2019 Honda Odyssey Touring Road Test Review
August 05 2019, The New Vancouver Honda
Odyssey delivers segment-best performance and class-leading fuel economy
If you want the most sophisticated minivan on the market, with the industry's most advanced powertrain that combines with an agile suspension for the market's best performance, look no further than the impressive new Honda Odyssey.
Believe it or not, some minivans are still soldiering on with antiquated six-speed automatic transmissions, but thanks to a redesign last year the new Odyssey boasts a class-leading nine-speed automatic with sporty paddle shifters in base trim, whereas my top-line Odyssey Touring test model comes with a state-of-the-art 10-speed automatic with paddles.
Those transmissions come paired with Honda's well-proven "Earth Dreams" 3.5-litre V6 making 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, complete with segment-exclusive Variable Cylinder Management cylinder-deactivation that cuts half the pistons under light loads in order to reduce fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions. The result is 12.6 L/100km in the city, 8.4 on the highway and 10.7 combined for the base Odyssey with its nine-speed automatic, which gives it a tie for a best-in-class highway rating, or alternatively best-in-class city, second-best highway and tied-for-best combined ratings of 12.2 city, 8.5 highway and 10.6 combined with the Odyssey Touring and its 10-speed automatic.
Most advanced minivan transmissions include standard paddle shifters
On top of this technical advantage, the Odyssey continues forward as the best minivan choice for those wanting a large dose of performance added to their ample helping of practicality. Clarifying this sporting image are the aforementioned paddle shifters behind each steering wheel spoke, this from a utilitarian class that usually makes you feel lucky to receive any shifter control at all. Why this minivan-first inclusion of paddles? Take a look at the centre stack and everything becomes clear, with Honda's pushbutton gear selector replacing the old lever that previously offered a regular push-and-pull manual mode. Now driver engagement takes place without the need to remove hands from the thick and sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, the nicely contoured driver's seat providing the other key ingredient for comfort and control.
The driving position is excellent, and thanks to 12-way power-adjustment including four-way powered lumbar support on EX trims and above the driver's seat should be just as comfortable for those measuring four-foot-eight to six-foot-eight as it was for my five-foot-eight frame. Its many adjustments combined nicely with the tilt and telescopic steering column's ample reach, allowing me to ideally saddle up my sometimes-awkward long-legged, short-torso build.
The gear selector is basically the same as used in the Pilot mid-size crossover SUV, a design that works flawlessly once you get used to it. It does take some practice, however, so if you're going on a test drive at your local dealer give yourself enough time to get familiarized. Just remember you'll need to pull back on a rocker switch to engage Reverse before pushing another button to select Drive, plus there's another button up top for Park.
Odyssey ideally balances performance with practical family comfort
When you push the Drive button twice it goes into Sport mode, and this is the best way to make use of those aforementioned paddles. The 10-speed autobox really does snap through the gears quickly, which is kind of rare for transmissions with so many speeds. Normally they're set up to maximize fuel economy at all costs, but as long as you haven't pressed the ECON mode button, which does a good job of minimizing fuel usage, or the Snow mode designed to maximize traction in slippery situations, this gearbox is really fun to drive, making the most of all the power on tap. Combined with the Odyssey's nicely balanced fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension, it's easily the class leader for performance.
Refinement is a bit more difficult to quantify, whether talking about ride quality or interior fit, finish and materials quality. I have no complaints about either with the Odyssey, finding its ride pleasant whether running errands around town or cruising on the open freeway, despite its taut handling characteristics. As for cabin refinement, Honda finishes both the upper and mid-level instrument panel in a leather-like soft touch synthetic that's very upscale for the mainstream volume sector, this continuing rearward across the tops of each door panel, plus the inserts and armrests of course. Additionally, a pewter-look medium-grey metal-like inlay spans the dash, while piano black lacquer accents can be found most everywhere else, Touring trim notably lacking much interior chrome resulting in a sportier theme, but Honda using dark brown for much of the softer surfacing of the dash and door panels too, matching the perforated leather seat upholstery for a rich, classy look.
High quality finishings joined by a plethora of digital displays
Just the same, the Odyssey is by far the most modern van on the market. In fact, most of the primary gauge cluster is digital, a first for the class. It's controllable via well-designed steering wheel switchgear, which also includes a button for the heatable steering wheel rim, pulled up from EX-L Res trim. You'll need to look over on the centre stack to turn on the heat or blow cool air through the front seats' ventilated perforations, the former standard and latter exclusive to Touring trim.
Before delving into everything that comes standard with Touring trim, I've just got to say how impressed I was with the Odyssey's infotainment system. It starts with a fixed tablet-style design that sits above the centre stack like some premium brands do in their much higher priced models, and almost seamlessly melds the aforementioned piano black surrounding trim with a black glass-like finish from edge to glossy edgy, its digital innards bright, colourful, with deep, rich contrasts, and it's wonderfully easy to use thanks to a tile-style setup, not to mention tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls depending on the feature being used, navigation mapping being one that uses all. Honda's excellent multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines comes standard, as does Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. I tried the latter and it was simple to set up and use, while route guidance was a no-brainer and totally accurate whether using Google's phone-sourced directions or Honda's proprietary system, my personal preference being the latter.
