Following the introduction of the all-new 2011 Toyota Sienna in December and the cancellation of the Nissan Quest last month, I speculated that Toyota finally had its shot to overcome Chrysler as the segment leader for minivans. Of course, then came the huge issue of recalls and Toyota's sales dropped considerably. With Chrysler still a few more years from a redesign on its minivan duo, Honda now looks to become the top dog in the market judging by the design of the 2010 Honda Odyssey Concept that was introduced at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show.
In concept form, the new Honda Odyssey design has a surprisingly aggressive stance thanks to a lower overall height and a wider stance. Other than conceptual elements such as the door handles, headlights and wheels, this is what the fourth-generation Honda Odyssey will look like when it goes into production later this fall as a 2011 model. Honda says that the Honda Odyssey Concept as well as the production version have been designed and developed by Honda's research and development facilities in North America that include Torrance, Calif. and Raymond, Ohio. Like the current minivan, the 2011 Honda Odyssey will be produced in Honda's Lincoln, Ala. assembly plant.
The new Odyssey will ditch the blocky styling of the current minivan and use a sleeker, more identifiable shape instead. Oddly enough, the Honda Odyssey concept features noticeable design elements that have been made popular by other vehicles. For instance, the stepped down 'lightning bolt' beltline looks very similar to what Hyundai designed into the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe while the taillights look like something right off the Subaru Impreza hatchback. Even the boxy minivan roofline is spiced up a little by adding a D-pillar that is very reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class.
The new Odyssey will ride on a wheelbase that is identical to the current model with an overall length that is about an inch longer. More noticeable is the half inch drop in height while the width has been increased by an inch and a half. The extra width of the new Odyssey will be especially noticeable in the second-row seat which can now accommodate child seats three abreast. Honda did not release any images of the interior other than design sketches, but the new dash layout and eight-passenger seating layout are both visible. One of the key aspects of minivan design that was not released about the new minivan is exactly how the rear two rows of seats will fold and stow. Following Chrysler's Stow n'; Go seating used on the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, other minivan makers have been looking for innovative ways to quickly transform seating areas to cargo space.
One thing that is likely to remain the same for the 2011 Honda Odyssey is the drivetrain. The front-wheel drive only minivan will still offer the 3.5-liter SOHC V-6, but the i-VTEC system and Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) cylinder deactivation system could become standard equipment on all models as Honda claims that advanced powertrain technologies will help improve the overall fuel economy of the new minivan. In addition to the upgraded powertrain systems, the new design is also more aerodynamic and Honda expects the fuel economy on the 2011 Odyssey to improve to 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway (up from 17 city/25 highway on the 2010 model).