The Honda Odyssey Touring Elite is quite a machine - it brings much of the smooth ride and cabin silence of a luxury car into the jumbo van segment, where it has led the sales charts for the last decade or more.
Many think it is the Chrysler and Dodge vans that are the best-sellers, but that is only true when their total numbers are combined. Individual nameplate-wise, the Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna are neck-and-neck to lead the race, trading spots infrequently but keeping the Honda name as a leader in vans.
This supremacy of the Odyssey is well-known around the suburbs. The car is absolutely everywhere, and was one catalyst for the family stickers trend on the rear windows -- if only to know which is the right car to hop into at elementary-school pickup time!
2014 brings a new six-speed automatic to the Odyssey and a super-premium Touring Elite trim level that adds a few extra bells and whistles to the already-immense equipment lists. How does the Odyssey Touring Elite stack up on the road for someone who is much more of a sports-car fan than a Van Man?
Let's dive in with the usual structure: Exterior, Interior, Powertrain, Pricing and Summary.
The Odyssey was refreshed this year with an extremely subtle update to the front fascias, but you would be forgiven for not noticing. In comes a dark-trimmed grille and dark-tinted lamps, plus a slight update for the lower foglamp designs. It looks more modern and could, in theory, be mistaken for the nose of the Civic Coupe from a few model years ago.
The enhancements out back include a full-width LED car across the trunk and new LED lighting elements inside the lamps - but again, it is subtle and would take a line of Odyssey's from all years to really tell them apart.
The overall style is defined by the 2012-introduced side kink and surface re-profiling. The rear-most side glass now dips downward, which helps brighten the rear cabin and make it easier to see out the windows when sitting in the third row of seats - especially for those little humans we call kids.
The Odyssey is not nearly as attractive and clean a design as it was in is second or third generations. Gone are the well-resolved horizontal creases, replaced by an unusual combination of bulges and slashes. No doubt meant to slim down the shape visually, they rising swage line in particular just makes the tail of the Odyssey look gigantic.
Of course, style and design come in last place for most van shoppers, who are much more focused on interior comfort and amenities, plus overall reliability and drivetrain excellence. Let's head indoors...
One-Touch Power Moonroof with Tilt Feature
Power Sliding Doors
Variable Intermittent Windshield Wipers
Intermittent Rear Window Wiper/Washer
Programmable Remote Entry System with Smart Entry
One-Touch Turn Indicators
Heated, Body-Colored Power Side Mirrors with Integrated LED Turn Indicators and Expanded View Driver's Mirror
Memory-Linked Side Mirrors with Reverse Gear Tilt-Down
Rear Privacy Glass
Rear Roofline Spoiler with Integrated Brake Light
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights with Auto-On/Off
Taillights with Integrated LED Light Bars
Body-Colored Parking Sensors (Front/Rear)
How important is this? Pretty critical. Overshare time: on a road trip through Montana and up to Alberta and Lake Louise with my family as a kid, our rental Chevrolet Lumina has such sinking rear seats that seeing out was impossible. This made the 1000-mile cruise around western Canada even more dull than it had to be. Our solution? We sat atop the suitcases. Big, giant suitcases. Just to get a view out.
That Lumina, it should be noted, caused our dear dad up front to suffer what we called "Lumina Butt" for the next ten years. Spasms and back pain were not on the trip's brochure.
So, Van Man Dad's have it pretty rough on these road trips. They really do. Screaming children and passive-aggressive spouses are always just a bad tourist trap stop away. So it is important that V.M.D. has some inner piece and confidence to at least munch through the miles as quickly as possible.
This is where the Odyssey really comes into its own. It is a real sweetheart of a machine at highway speeds, where the new six-speed automatic is even more relaxed and the road and wind noise are admirably subdued.
The driving position is good, as is visibility and overall front-seat comfort. It is an upright position by default, but power-adjustable to get and stay comfy on the long haul. The seats are wide and cushy, with minimal lateral support, as is expected in a luxury-focused van.
In the second row, similar or better comfort is available to our little princes and princesses, especially with the tri-zone climate control. It snaps the ambient air temp right down via an auxiliary AC unit in back -- which is really a godsend in this huge cabin volume.
HondaVac is Cool!
As is the integrated HondaVac system of the Touring Elite. It is pretty gimmicky at first, but will no doubt see much, much use over the van's lifetime. In many cases, cleaning up spills before they become ingrained in the carpet and un-cleanable. Its suction power is respectable, but the hoses and tubes tended to make noise over bumps if not secured in their cubby properly.
The second row seats show an admirable range of reclining options as well as sliding fore and aft.
The third row is actually large and easy to access, thanks to the low-as-grass floor height. This is in stark contrast to all SUVs and even all crossovers, which might technically have seven seats -- but only a masochist adult would sit back there happily. There is no risk of chipped teeth in the Odyssey's third row, which is not bumpy and has plenty of room for your legs to fall vertically to the floor.
This third row has its demerits for such comfort, however. It is a thick and pretty heavy seat -- making the tumble process require a big shove to fold away the third row. And a huge, huge heave to get the seat back up from the floor. Likely easier with practice, but still a poor showing for this $45,000 Touring Elite. Especially versus the power-folding third row of the new Tahoe and many others.
Forward Collision Warning (FCW)3
Lane Departure Warning (LDW)4
Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with Traction Control5
Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)
Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD)
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)6
Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) Body Structure
Dual-Stage, Multiple-Threshold Front Airbags (SRS)
SmartVent™ Front Side Airbags
Three-Row Side Curtain Airbags with Rollover Sensor
Driver's and Front Passenger's Active Head Restraints
3-Point Seat Belts at all Seating Positions
Front 3-Point Seat Belts with Automatic Tensioning System
Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH): Lower Anchors (2nd-Row All, 3rd-Row Outboard), Tether Anchors (2nd-Row All, 3rd-Row All)
Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control System with Humidity Control and Air Filtration
Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ with Voice Recognition, FM Traffic and Interface Dial7
i-MID with 8-Inch High-Resolution WVGA (800x480) Screen and Customizable Feature Settings
Multi-Angle Rearview Camera with Guidelines
Honda DVD Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System with HDMI® Technology and High-Resolution WVGA (800x480) Screen8
Blind Spot Information System (BSI)9
SMS Text Message Function11
Push Button Start
Power Windows with Auto-Up/Down Driver's and Front Passenger's Window
Programmable Power Door and Tailgate Locks
Illuminated Steering Wheel-Mounted Cruise, Audio, Phone, MID, i-MID and Navigation Controls
Tilt and Telescopic Steering Column
Perforated Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel
HomeLink® Remote System12
Automatic-Dimming Rearview Mirror
Driver's and Front Passenger's Illuminated Vanity Mirrors
Conversation Mirror with Sunglasses Holder
Map Lights (All Rows)
Removable Front Center Console with Storage and Flip-up Trash-Bag Ring
Center Stack Lower Storage Bin with Cool Box
Front Bag Hook
Lockable Glove Compartment
Ambient Footwell Lighting
Beverage Holders (all rows)
12-Volt Power Outlets (Front Row and Cargo Area)
115-Volt Power Outlet (3rd-Row)
Chrome Door Handles
Integrated 2nd-Row Sunshades
Integrated 3rd-Row Sunshades
Floor Mats (All Rows)
Rear Storage Well
Cargo Area Bag Hooks
Driver's Seat with 10-Way Power Adjustment, Including Power Lumbar Support and Two-Position Memory
Front Passenger's Seat with 4-Way Power Adjustment
Wide-Mode Adjustable 2nd-Row Seats with Armrests and Walk-in Feature
Multi-Function 2nd-Row Center Seat
One-Motion 60/40 Split 3rd-Row Magic Seat® with Folding Center Armrest
Heated Front Seats
650-Watt AM/FM/CD Premium Audio System with 12 Speakers, Including Subwoofer and 5.1 Surround Sound Theater Mode
HondaLink™ featuring Aha™ Compatibility14
Hard Disk Drive (HDD) including 16-GB Audio Memory15
Bluetooth® Streaming Audio10
USB Audio Interface18
MP3/Auxiliary Input Jack
MP3/Windows Media® Audio (WMA) Playback Capability19
Radio Data System (RDS)
Exterior Temperature Indicator
Maintenance Minder™ System
The Odyssey is focused on smoothness, refinement and overall tranquility in nearly all road scenarios. But it can definitely be hustled around as well. The new six-speed automatic is welcome over the previous five- and four-speed units for its wider spread of ratios. This helps the transmission kick down eagerly but without the major event that occurs when flooring a four-speed auto. It just does not have to work the engine as hard.
