Minivans are the teacher's pets of the automotive world -- so good at so many things that most people despise them. Get over it already! The minivan is as close as you can get to the perfect family vehicle, and the Honda Odyssey is as close as you can get to the perfect minivan.
Dramatically overhauled for 2011, the Odyssey sets class standards for style, utility, and, believe it or not, performance. It's longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor, giving it the sleeker proportions of a crossover, and a "lightning bolt" styling cue improves third-row visibility while making it easier to pick out in shopping-mall parking lots glutted with look-alike minivans. Inside, the Odyssey is as welcoming as a suite in a high-end hotel, able to accommodate eight full-size occupants in seats that can slide back and forth, shift from side to side, and fold down into the floor. A standard 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 248 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque provides reasonably brisk acceleration, especially when mated to the optional six-speed automatic. (It also gets pretty good city/highway fuel economy in EPA tests: up to 19/28 mpg.)
Thanks to steering that weights up at speed and a rigid chassis that minimizes body roll, the Odyssey is not only pleasant but rewarding to drive. Attention-deficit disorders can be treated with the rear entertainment system's 16.2-inch screen, a hard drive that stores music and navigation data accessible by voice command, and a minifridge. Safety features range from a multiview rear camera, a blind-spot warning system, and the capacity for five -- count 'em, five -- child safety seats. Plus, the fourth-generation Odyssey offers the nifty stuff we've come to expect from minivans -- power sliding doors and tailgate, trizone climate control, side curtain air bags for all three rows, and so on. Sound too good to be true? Hey, somebody's got to be at the top of the class.
- Preston Lerner, Writer
BASE PRICE RANGE: $28,580-$44,030
ENGINE: 3.5L V-6, 248 hp, 250 lb-ft