groundbreaking as the 1999 model, it is nonetheless poised to regain its position as the best minivan on the market today.
Honda offered us an opportunity to learn more about the 2005 Honda Odyssey in Birmingham, Ala., near the assembly plant that will build up to 160,000 minivans annually. Because most minivan occupants ride rather than drive, that’s how we spent the majority of our time with the new Odyssey. But whether we occupied the driver’s seat, the second-row bucket seat, or the third-row bench, we came away quite impressed with the redesigned Honda Odyssey.
Page 3: Safety Sells
For example, Honda is dedicating significant resources to making its products as safe as possible, and the 2005 Odyssey is the first vehicle to reflect the company’s commitment to protecting not only vehicle occupants but those in other cars as well as pedestrians. The new Odyssey was redesigned with this goal in mind, and the result is a comprehensive standard safety package on all models as well as a new Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure.ACE refers to the design of the 2005 Honda Odyssey’s forward frame elements, new upper and lower structural members engineered to spread crash energy over a larger area for absorption and disperse the energy away from the cabin. New gussets located in the lower corners of the engine bay at the firewall intend to reduce passenger compartment intrusion during a crash. Honda expects this new design to better protect the 2005 Odyssey’s occupants while making the new minivan more compatible with smaller vehicles in an accident. Furthermore, the new Odyssey’s hood and front fenders are designed to crumple if impacted by a pedestrian’s head in an effort to protect those outside of the van.
Inside the 2005 Honda Odyssey, a full complement of airbags and safety technologies come standard to protect passengers. Dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags are combined with standard side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor for all three rows. To help keep a rollover accident from occurring, every 2005 Honda Odyssey is equipped with a standard Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system, which includes both traction control and stability control. Also standard is a four-wheel-disc ABS with brake assist technology to bring the new Odyssey to a stop as quickly as possible.
Page 4: Model Mix
As before, Honda will offer the new Odyssey in LX and EX trim levels. A leather package is available on the EX, and a new Touring edition is a fully equipped luxury van with all the bells and whistles. At press time, Honda could only offer estimated prices for each Odyssey model. In addition to the safety package found on every 2005 Honda Odyssey, the LX also includes P235/65 tires mounted to 16-inch wheels, power windows for the first two rows of seats, power door locks with remote keyless entry, cruise control, a CD player, a 60/40 split-folding “magic” third-row seat, an in-floor storage bin, and a smart maintenance indicator. On the Odyssey LX, the exterior trim is black rather than body color and the wheel covers are plastic, making it easy to identify as the entry-level model. Pricing is estimated to start at about $25,000, and Honda says that about 10 percent of all Odysseys sold will be the LX model.
The 2005 Honda Odyssey EX adds a handy Lazy Susan to the underfloor storage bin, alloy wheels, body color trim, eight-passenger seating, power sliding side doors, an in-dash six-disc CD changer, second-row sunshades, and a parabolic conversation mirror that allows the driver to see each of the Odyssey’s rear seating positions. This popular model is likely to cost about $27,500, and the sales mix is estimated by Honda to be 25 percent of total volume.
Page 5: Options
A leather package turns the Odyssey EX into the Odyssey EX-L. Advanced engine technology that generates better fuel economy is standard on this model, along with special noise-suppression technology, triple-zone climate control, and a power sunroof that lacks one-touch open and close control. Oddly, the leather package does not include a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Options for the Odyssey EX-L include a DVD entertainment system with integrated remote control and wireless headphones with personal surround sound; and a DVD navigation system with XM satellite radio, voice-recognition control, integrated Zagat restaurant surveys, and a reversing camera. The Odyssey EX-L starts around $29,000 and runs to about $34,000 with everything, and Honda believes that half of all Odyssey buyers will choose the EX-L.New for 2005 is the Odyssey Touring, which adds power adjustable pedals, a power tailgate, a 360-watt premium audio system, automatic headlights, parking sensors, a second-row removable center console, a Michelin PAX run-flat tire system with tire pressure monitors, a driver memory seat, a programmable multi-information display, special interior trim, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 115-volt AC power outlet, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and unique alloy wheels. Optional on the Touring are entertainment and navigation systems. Fully equipped, the 2005 Honda Odyssey Touring will be about $38,000, and Honda plans to sell this version to 15 percent of buyers.
