2005 Honda Odyssey - IntelliChoice

Full Driver Side View

The Odyssey only comes with one powertrain: a 3.5-liter V-6 delivering a best-in-class 255 horsepower. EX with leather and Touring models get a slightly different version of this engine that can deactivate three cylinders at low loads (such as cruising on the highway) to achieve 28 mpg on the highway--three more mpg than with the regular engine. A light on the instrument cluster alerts you when the cylinders go to sleep, but otherwise the change is transparent. All models have a five-speed automatic transmission.

Full Engine View

Behind the Wheel
The phrase "built for comfort, not for speed" comes to mind here. While power is generous, the engine has a lot of Odyssey to tow around. Like many Honda engines, this one has great midrange grunt, which meshes well with a minivan's mission. You won't snap your passengers' heads back off the line, but as you accelerate up that onramp, the V-6 responds to your urgency--nice when you have to merge with at-speed highway traffic.

The ride/handling compromise is skewed firmly in favor of comfort, with bumps squelched nicely. While Honda bills the Odyssey as offering the handling of a luxury-performance sedan, there aren't too many of those cars that are driven by their front wheels and weigh two-and-a-half tons, so take that claim with a grain of salt. It does, however, handle better than just about any like-sized SUV, by dint of its lower center of gravity and (compared with seven- and eight-passenger SUVS) relatively trim mass.

Odyssey driving dynamics are the equal to those of its chief rivals' and are significantly better than those of many other minivans (ahem, the domestics). It's somewhat surprising, though, given the Odyssey's ample techno goodies, that you can't get an adaptive cruise-control system like the one on the Toyota Sienna.

Wheel View

The Odyssey will appeal to buyers who want the space, utility, and comfort of a minivan, but don't want to drive something that wheezes onto the highway like a sickly cow or incinerates fuel like an F-16 on afterburner. It's also aimed at people who are honest with themselves about their driving needs: they don't need an SUV; they don't need a minivan that sort of looks like an SUV (GM's latest offerings); and they don't need a minivan with sporting pretensions (Nissan Quest). For those who want a quick, versatile hauler that drives like a car and holds its value better than some currencies, the Odyssey is the best choice. Only the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Town & Country approach the Odyssey's level of refinement and all-around goodness, but they aren't quite as rich in features, power, or pizzazz.

Final Word
As the BMW 3 Series is to small luxury cars, so the Odyssey is to minivans--it's the benchmark vehicle. And in its sophomore year, the third-generation model is still at the head of the class.

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