Ever since it debuted the second-generation Odyssey in 1999, Honda's been setting the bar for minivan quality and performance. Last year, the company completely overhauled its family hauler, and this year doesn't see much change to the new platform. That's not a bad thing, however, as the 2005 edition brought a more powerful 3.5-liter/255-horse V-6, power side windows, and a host of technical innovations for the segment, such as available Michelin PAX run-flat tires, engine cylinder deactivation, and a noise-canceling audio system. The only major feature the Odyssey lacks compared with some of its competitors is all-wheel drive. Though it does feature front-wheel drive with standard traction control and electronic stability control.
A typically conservative Honda design, the Odyssey its sheathed in elegant lines wrapped around the basic minivan box, creating a suitably upscale appearance. You'll find no Nissan Quest-like swoopy lines or GM-style SUV snouts grafted on the front here, just a clean design that doesn't call attention to itself--perfect for a minivan. Large, reflective headlamps and a trapezoidal grille bear a family resemblance with Honda's popular car lines, reinforced by the prominent "H" badge. The PAX run-flat tire/wheel system on the Touring model has the ancillary benefit of filling out the wheel wells better than most competitors' smaller rolling stock. And you'd really appreciate those tall sidewalls if they kept you rolling 125 miles after a puncture, as they're designed to do. The Touring model also gets body-colored parking-assist sensors, which eliminate the bumper-wart look of the more typical black bumper sensors.
The Odyssey's interior is focused on flexibility. The third-row "Magic Seat" can split 60/40 and folds flat into the floor with headrests intact. The second-row captain's chairs can move fore and aft 10 inches, mount side-by-side to form a bench seat, and be removed. An optional seat for an eighth passenger disappears into the storage compartment between the first and second rows. There's even a lazy-Susan rotating storage tray hidden in that compartment on EX and higher models--about the only storage innovation remaining would be a dumbwaiter to send cargo up to the roof rack. Although Honda doesn't offer a foldaway second row like Chrysler and Dodge minivans, the payoff here is more substantial and supportive seats for the passengers in the middle row.
As you ascend through the trim levels, the Odyssey offers an increasing level of luxury options competitive with anything else in minivanland--and even some parts of luxurycarland. Included are a rear DVD entertainment system with a nine-inch screen and personal surround sound, power-adjustable pedals, a satellite navigation system, a rearview backup camera (standard with the navigation system), three-zone climate control, roll-down rear windows, power side doors and tailgate, and a 360-watt audio system. Like upscale Acura models, the Odyssey even offers voice-activated control for the stereo, climate control, and navigation system. If this level of amenities can't keep the kids happy on the way to soccer practice or even all the way to Grandma's, you might consider calling "Nanny 911."
Commendably, Honda includes the vast majority of the Odyssey's safety equipment--the run-flat tires being the notable exception--as standard equipment on all models. That roster includes dual-stage driver and passenger front airbags, front side airbags, and side-curtain airbags for all three rows. The latter are fitted with a rollover sensor to deploy in the event things get topsy-turvy. On the preventive side of safety, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control are included to help ensure those airbags don't get used. The Odyssey also earned five stars in NHTSA's front- and side-impact crash tests.