Page 6: Hardware
Honda set several goals for the redesigned 2005 Odyssey. In addition to class-leading safety, the company wanted its new minivan to offer better performance and handling, improved fuel-efficiency and emissions, upgraded comfort levels and added utility, and expressive styling inside and out.With more power and torque for 2005, the new Honda Odyssey accelerates more quickly than the previous version. Under the hood of the LX and EX resides a 3.5-liter SOHC V6 engine with variable valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC), generating 255 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 250 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. Power flows to the front wheels through a new five-speed automatic transmission with direct shift control, getting to the ground more quickly thanks to a new drive-by-wire throttle. This engine runs on regular unleaded fuel, and meets stringent Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) standards in California and New England. Because the all-wheel-drive slice of the minivan sales pie chart is extremely thin, Honda has decided to forego four driven wheels, leaving the Toyota Sienna and new minivans coming soon from Buick, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn to capture those buyers.
Up-level Odyssey EX-L and Touring models get this same motor, but with an iVTEC (i = intelligent) Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system that shuts down three of the engine’s six cylinders to conserve fuel when cruising at a steady rate of speed or when decelerating. With this engine, the Odyssey is expected to achieve a 20-mpg city and a 28-mpg highway fuel efficiency rating from the EPA. Included with this engine is an Active Noise Control (ANC) technology that works in concert with the audio system to quell unwanted interior noise from the VCM and other sources, allowing the technology to work transparently to the Odyssey’s occupants. All 2005 Honda Odysseys have a larger fuel tank this year, giving the vehicle greater travel range than before.
Page 7: Powertrain
In addition to powertrain improvements, Honda wanted the redesigned Odyssey to offer a sportier driving experience coupled with a ride quality approaching that of a luxury sedan. New from the ground up, the 2005 Honda Odyssey’s chassis and body structure provide substantial improvements in torsional and bending rigidity, which translates to more responsive handling and reductions in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). The redesigned MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension has been tuned to reduce dive and squat as well as provide better wheel control over the bumpy stuff. Because the rear suspension is mounted to a floating subframe, road vibration is more isolated from the cabin. Honda also firmed up the steering to provide better on-center feel and more linear response as the driver twirls the wheel.Our first turn behind the wheel put us on smooth Alabama blacktop driving 20 miles down the freeway in the 2005 Honda Odyssey EX-L. Pulling away from a parking lot, we determined that the steering requires more effort than we’d like at slow speeds, but the brake pedal feels good underfoot and responds quickly without any dead travel upon application.
Page 8: Driving
Powering onto the highway, we found that the engine has no trouble getting the new Odyssey up to triple-digit speeds, if necessary, and when cruising the engine’s VCM system is impossible to detect as it cycles on and off, depending on power requirements. The ride quality is stiffer than before but not uncomfortable, the suspension deftly communicating details of the road surface while competently controlling both body and wheel motions. Though the new Odyssey is quieter than the outgoing model, there is still a healthy amount of road noise filtering into the cabin through the floor. Later, while driving a 2005 Honda Odyssey Touring along winding two-lane roads, we discovered that this high-end model is noticeably quieter inside, most likely due to its unique Michelin PAX run-flat tires. In the tighter twists and turns, it’s clear that the new Odyssey is a better handler, though it obviously still tends toward understeer if you try to drive it hard. A flat stance, neutral attitude, and progressive body roll make the 2005 Odyssey nearly as much fun to drive as the sporty Nissan Quest.Honda is confident that its redesigned minivan is best in class, enough so to provide reporters with an opportunity to drive it back-to-back on a race track with the two models that the company claims are most often cross-shopped against the Odyssey: the Nissan Quest and the Toyota Sienna.
While putting the 2005 Honda Odyssey through its paces at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, we determined that it possessed the most refined engine, the most responsive steering, the quietest interior, and the most comfortable front seats. However, the Sienna offered a softer ride quality, brakes that seemed to bite better, and a taller driving position in trade for the slowest acceleration and the least athletic handling. The Quest, with a muscular V6 that provides excellent mid-range punch, is the most fun to drive. We also like the Quest’s SkyView roof and the fact that the second-row seats fold into the floor, but despised the center stack of controls. The Quest is also quite loud inside, and comes equipped with rather flat, featureless seating.
