2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite: Introduction
The 2011 Honda Odyssey is like the superhero of minivans. How so? Well, it is able to avoid treacherous juice box spills in a single bound thanks to its built-in waste basket and can easily accommodate 8 weight loss reality TV show sized North Americans, all the while offering more driver enjoyment than most any other family SUV or minivan ever created.
It also can act as a proven shield of protection for your family as evidenced by its full five star overall crash test rating from the NHTSA and the “Top Safety Pick” label it received from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. No other minivan can boast this level of commitment to occupant safety. Lastly, if you are unable to control your reproductive, urges you can take heart knowing that it is the only vehicle on the market that can easily fit five full-size car seats.
Pricing for the 2011 Honda Odyssey starts from just $28,045 for an LX model all the way up to $43,250 for a fully loaded Touring Elite model like the one tested here. There are three trim level choices (EX, EX-L, Touring) in between at various more affordable price points so there is an Odyssey out there for most any family budget.
The 2011 Honda Odyssey may just appear on the outside to be a Clark Kent-like minivan but from behind the wheel, it offers all the driving fun of a well-engineered family sedan. Some have questioned the styling logic of the “Z” shaped character line along the sides but we suspect that this is a sign from Zeus that this Herculean minivan is truly descended from the Gods.
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite: Exterior
Unlike its archrival, the 2011 Toyota Sienna, which looks like a very large breadbox, Honda took a very different approach when it came to restyling its best-selling minivan. The front end is angular, blocky and rather conservative, but then along the sides of the Odyssey all heck breaks loose with a smooth and flowing design broken up by a rear end that doesn’t seem to line up behind the sliding side doors. Some wondered when they first saw it if Honda’s designers had finally lost their minds.
Love it or hate it (we really, really like it) you have to give Honda credit for doing something really different with the looks of the 2011 Odyssey. It looks like no other vehicle or minivan that has come before it and isn’t one of the essential messages of every superhero (and Lady GaGa for that matter) to celebrate the fact that we are all different? On that count, the Odyssey is a winner.
But the looks of the Odyssey aren’t just there for no reason, as with any Honda product, they serve a distinct engineering purpose. First off, the design of everything from the undercarriage to the side mirrors to the odd looking body side panels serves to improve the aerodynamics and efficiency of this van. That’s why the Touring Elite Model tested here with a 6-speed automatic (lesser Odyssey’s get a five-speed auto) returns EPA fuel economy estimates of 19 city/28 highway. Over the course of a week our test unit returned 22-miles per gallon in an even mix of city and freeway driving.
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite: Interior
This is the area where the 2011 Honda Odyssey shows off its serious superpowers and thwarts all of its enemies latest efforts. Compared to rivals like the 2011 Toyota Sienna and the 2011 Ford Flex, the Odyssey’s interior is more spacious, clever, useful and upscale feeling. The plastics and interior materials used even in base versions of the Odyssey are rich and clearly designed for heavy duty family use and abuse.
Even with the built in wastebasket, kids have a habit of making messes of car interiors and the Odyssey is constructed to withstand even the most chaotic bands of “Jokers,” Lex Luthers and other same said car interior supervillains. The Odyssey is also far roomier than its Toyota minivan arch-nemesis and offers real room for eight passengers, unlike the Sienna which offers room for seven and a half.
Cargo room is also more than ample, even with all three rows in use, with 38.4 cubic feet of cargo room still available. Behind the second row of seats there is 93.1 cubic feet of space and with all the rear seats folded cargo volume explodes to a studio apartment swallowing 148.5 cubic feet. The 2011 Honda Odyssey could seriously put U-Haul out of business.
The Touring Elite trim level of the 2011 Honda Odyssey throws in everything but a kitchen sink to the interior of this very capable minivan with an ultra-wide rear seat DVD entertainment system (a must for Ritalin-addled youngsters), a handy BLIS blind-spot warning system that illuminates a light inside lower A-pillar when there is a car in your blind spot (handy for a car this size) and a 12-speaker 650-watt audio system with 15GB of song storage that you allows adults to listen to music while the kids watch a movie.
Also included, of course, is Bluetooth, Honda’s excellent in-dash navigation system, a back-up camera, USB/iPod integration, the highest quality leather seats in its class, XM satellite radio, a moonroof, power rear tailgate and a center console mounted cool box for snacks. But alas, no kitchen sink.
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite: Performance
All 2011 Honda Odyssey models come standard with a punchy 3.5-liter 248 horsepower/250 ft-lb of torque V-6 that is never short of enough thrust to keep things interesting behind the wheel. As with all Honda engines, this 6-cylinder also emits a throaty VTEC growl as it approaches its 6,300 RPM redline and this characteristic adds to the sport overall feel offered by the Odyssey. Yes, sporty and minivan can exist in the same sentence. Talk about a superpower!
Toyota’s Sienna SE sport variant is the only comparable minivan in terms of driver enjoyment but at that, it is only really matching what the last generation Odyssey already offered. The 2011 Odyssey is a very large van but it drives like a much smaller vehicle. Honda has always been a master of the black magic of making a car seem to shrink around its driver and nowhere is this vehicular characteristic more in evidence than with their large and in-charge family minivan.
The 2011 Honda Odyssey also evidences a masterful balance of steering, handling and ride calibration with this minivan offering up plenty of feel and communication all the while proving to be eminently comfortable and absorptive ride even over rough roads. Interior noise levels are also nicely muted with only a bit of tire roar from the Touring Elite’s 18-inch alloy wheel/tire combination audible at freeway speeds.
Cornering ability for such a long and wide minivan is impressive even on twisting, hilly two lane roads as was proven during a long weekend road trip along the San Diego back country. The steering feel is perfectly balanced and affords a level of cornering precision you never see in cars this size yet isn’t artificially heavy for supermarket parking lot duty. The 2011 Honda Odyssey offers a balance that is the best of all worlds no matter where you are driving it.
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite: Summary
If the 2011 Honda Odyssey has any sort of automotive Kryptonite, it would be the mere fact that it is lumped into a class of car that includes pulse pounders like the Dodge Caravan, Nissan Quest and the Toyota Sienna. To call it a minivan is to belittle the amazing depth and breadth of its capability and its fun-to-drive personality. This is a minivan that you will actually enjoy driving, and if that isn’t a superpower, then we don’t know what one is.
So, if you can get beyond the fact that the 2011 Honda Odyssey is, in fact, at its core a minivan, you will be opening yourself up to a family vehicle ownership experience that will not only fulfill your needs but will also fulfill your wants. Just because you have a family doesn’t mean you suddenly lose your love of driving and no longer have a soul. Honda realized this and invented a minivan perfect for any suburban situation.
Most importantly, the 2011 Honda Odyssey does all of these heroic automotive deeds all without having to subject us to yet another atrocious superhero comic book movie adaptation come the summer movie season but if such a film were to be created, we think that the Odyssey should be played by Christian Bale. No other actor is better suited to convey the multi-faceted Odyssey as it is so capable as a people and cargo hauler all the while being so utterly engaging to drive. And if the kids start acting up in the back, we know Mr. Bale is good at yelling at people to be quiet as his leaked diatribe against a noisy grip on the set of one of his films proves. We can just imagine this caped minivan crusader crying out “Don’t make me stop this van!”
Honda provided the vehicle for this review.
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