All controls are touch-sensitive except for a handy rotating knob for power/volume, while Honda includes its usual array of well thought out steering wheel switchgear. USB and aux ports can be found under a sliding door in the lower console, while device connectivity is via Bluetooth or near field communication (NFC), the latter reportedly a quicker, easier process for those with compatible smartphones.
Odyssey offers plenty of desirable trims and options
Along with the upgraded 10-speed automatic transmission already noted, additional Touring trim exclusives include idle start/stop for reducing fuel consumption and emissions, unique 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/55 all-seasons, full LED high/low beam headlamps, upgraded LED fog lamps, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, ambient lighting on the instrument panel, within the front door handle cutouts and in the footwells, acoustic front and rear door glass, Honda's new CabinWatch rear seat monitor, wireless device charging, HondaLink Subscription Services, an AT&T Wi-Fi Hotspot, a "How much Farther?" app, great sounding 550-watt audio with 11 speakers including a subwoofer, third-row sunshades, Blind Spot Information (BSI) with Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system (RCTM), a hands-free gesture-controlled power tailgate, and more.
The previously noted navigation system gets pulled up from EX-L Navi trim, while the EX-L Res trim doesn't include navigation yet offers families a rear entertainment system with a 10.2-inch high-resolution WSVGA flip-down centre monitor, a Blu-ray DVD player and embedded streaming media apps, while both EX-L trims provide the aforementioned heatable steering wheel, driver's seat memory plus memory-linked side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-d own, front and rear parking sensors, satellite and HD radio, an acoustic windshield, a 12-volt power outlet for the third row, and more.
There are EX and EX Res trims too, the only difference with the latter being rear entertainment plus another USB port, a household-style 115-volt power outlet, and Honda's industry-first CabinTalk in-car PA system (the latter two features not included with the EX-L Navi), while both include unique two-tone 18-inch alloys, upgraded LED daytime running lights, fog lamps, integrated turn signal indicators within the side mirror housings, auto-up/down powered windows all-round, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, a powered moonroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, previously noted NFC, Honda's superb LaneWatch blind spot display (replaced by the Blind Spot Monitor system in Touring trim), the 12-way powered driver's seat mentioned earlier, power-sliding second-row doors, second-row armrests and sunshades, the brilliant HondaVAC in-car vacuum (the only way I've ever been able to get my son to use a vacuum without force), and more.
Even the base Odyssey comes extremely well equipped
In case you were wondering what you get with the Odyssey's $35,290 base price, standard equipment includes 18-inch alloys on 235/60 all-season tires, auto on/off projector-beam halogen headlamps with auto high beams, active grille shutters, a windshield wiper de-icer, variable intermittent wipers, body-coloured heated power door mirrors, chrome door handles, front splash guards, LED taillights, a rear window wiper/washer, a capless fueling system, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake with automatic brake hold, filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, the previously noted multi-angle rearview camera, a 150-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with seven speakers including a subwoofer, Bluetooth streaming audio, Wi-Fi tethering, Siri Eyes Free, HondaLink, the CabinControl app, two USB charge ports, 15 cupholders, centre console storage with a utility tray, a conversation mirror integrated within the overhead sunglasses holder, illuminated vanity mirrors, an eight-way power driver's seat, a four-way powered front passenger's seat, heated front seats, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), tire pressure monitoring with tire fill assist, and more.
All of the Odyssey's advanced driver assistance systems technology, as well as its many additional active and passive safety features, plus its Next-Generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, allow for a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS when including its optional headlights. Impressively, the Odyssey is one of only two minivans to achieve this coveted rating and the only Japanese-branded van to do so. Kudos should go to Honda for putting safety first in this family-oriented class.
Standard seating for eight plus room for lots of cargo
Your clan in mind, the Odyssey gets eight-occupant seating standard as well, and I must say its second and third row seats are some of the most comfortable in the segment. The former row is split 40/20/40, with each side capable of sliding back and forth individually and the centre position foldable as well, exposing a console-style combination of cupholders and tray. The outside positions slide forward and out of the way for easy third-row access too.
The third row is split 60/40 too, and drops into the floor with one smooth motion per side when wanting to load in more cargo-its stowing system is one of the best in the business. By the numbers the base Odyssey provides 929 litres of cargo space behind the third row, 2,526 litres behind the second row, and 4,103 litres behind the first row with the second-row seats removed.
How about towing? The Odyssey is good for 1,360 kilos (3,000 lbs) of trailer weight in all trims but the top-line Touring, my tester being capable of 1,587 kilograms (3,500 lbs) with its available towing package, which is average for the class.
Odyssey remains a strong value despite its many advantages
My 2019 Odyssey Touring tester started at $50,690 and finished $300 higher at $50,990 thanks to its Crystal Black Pearl paint (all other pearlescent and metallic colours are standard), plus freight and fees of course. Of note, top-line versions of its non-hybrid competitors range from $46,245 to $53,745, leaving the top-tier Odyssey looking like a pretty smart choice right in the middle.
Of course, value isn't just about a vehicle's price even when comparing it purely on financials, because we need to include resale values when it comes time to trade-in or sell. Japanese brands in this class tend to do best on the used market, with Korean and domestic models performing worst.
After living with the new Odyssey for a week it was easier than ever to appreciate why it's become such a popular minivan. Thanks to its exhilarating performance, impressive electronic interfaces and much more, the latest Odyssey is very easy to recommend.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.