Page 9: Interior Design
While power and performance are important features in any vehicle, they’re generally considered “nice-to-haves” when it comes to minivans. What really counts is what’s on the inside, since people and cargo hauling are the primary uses for such a vehicle. Here, the new 2005 Honda Odyssey does not disappoint, though some aspects of the interior left something to be desired.Consider, for example, that the Odyssey’s second-row seats must be folded, unlatched, and hoisted through the sliding side doors to maximize interior space, and they aren’t light. Once yanked out and stored in the garage, the Odyssey can carry as much as 147.4 cubic feet of cargo. This sharply contrasts with the Chrysler Town & Country, the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Nissan Quest, all of which have second-row seats that flip and fold into the floor. Honda decided it was more important to provide up to ten inches of fore/aft seat track travel along with an easy-entry feature to make access to the third-row simpler, but we’d remind shoppers that the Quest’s second-row seats do offer adjustment to add or decrease legroom. However, the Quest has no underfloor storage, like the Honda, the Chrysler, and the Dodge.
Honda, the pioneer of the “magic” third-row seat, has improved upon the formula. In the 2005 Odyssey, the bench is a 60/40 split folding design that can be operated with one hand if need be. Plus, the headrests don’t need to be removed before dropping the seat into the floor for storage.
With the seat lowered, the Odyssey can swallow 91.1 cubic feet of cargo. With the seat raised, cargo space measures 38.4 cubic feet. The huge well is perfect for groceries, and now Honda provides grocery bag hooks on the base of the third-row seat. A 12-volt outlet can power accessories, a cargo net holds loose items in place, and there’s a storage cubby along the right side of the well. Deftly tucked into the left body panel is a temporary spare tire, which frees up space under the floor between the first and second rows for a standard storage well.
Page 10: Cabin Comfort
Third-row comfort is dramatically increased, thanks in large part to the redesigned seat and three additional inches of legroom. Adults can ride in the way-back for extended periods of time, even with their legs crossed. Three cupholders and magazine pockets are provided for rearmost passengers, and storage bins are located on each side. Our Odyssey EX-L also included overhead air vents and map lights for both the third and second rows.Most passengers will ride in the second-row bucket seats, which can slide together to form a bench seat. The seats are a bit flat and low, but there’s plenty of legroom and foot space under the front chairs is generous. Buyers of the EX and EX-L receive the handy PlusOne removable seat that can be placed between the second-row buckets to accommodate an extra passenger, can be folded in half to serve as a center tray between the seats, or removed and stored in the underfloor compartment when not in use. This lightweight PlusOne seat, installed with the second-row seats moved all the way forward, is also a great place to put an infant – in the center of the vehicle and within easy reach of Mom and Dad in the front seats. Instead of the PlusOne seat, the Odyssey Touring is equipped with a gigantic center console that can be removed to create a flat load floor when necessary.
Automatic locking retractor (ALR) seatbelts are installed in both rear rows to make child seat installation more secure, and the tether strap anchors on the second-row seats are mounted to the seat base for easy fore/aft movement. All Odysseys except the LX come equipped with handy window screens that can be pulled up to shield children from Mr. Sun. But because a small quarter window is necessitated by the installation of standard roll-down windows in the sliding doors, the shades will still allow some of Mr. Golden Sun’s rays to shine down on Junior. Bottle holders are molded into the door panels, and handles on the front seatbacks make getting out of the new Honda Odyssey easier. One interesting feature that we think is going to come in quite handy for many families: zippered mesh storage pockets on the front seatbacks.
We have one main complaint about front seat comfort, and that’s the hard plastic upper door panels where many people like to rest elbows during longer drives. This area should be soft and pliable, especially inside a vehicle so obviously suited to cross-country travel as the 2005 Honda Odyssey. We also can’t figure out why the Odyssey EX-L has a urethane steering wheel rim. One might reasonably expect that the volume-selling model with leather seats would have a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Only the Touring gets cowhide stretched around the tiller, and that’s far more pleasing to grip than what the EX-L offers. That said, we couldn’t otherwise fault front seat comfort based upon our brief drive in Alabama. The leather on both samples we drove was heavily grained and a bit stiff, but nonetheless comfortable. We did ride in a standard EX and found the cloth upholstery plush and pleasing to the touch.
