The Driver's Minivan
Honda introduced its right-sized Odyssey in 1999 and added significant improvements in 2001. The Odyssey, redesigned for 2005, remains the clear choice for enthusiastic drivers, distinguished by its athletic handling and avid engine. In addition to LX and EX models, there is the Touring, priced at $38,295, which we tested.
The Odyssey's bellwether component is its aluminum-alloy, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which is common to all models in the range. It snorts out 255 hp and grunts with 250 lb-ft of torque. The internal operation of this engine is a source of wonder. Not only do we refer to Honda's VTEC system, allowing for variable openings of the valves, but also to the unique, new Variable Cylinder Management; this electronically controlled system undetectably closes down business in three of the six cylinders until demand warrants their reactivation. So when you're cruising along, half of the engine takes a siesta, this event being indicated by an "Eco" indicator light on the instrument panel. Estimated mileage is 20/28 mpg for VCM-equipped models, specifically, the EX with leather interior and the Touring. This surpasses the 19/25 mpg of the lower-priced LX ($24,995) and EX ($27,995). Furthermore, unlike the previous generation, which required premium unleaded fuel, the 2005 Odyssey runs on regular.
An electronically smart, five-speed automatic transmission handles this engine's output with aplomb, and we like the stubby shift lever's location on the center stack.
The Touring's other most outstanding attribute is the interior's ergonomic perfection. Beautiful lighting brings the instrument panel alive. (We resisted the mighty temptation to try to peg the 160-mph speedometer.) The center stack bays out and proffers the navigation, audio, and climate buttons and dials at a fingertip-but if that's too much effort, the voice activation is dead simple to learn. Everything is made of high-quality materials; the supple, tan leather upholstery is lovely. However, we noted some rattles and drumming, and the tinny door-slam is disappointing. Removing the second-row seats requires a certain knack and a strong back. Odysseys can be specified to carry seven or eight passengers.
The Touring is equipped with antilock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, tire-pressure monitoring, run-flat tires, rear-view camera, rear parking assist, and advanced front, front-seat side, and three-row side curtain air bags.
The Odyssey's 17 cup holders embarrass