After a month's respite from the open road, our Four Seasons Honda Odyssey was called to action by the family of copy editor Rusty Blackwell for an early October vacation. With three adults, two young children, and ten days worth of gear, the 1700-mile trip to Tennessee and back was to be our first full-tilt test of the Odyssey's moxie as a long-distance, kid-friendly, family hauler. Could it swallow gear, pacify children, and comfort adults in the way Honda intended? The Blackwells had the means and the mettle to find out.
As is standard protocol for many family vacations, the Blackwells encountered their first challenge before they even hit the road: the onerous task of cramming and configuring, Tetris-style, the clothes, outdoor gear, snacks, and baby gear into the car. Despite the Odyssey's vast interior, with its numerous cubbies and large, sunken cargo hold behind the third row, they came up a bit short. But the travelers were in luck, because when we spec'd our Four Seasons Odyssey, we had the foresight to add the optional roof rails and cross bars -- two separate accessories that added up to $583 -- allowing for the addition of roof-mounted storage.
Unfortunately, attaching their car-top hard case on the vehicle's roof was another challenge that had the Blackwells scratching their heads. Despite numerous attempts by several individuals, they couldn't figure how to move the cross bars, which made it impossible for them to safely attach their case. Luckily, the case was purchased specifically for their trip, so they exchanged it for a soft-sided backpack-style bag that "worked perfectly" without having to adjust the cross bars. (After speaking to our friends at Honda, we were informed that the Odyssey's cross bars actually are mobile and can be slid into any position along the roof rails by loosening a screw located on the underside of the arm.)
After the packing drama was over, it was smooth sailing for the Blackwell crew. They praised the entertainment system's ease of use and found it indispensable for keeping the little people occupied. "When our first day of travel turned into a 12-hour trip and the drive went late into the night, the DVD player was welcome entertainment for our two-year-old," enthused Rusty's mother-in-law, a.k.a. Grandma.
The kids weren't the only ones enjoying the Odyssey's infotainment features. Once they arrived at their home base near Sevierville, Tennessee, the adults made extensive use of the navigation system on their day trips in the surrounding area. "The maps were accurate, which was important since we had little knowledge of the areas where we were sightseeing."
The Odyssey's 3.5-liter V-6 was more than adequate to tackle the roads in and around Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The "overdrive off" button -- which limits the six-speed automatic to using the first four gears -- on the Odyssey's dash-mounted shifter proved ideal for keeping the engine from searching for gears on the mountainous terrain. The engine was also fairly efficient during the family's excursions in the mountains, averaging more than 18 mpg.
As of this writing, the Odyssey was out on the road again, this time heading to South Dakota with the husband of editor-in-chief Jean Jennings at the helm and their hunting dogs crated in the cargo area. Check back next month to read all about it.