It’s incredible what a pair of sliding doors does to a vehicle’s image. Whenever I drove the Mazda 5, I could talk until I was blue in the face to my friends about its sporty looks, solid chassis, flexible interior, and the availability of a manual transmission. They, however, took one look at those sliding doors and the 5’s roofline, and instantly -- and perhaps incorrectly -- branded it a “mom-mobile."
According to Honda, this mentality exists outside of my social circles. In fact, there’s a sizable number of buyers who appreciate the flexibility and functionality of a minivan, but aren’t sold on their stodgy, family-centric image.
“We call them ‘hesitators,’” says Vicki Poponi, assistant vice president of product planning at American Honda.
The new 2011 Odyssey, previewed here by this slick styling buck, is aimed squarely at these buyers. Designers lowered the roofline, pulled the A-pillars forward and raked them back, and gifted the sides with a sporty “lightning bolt” character line. Although it’s not quite as sharp-edged as Nissan’s Forum concept from 2008, it is sporty -- especially when viewed next to a current 2010 Odyssey.
If you like what you see here, chances are you’ll like the 2011 model when it launches this fall. As was the case with the CR-Z “concept” shown at last year’s Tokyo show and the production version launched earlier this year, the LED headlamps and light-pipe foglamps are the only flights of fancy -- in fact, executives say it’s a very, very close look at the production van.
Expect that production model to launch this fall, possibly at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show.