The 1999 - 2004 generation of Honda's front-wheel-drive Odyssey was a class leader. For 2005, the minivan received a major redesign in Honda's attempt to leapfrog the growing competition.
Reaching beyond the foldaway third-row Magic Seat in the previous model, the 2005 Odyssey also got a stowable PlusOne seat in the second row. Side curtain-type airbags protected occupants in all three rows, and an electronic stability system became standard. The windows in the sliding doors can be partially opened.
Four trim levels are offered: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. The top two models use a Variable Cylinder Management version of Honda's 3.5-liter V-6, which shifts automatically between six- and three-cylinder operation in response to driving conditions. A regular V-6 goes into the LX and EX.
Power ratings are slightly lower for 2006 due to new testing standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Actual performance remains the same.
The Touring model is now available with a DVD entertainment system, which was previously offered only in combination with a navigation system. XM Satellite Radio is standard in Touring models, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel has been added to the EX-L. Odysseys are built in Alabama.
Built on a 118.1-inch wheelbase, the Odyssey measures 201 inches long overall. All models have dual sliding side doors, and all but the LX have power operation on both sides. Pulling the door handle halts the power doors, and a power liftgate is available.
Touring models use Michelin PAX run-flat tires. A moonroof is standard on EX-L and Touring minivans.
Seating for seven occupants consists of two bucket seats in the first and second rows and a third-row 60/40-split bench that folds into the floor. EX models seat eight people thanks to a removable center seat in the second row that can stow into a recessed compartment. When the seat isn't stowed, a Lazy Susan under-floor tray holds miscellaneous items. Adjustable pedals are available in Touring models, and the gearshift lever sits on the console.
An available DVD-based rear entertainment system uses a 9-inch screen. Honda's navigation system operates with voice recognition, can respond to 637 commands, and understands street names, numbers and destinations.
Under the Hood
Honda's 244-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission. In EX-L and Touring models, the Variable Cylinder Management V-6 switches operation automatically between three and six cylinders. Both engines generate 240 pounds-feet of torque, but at slightly different engine speeds.
Side-impact and three-row side curtain-type airbags, all-disc antilock brakes and traction control are standard.
Exuding excellence, the Odyssey is energetic, quiet, capable and easy to drive. Although the Odyssey nearly meets Honda's Euro-sedan handling claim, its steering isn't quite as precise and requires a slightly heavy touch.
Slight corrections are needed on straightaways, but body lean in curves is minimal. With its comparatively taut suspension, the Odyssey's ride is a bit firm, but it exhibits near-instant recovery over bumps.
For a minivan, acceleration is wholly satisfying, though short of startling. It's impossible to discern when operation moves between three and six cylinders with the Variable Cylinder Management engine. Transmission shifts are crisp, quick and usually inconspicuous. The voice-recognition navigation system is simply amazing.