Test drive: 2016 Honda Odyssey SE
Forget the term minivan. Today they are all grown up, with comfortable seating for six or seven adults, and enough storage space for a long vacation, too. Call them family vans instead.
A top choice is the 2016 Honda Odyssey, with offers both contemporary looks and enough power for sustained freeway driving, while still delivering an EPA estimated 28 miles per gallon on the highway.
New this year is an Special Edition (SE) package that includes several of the most sought after features from the top-of-the-line Touring Elite edition like a DVD rear entertainment system and built-in vacuum in a more affordable package.
Even base models are well equipped, with such standard features as a power driver seat, a back-up camera, a 60/40-split folding third-row seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an 8-inch infotainment display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a seven-speaker audio system with a CD player, Pandora compatibility, an auxiliary audio input jack and a USB port.
Comfort, convenience and safety features increase through six trim levels: LX, EX, SE, EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite. In a week of driving, we found the new SE package to meet all of our needs for a very reasonable $34,375, however.
On the road, the standard 3.5 V6 and six-speed automatic transmission worked well together, providing good acceleration from a stop and decent passing power at higher speeds. The ride was also well controlled, even over bad pavement.
Styling is one area where the Odyssey especially excels. The exterior is almost sexy, especially the well-executed front end and rear quarter windows marked by a distinctive notch. The dash was also a very well designed mix of form and function, a far cry from the simplicity of earlier minivans.
Speaking of which, the evolution of the Odyssey is representative of what has happened to minivans over the years. When it was first introduced in America in 1995, the Odyssey rode on a 111.4 inch wheelbase, was 187.2 inches long, and came standard with a 2.2-liter inline four and a four-speed automatic transmission. The 2016 version has a 118.1 inch wheelbase, is 202.9 inches long, and has two more cylinders and two more gears. It is also significantly taller and wider. And properly equipped, the Honda Odyssey can now tow up to 3,500 pounds.
But in addition to the larger dimensions and improved drivetrain, the current version has many more safety features than the original, including more airbags, and better braking and stability assist systems. Odyssey EX and above models also come with Honda's "LaneWatch" blind-spot camera system, which shows what's down the right side of the vehicle in the touchscreen when the right turn signal is on.
Honda has lavished attention on the Odyssey over the years and it shows. And it's a good thing, too. After their initial popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, sales of family vans faded in favor of SUV. But now there's a resurgence among manufacturers with the new Kia Sedona that's modeled after a SUV and Chrysler's new Pacifica, which is generating a lot of buzz at new car show with its dramatic styling and upcoming plug-in hybrid version.
The Odyssey is still a top choice for those looking for practical, comfortable and stylish family transportation, however.
2016 Honda Odyssey
Base price: $29,400
Price as tested: $34,255
Type: Midsize van
Engine: 3.5 V6 (248 hp, 250 ft-lbs)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 19/28
Overall length: 202.94,396 to 4,613 lbs inches
Curb weight: 4,396 to 4,613 pounds
Final assembly: Lincoln, AlabamaJW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT