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2013 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite: The minivan is all grown up

More size, style and features than ever before


by: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - Honda's 'lightning bolt' styling sets the Odyssey apart from the competition.In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, it takes 10 long years for Odysseus to make his way home after the Trojan War.

If he was driving the Honda van named after the poem, at least Odysseus would have traveled in comfort and style — especially if it was the 2013 Odyssey Touring Elite model, the subject our weeklong test drive.

Minivans have changed a lot since Chrysler introduced the first ones in the 1980s. Based on the company’s economical K-cars, they were small and simple. Today, almost all them are much larger and available with every conceivable convenience, entertainment and comfort feature.

Even the base model LX model of the Odyssey is well outfitted. Standard equipment incudes three rows of seats, front and rear air conditioning, an AM/FM in-dash single CD player with CD MP3 Playback stereo, and — beginning this year — hands-free phone capabilities, USB Audio, and a rearview camera.

But step up to the top-of-the-line Touring Elite model and you’ll find leather seats (power and heated in the front), three zone climate control, a hard drive voice activated navigation system, and an optional 16.2-inch widescreen that folds down from the headliner in the second row. Both it and the Touting model also come with a six-spped automatic transmission instead of the five-speed version found on the other models.

All models are powered by just one engine, Honda’s tried-and-true 3.5-liter V6, rated at 248 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque. They all include the Variable Cylinder Management system that shuts down two or three of the cylinders when they're not needed, improving fuel economy. Five-speed models are rated at 18 miles per gallon city and 27 on the highway, while the six-speed automatic adds a single mile-per-gallon. That’s the best of any vehicle designed to carry eight passengers.

All models also feature the most radical styling of any family van, including a jagged side window line that Honda refers to as a lightning bolt. Combined with the intentionally large sliding door tracks down each side, the effect is bold and eye catching. The beltline is also lower than most other vans, giving the Odyssey a low, wide look.

On the road, our test Odyssey was remarkably smooth and stable. The long wheelbase helped soak up imperfections, giving a supple and controlled ride. During one lengthy early morning freeway drive in heavy rain, the Odyssey felt as stable and secure as any large SUV. The higher ride height offered excellent visibility and, even though AWD is not an option, the traction was excellent, despite having to drive through washed out sections of the freeway.

But vans are really all about interior room and in this category, the Odyssey is practically in a class of its own. The inside is cavernous and can be configured to carry up to eight people or, with the seats folded down, full loads of lumber. Some reviewers have noted there is a large amount of hard plastic in the interior, but what do they expect? The Odyssey is designed to carry large families and children area messy, so the surfaces need to be easy to clean up. The fit and finish is first rate, though, which makes the materials look classier than you might expect.

Honda uses its 3.5-liter V6 is a variety of vehicles. It is a solid workhorse that offers impressive acceleration in the Odyssesy, especially considering its size. The six-speed transmission in our Tour Elite model shifted up and down through the gears smooth. Even freeway passing was relatively easy, which isn't something you could always say about minivans.

Special mention should be made of the front seats, which were deeply sculpted and very comfortable, even on long trips. They both included an inside arm that could be raised up to increase access to the generous center console storage bin.

With a starting price at over $28,000, the Odyssesy is competitive with other vans its size. At more than $44,000, our Touring Elite version was still reasonable, given everything it included. But even that top-of-the-line price is just one more reminder how much most minivans have changed over the years — not much about them is mini anymore.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2013 Odyssey Touring Elite.

• Manufacturer: Honda.

• Class: Van.

• Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive.

• Style: Five-door van.

• Engines: 3.5-liter V6 (248 hp, 250 lbs-ft).

• TransmissionS: Five-speed automatic; six-speed automatic.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 18/27.

• Price: Beginning at approximately $28,675 ($44,755 as tested).