In a straight line, there is predictable tail squat under heavy throttle, thanks to the cosy suspension settings that say 'comfort cruiser' more than 'canyon carver.'
The Odyssey behaves pretty faithfully when hurled around, but there is big body lurch and little reward for such aggression behind the wheel. Additionally, the flat seats all around mean your passengers will be flung around the cabin very unhappily if driven like this.
One advantage of the super-premium SUV emerges there, where the Q7 would certainly be more at home coming down that fast Colorado highway from the Summit County resorts back to Denver. Big sweepers at 80-mph will certainly be more confidently-taken in a German SUV than the Odyssey, but then again: the Odyssey is far, far better in this regard than any Caravan or Town & Country.
The Honda is also slightly firmer overall than the Toyota Sienna, which is wallowy to the core. The end result will be to slow down on these types of mountain roads -- which is fine... unless Van Man Dad is feeling murderous rage toward his darling children and spouse at the time... =]
248-hp (SAE Net), 3.5-Liter, 24-Valve, SOHC i-VTEC® V-6 Engine
6-Speed Automatic Transmission
Drive-by-Wire Throttle System
Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM®)
Active Control Engine Mount System (ACM)
Active Noise Cancellation™ (ANC)
ULEV-2 CARB Emissions Rating1
Direct Ignition System with Immobilizer
100K +/- Miles No Scheduled Tune-Ups2
MacPherson Strut Front Suspension
Multi-Link Double Wishbone Rear Suspension
Variable Power-Assisted Rack-and-Pinion Steering
Power-Assisted Ventilated Front Disc/Solid Rear Disc Brakes
18-Inch Alloy Wheels
This is the rub: the Odyssey is outsstanding value at its $28,000 base price. It is the best out there by far at that price range. But as the price ratchets up, much of the value goes out those roll-down rear windows.
It is a catch 22 to recommend just the LX trim level though, because it lacks so many of the features that will really save Van Man Dad's sanity over the long haul.
Our best recommendation would be to skip the leather, which is a little slippery, and go for cloth seats of the LX or EX trims. Add the rear-seat entertainment system if you are not an iPad family yet, and same goes for the Navigation system if you are not iPhone and Google Map dependent.
The core van is still outstanding at just about any price level. The beauty of the Touring Elite is that everything is already standard, making buying one a piece of cake. The real benefit of the Odyssey as a jumbo van is that it can be even compared with SUVs and Crossovers like the Audi Q7 or the Escalade/Yukon/Tahoe gang or the GL-Class from Mercedes-Benz.
But where all those trucks make huge, huge sacrifices for their trucky pretensions, the Odyssey does not. It just hums along silently down the highways -- in relaxed comfort and packing nearly 50-percent more interior volume than even the largest Suburban's or Expedition EL's.
For Van Man Dads and Moms who really just want to arrive calm and safe with all the kids freshly napped? The Odyssey Touring Elite is still the one to beat.
2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite - EXTERIOR COLORS
2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite - EXTERIOR FULL-SIZE PHOTO GALLERY
2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite -INTERIOR FULL-SIZE PHOTO GALLERY