Yes, it's a minivan, but that's no reason to count out the 2014 Honda Odyssey. Although many consumers are moving toward large crossovers for their hauling needs, many are still relying on the minivan's unique combination of comfort, space, and utility to lug around kids, sport equipment, construction materials, and more. No matter the purpose, the Odyssey is a contender for the top spot in its segment--and is likely number one--thanks to its superior fuel economy, ease of use, and heavy helping of standard equipment. Tack on the top package and you've got yourself a minivan that doubles as a theater, a kitchen, and your living room.
Model and Price
We drove the top-of-the-line Touring Elite model, which starts at a whopping $44,450, or more than $15,000 over the base Odyssey. Buyers will also have to figure in an additional $830 for the destination fee. Basically, the Elite Touring has all you can ever want in a minivan: a full entertainment system, navigation, easy slide seats, tons of storage cubbies, and comfortable materials. Since it comes with everything already, options are limited to certain accessories including trailer hitches, body side moldings, cargo management cubbies, and racks for bikes, skis, snowboards, and kayaks.
Safety and Key Features
Fortunately for families, the 2014 Honda Odyssey scored well in all crash tests, earning Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Along with airbags that inflate depending on the severity of a crash, the Odyssey comes equipped with up to five Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (three in the second row and two in the third) as well as an upper tether anchor, which is unique to the Odyssey in this class. Safety technologies available throughout the Odyssey lineup include brake assist systems and stability assist while upper Odyssey trims get lane departure warnings and forward collision alerts.
Specific features to the Touring Elite model are auto high-intensity xenon headlights as well as a widescreen DVD rear entertainment system with HDMI technology and high-resolution 800x480 screen for entertaining kids in the back, complete with headphones and remote control. A premium audio system with 12 speakers and surround sound theater mode enhances the experience. For convenience, the Odyssey Touring Elite also comes with an awesome built-in vacuum that extends from the trunk to the second row to clean up small messes. Called HondaVac, this built-in appliance really does suck, but in a totally good way.
Family Friendliness and Utility
The Odyssey does a good job of squeezing out utility in every crevice of the vehicle. The eight-seater comes with 11 cupholders and three additional areas that hold small food items. The backs of seats and center consoles are cleverly used as trays or armrests to enhance usability.
Families with small children will enjoy the fact that three car seats can fit comfortably side by side in the second row. And while the seats are easy to slide, the second row must be removed manually to access the full cargo potential of 148 cubic feet. With all the seats up, a medium-sized cabinet or 20 grocery bags can fit in the back, but with all the seats down, owners have room for several boxes, long pieces of wood, and a mattress.
Comfort and Quality
While not the same materials as you would fine in a top-of-the-line Mercedes, buyers will be very comfortable with the soft leather-trimmed seating found in the interior of the Odyssey Touring Elite. Surfaces are easy to clean, but we didn't like that there were gaps between the back seats, making passengers more prone to leaving a mess in hard to reach spaces. Overall, the cabin feels upscale with chrome door handles and interior color matching. Drivers will enjoy the technology comforts of this vehicle, including SMS texting, turn-by-turn directions, and a wide touchscreen. Its mapping software, however, is in need of an update, but Honda will soon be introducing a more user friendly version in new vehicles.
How it Drives
Compared to other vehicles in its segment, the Honda Odyssey is a bit slow to accelerate. We found that it really had to haul under heavy loads and made more road noise than we would have liked. Driving over potholes was also a bit bumpy. And another problem: the minivan makes use of a 3.5-liter V-6 that, while relatively fuel efficient, produces an underwhelming 248 horsepower. At 4,613 pounds, however, we can't expect this minivan to outgun cars on the freeway.
The Odyssey makes up for its lack of power with agile handling and an excellent turning radius. What many would expect to be a multi-turn struggle with the wheel ended up being a standard three-point turn.
The Honda Odyssey Touring Elite caters to buyers who are looking for more than just a mode of transport for eight people, but for those looking for the ultimate in convenience and entertainment options. It's great, but at $45,000, it is a bit excessive for most cargo and kiddie toting families. For most buyers, we recommend sticking with the EX or EX-L models, which already are packed with a ton of standard convenience and safety features. Really, who needs a widescreen DVD entertainment system in the back when there is something called an iPad?
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