Until the mid-1980s, those with large families usually bought station wagons with a who-cares-about-safety rearward facing third row of seats. But then the minivan was introduced and everything changed. For the next fifteen years, troops of kids were transported here and there in these pragmatic boxes on wheels. As is often the case though, consumer…
2014 Honda Odyssey Review
A celebration of parenthood, a celebration of life
The average AutoGuide.com review is roughly 1,300 words. If I listed all of the things I fit in the Odyssey for a weeklong trip to the in-laws, I’d have to stop writing now in order to make room.
|Engine: 3.5L V6 makes 248 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 19 MPG city, 28 MPG highway and 22 MPG combined.
Price: Starts at $28,825 and ranges to $44,450.
Reviled by young urban couples in their condos, minivans signify the soccer mom who wears yoga pants to the grocery store and who, they surmise, has given up on life.
On the contrary, the minivan is a celebration of life – a celebration of parenthood. Like no other vehicle it symbolizes a virtue, one that’s increasingly absent from modern society: selflessness. The minivan is, by its very nature, about putting the priorities of others first.
A Status Symbol to Some
And while the Honda Odyssey is all that, it is also a suburban status symbol. That may come as a shock to MINI-driving hipsters, but to parents chatting in the parking lot after dropping their kids off at school, it’s surpassed only by the likes of the Cadillac Escalade.
Can you really compare a minivan to a luxury SUV? When it costs $44,000 and comes with a built-in vacuum, you bet. And like a luxury product, moms and dads across America aspire to drive this minivan.
After all, the Odyssey is packed with features that only recently were reserved for ultra luxury sedans. The doors close themselves with the push of a button. In fact, they open or close with the push of one of numerous buttons: on the handle, the dash, the keyfob or on the B-pillar –easily within reach for older children.
Available features include that keyless access, a push-button start, headlights that come on automatically when the wipers are used, a forward collision warning system and lane departure warning, not to mention a high resolution 16.2-inch widescreen display that can play two videos simultaneously.
Additional upgrades for 2014 include a new center stack with the Honda Link system on all but the base LX model. It cleans up the dash-clutter of Odysseys past and, thanks to the HondaLink app, allows you to hear updates from Twitter and Facebook.
Still, it’s not perfectly luxurious and after a lengthy two-week test that included a visit from the Polar Vortex we have a suggestion for the product planners: a heated steering wheel! Getting a ‘little one’ into the racing harness that is a modern child seat is by necessity a task that can’t be completed with gloves on.
Does the selfless individual who shelled out the equivalent to a BMW 3 Series worth of cash to drive a car, not for their own pleasure, but with the best interests of their family in mind, not deserve this one luxury? Are rhetorical questions rhetorical?
And while those engineers are at it, perhaps a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel is in order too.
Or why not just go all-in, toss in full-speed radar cruise control, lane keeping assist, upgrade the entire interior, restyle the body and call it an Acura. It’s a crazy idea, but it’s not insane. After all, while the minivan segment may be shrinking, buyers increasingly want features; more luxury and they’re willing to pay for it.
An Acura Odyssey? At $55,000 it just might become the latest must-have in driveway jewelry.
For Kids and Cargo
Luxurious yes, but it’s also a workhorse. Sure it has short-bus levels of kid-hauling capability and can fit a fully assembled Barbie Dream House in the back (trust me, it can), but it can also handle the rough stuff. It’ll hold 4x8 sheets of plywood flat on the floor or 10 foot 2-x4s. Simply put, there isn’t much at Home Depot that won’t fit in a Honda Odyssey.
Built to handle the many phases of parenthood, the last time I tested an Odyssey back in 2011 I was thrilled to have the unique second row feature that allows for three child seats to be used side-by-side. While I only have two kids, this setup allowed for my infant son’s reverse facing seat to go next to my daughter’s, so she could keep him entertained on long drives. The ability for the middle seat to slide forward is also a real advantage to have him as close as possible to the front seats – perfect for nervous first time parents.
This time around and both kids are facing front and thoroughly enjoying their videos, while my daughter, not quite old enough to pull the door handles on her own, can use the buttons to get the job done.
And if you do have a Duggar-sized family or you’re car-pooling to soccer practice, the Odyssey has a seriously spacious third row. In fact, it’s so big it’ll fit your son’s teammates even when they’re all grown up and he’s the one behind the wheel.
If just the thought of that is making you nervous, then the Odyssey has plenty to reassure you when it comes to safety. It received a Five-Star rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That “plus” is important, with Honda beefing up the minivan’s structure to help it to join just a handful of cars that return top marks in the new small overlap test.
New-for-2014 Odyssey models get a larger driver’s side mirror that increases view by 19 percent. Plus there’s the new LaneWatch system in EX and above models that displays what’s in the passenger side blindspot on the screen in the center stack as soon as the turn signal is activated.
It’s improved for 2014 with a more sculpted hood, a more dramatic twin-bar grille and upgraded front bumper with new chrome trimmed fog lights, not to mention new mirror caps, dark housing headlights and LED taillights, but that lighting-bolt design under the windows still makes for an odd profile.
People Moving Power
To shuttle loads of kids and cargo, the Odyssey continues to use the same 3.5-liter V6 engine that’s been under the hood of the van since, well, forever. With 248 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque it’s the least powerful vehicle in the segment, but never really feels it.
What is new for 2014 is a standard six-speed automatic, which previously was only available on top trim models. That unit helps the Odyssey achieve 19 MPG city, 28 MPG highway and 22 MPG combined, making it the most fuel efficient full size minivan.
But What About the Honda Vac?
No new Honda Odyssey review is complete without mention of the Honda Vac. Yes, there is a real vacuum in the car and yes it really works. Supplied by Shop Vac it’s tucked into a compartment on the driver’s side of the van in the cargo area. It comes with different tool attachments and worked effectively to clean out the mess of pine needles the journalist who drove the car before me left behind – reaching all the way to the footwells in the front row.
If there’s any reason not to like the Honda Vac, however, it’s that it comes only as a part of the top trim Touring Elite model. Priced at $44,450 it’s over $15,000 more than a base Odyssey.
Minivan appeal is waning. For a growing number of people, they hold all the cachet of a BlackBerry. It is seen by too many as a sign that you’ve resigned yourself to a life of fast food, weight gain and the monotony of suburbia. In short, that you’ve given up on life.
But what is life if not soccer practice, school recitals, weekend home renovation projects and road trips, all spent with the people you love?
The minivan celebrates parenthood. It’s capability makes life easier. And there is perhaps no minivan that does so better than the Honda Odyssey.