By Carol Traeger, Thu, 28 Apr 2005 08:00:00 PDT
It's Monday morning, and smashed bugs adorn the windshield and cracker crumbs fill the seat creases of my 2005 Honda Odyssey tester -- souvenirs from a weekend spent gallivanting with three kids.
Minivans are all about kids, and these three gave the new Odyssey a big thumbs up. They loved the rear-seat climate controls, the roll-down rear windows, integrated window shades, and new 60/40-split rear seats, which enabled one of them to ride shotgun beside a cargo bay stuffed with luggage.
When the Odyssey debuted a few years back, it set the new minivan benchmark with its car-like handling and innovative fold-away third-row seats. Today, most minivans offer fold-flat rear seats, and Chrysler/Dodge minivans even offer second- and third-row seats that can be stowed beneath the floor.
The all-new 2005 Odyssey doesn't break any new ground - its improvements are more evolutionary than revolutionary - but it's undeniably better than before.
A new 3.5-liter V6 engine boosts horsepower to 255 (from 240 hp) and is mated to a responsive new five-speed automatic transmission. Our weekend travels took us 6,500 feet above sea level, and the Odyssey performed as robustly as a high altitude marathoner, never huffing or puffing.
From the outside, the 2005 Odyssey looks a lot like the outgoing model, if a tad more well-fed. Retaining its exterior length, it grows one inch in width and adds a few more inches of interior space. Eight-passenger seating is now available courtesy of a stow-able center seat in the second row.
Following Toyota and Chrysler's lead, the Odyssey ditches its one-piece third-row bench in favor of a 60/40-split seat for greater versatility. Clutter-encouraging bins and cubbies abound, and there's even a beneath-the-floor storage area with a built-in lazy Susan for secret stuff.
The new Odyssey is quieter, roomier and more powerful than its predecessor. But the Odyssey's biggest improvement is virtually undetectable (except perhaps when reviewing gas station receipts): Variable Cylinder Management (VCM). Standard on EX with Leather and Touring models, VCM improves fuel economy by idling three of the V6's six cylinders during cruising and deceleration. Models with VCM boast a class-leading EPA mpg rating of 20 city/28 highway.
The Odyssey is offered in four trim levels - LX, EX, EX with Leather, and Touring - with prices ranging from $25,510 to $38,810. No matter which model you choose, you'll have Honda's most advanced safety features on your side. Standard features include a collision-compatible body structure (designed to reduce harm to other vehicles and pedestrians in a crash), advanced front, side-impact and head-protecting curtain airbags, antilock brakes, and stability and traction control. In addition, Touring models come standard with Michelin PAX run-flat tires, which enable the Odyssey to travel 125 miles on a punctured tire.
When it debuted in 1999, the Honda Odyssey became the new gold standard for minivans. For several years it was king of the hill, its competitors looking as small as ants in the valley below. Now with the all-new Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Town & Country storming the fortress, it remains to be seen whether the Odyssey can retain its crown. The 2005 Odyssey is better than ever, but then so are the Sienna and Town & Country.
$30,295, 2005 Honda Odyssey EX with Leather, an eight-passenger minivan