First Drive: 2011 Honda Odyssey

Of course, the Odyssey's calling card has always been its versatility, and that hasn't changed. Whereas competitors have ventured into clever gimmicks like card tables and recliner seats, Honda has mined even more functionality and comfort out of the tried-and-true minivan layout. Lead interior engineer Rudy Mayne takes us through the changes with all the exuberance one expects of a proud parent: outboard second-row seats now shift 1.5 inches sideways so as to make room for a third child seat in the center (for a baby toting total of six, overall); the third-row seats offer more legroom (best in class) and fold into the floor with greater ease than before; rear storage has been increased by relocating the spare tire to the floor beneath the driver and the front passenger; and the removable center armrest now has a concealed storage area large enough for purses and features a flip-up ring on which to hang small trash bags. Cupholders? Fifteen, plus a cooler under the center console that will store four more bottles. As in previous Odysseys, the features all work as advertised and serve a clear purpose beyond advertising fodder.

This functionality is ultimately what makes the new Odyssey worthy of its name and distinguishes it from the pack. It may wear more stylish threads but rest assured, it's the thoroughly engineered competence that makes this Odyssey what it always has been: the best minivan, period.

2011 Honda Odyssey
On sale: Now
Base price: $28,580
Engine: 3.5L V-6 248 hp; 250 lb-ft
Drive: Front-wheel

3 of 3
Wow. The Pontiac Aztek reborn....
What's with the rear-of-the sliding doors cut and paste job?
Look very hearst-like to me.
Whoa, this is hideous looking van! It looks like one of those cars in disguise to hide from the press. The tail looks like an ugly, last minute, hearse-like, add-on, that doesn't even look like it belongs to the car. Who was asleep at the design table? Hard to believe the thing passed through layers of approvals and nobody said a word on its ugliness. I guess the polite Asian culture went amuck this time.

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