Page 11: Quality Controls
Interior materials, if not assembled with the utmost care, are at least rich in appearance, and Honda wisely chose a mesh headliner that lends the 2005 Odyssey an upscale appearance. All of the controls operate with a solid and refined feel, and the folding center tray is deeper than it used to be with four truly useful cupholders that don’t allow drinks to dump all over the floor with slightest direction change (like the previous Odyssey). Honda provides a dual glovebox arrangement with separate doors, and generously-sized door bins in addition to the center storage tray. Twin cupholders also deploy from the dashboard. In case you’re keeping score, the 2005 Honda Odyssey contains 11 spots to stow beverages.The stereo sits nice and high in the center stack, with three control knobs and simple arrays of well-marked and clearly legible buttons. The automatic climate control system in our EX-L and Touring sample models features toggle switches for temperature control; interesting, but a bit fussy. The gearshift is located on the center stack, but does not hinder control operation. To open the sunroof, reach down onto the lower left portion of the dashboard, rather than overhead, to find the controls.
Options are limited to a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system, each available on the Odyssey EX-L and the Odyssey Touring. The navigation system is DVD-based, and features voice-recognition technology that controls stereo, climate and navigation system functions. A reversing camera that displays what’s behind the Odyssey is included with the navigation system, and Food Network junkies will appreciate the new Zagat survey data for restaurants. With the navigation system, the 2005 Honda Odyssey comes wired for XM satellite radio.Odyssey buyers who select the optional onboard babysitter…umm, DVD entertainment system…will be overjoyed to learn that the viewing screen is now nine inches in width. It also includes an integrated remote control and wireless headsets with personal surround sound. Pump the volume through the Touring’s 360-watt audio system, and you might as well be sitting in a movie theater.
Page 12: Conclusions
Your author has spent many miles in many minivans, crossing the country once in the second-generation Honda Odyssey and owning a Toyota Sienna in a former life. Granted, I drove the redesigned 2005 Honda Odyssey about 60 miles, ten of which covered the twists and turns of one of the most beautiful racecourses in America. But more important, I rode in the new Odyssey for nearly 100 miles, and I paid special attention to the features that parents look for in such a vehicle.With few exceptions, Honda has not only hit the bull’s eye with the 2005 Odyssey, but it has moved the target higher than any competitor has ever aimed. After losing the crown for scarcely a year, the 2005 Honda Odyssey is once again the benchmark against which all minivans must be measured.
Page 13: FAQs
Is the redesigned 2005 Honda Odyssey the best minivan on the market? Unless you require a minivan with all-wheel-drive or highly value the ability to fold the second-row seats into the floor rather than lifting them out of the van, the answer is yes. Honda’s redesigned 2005 Odyssey is stylish, comfortable, and provides just about all the utility and convenience a family might require of a minivan.
Should I consider any other models? The Toyota Sienna is still a compelling alternative, and the Nissan Quest is fun to drive with a splash of distinctive styling. People who want something smaller and more maneuverable might wish to investigate the Mazda MPV, and Chrysler continues to offer significant discounts on the Town & Country and the Grand Caravan.
When does the redesigned 2005 Honda Odyssey go on sale?
Every Honda dealership in the United States is expected to have seven examples of the new Odyssey available for purchase on September 22, 2004. The factory is planning to build 160,000 Odysseys during the course of the model year.Page 14: Notes
Test Vehicle: 2004 Honda Odyssey
Price Range: $25,000 to $38,000 (estimated)
Engine Size and Type: 3.5-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 255 at 5,750 rpm
Engine Torque: 250 at 4,500 rpm
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 19/25 (estimated for LX and EX); 20/28 mpg (estimated for EX-L and Touring)
Observed Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg (Touring test model)
Curb Weight: 4,378 to 4,634 (LX to Touring)
Max. Cargo Capacity: 147.4 cubic feet
Max. Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds
Max. Seating Capacity: 7 (LX and Touring); 8 (EX and EX-L)
Competitors: Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Kia Sedona, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, Toyota Sienna