Somewhere in the deep green valleys and peaks of scenic northwest Arkansas, I learned to like minivans.
I’ve got to tell you: As a hopeless old hot-rodder, I swallowed my little epiphany like a mouth-full of Brussels sprouts.
After 1,000 pretty easy miles in a spacious, features-laden 2018 Honda Odyssey, I decided to quit dissing them as two-box mom-mobiles and soccer buses with all the appeal of a biology lecture.
Minivans just make too much sense – especially if you’re hauling four quasi-adults, two overgrown grandchildren and about 200 pounds of luggage to Branson, Mo., home of neon-lit hills, cheesy, slightly greasy tourist-food and one fabulous lake.
The world needs a stout, three-finger shot of common sense right now, and the Odyssey delivers.
Granted, I seriously doubt practicality will guarantee the survival of minivans in a style-hungry world – sales of the two-boxers have dropped for years, falling another 16.7 percent in the first half of 2017.
Nonetheless, the world needs a stout, three-finger shot of common sense right now, and the Odyssey delivers – with maybe just a slight aftertaste of Brussels sprouts.
Actually, the silver Elite model we had looked pretty good for a mom-, er, minivan – as well it should given its options-heavy window-sticker of $47,610.
Still slightly strange, the new Odyssey wears oddly swoopy sides and lots of bulk, but manages to somehow tone it down a bit.
Contemporary projector-style headlamps, for example, kept a broad, chrome two-bar grille company up front, while a short, sloped hood displayed some interesting sculpting.
Meanwhile, a huge bus-like windshield provided vast visibility and, hey, the Odyssey’s busy sides should give the neighbors something to talk about.
At least Honda got rid of the long-time horizontal slots behind the misshapen rear doors, which always looked to me like a work in progress – as if someone was trying to fit a junkyard door to the van and was still cutting and drilling.
For 2018, the bodyline on the bizarre back door just drops inexplicably as it nears the rear fender, but now it looks like it fits.
The Odyssey’s busy sides should give the neighbors something to talk about.
Meanwhile, character lines high and low created a light sort of scallop on the body, while the rear roof pillar appeared to float above the body.
Honda doesn’t want us to take its 4,600-pound box too seriously, I guess – and I’m OK with that.
Fortunately, our Odyssey rode on polished 19-inch alloy wheels and 235/55 tires that looked appropriately purposeful.
Like the Pilot crossover that shares a platform with the minivans, our front-wheel-drive Odyssey relied on one of Honda’s most refined engines for power – a sweet 3.5-liter V-6 with 280-horsepower that was tied to a new 10-speed automatic.
Even hauling all of us around – and I figure we added more than 1,000 pounds with luggage – the minivan had a smooth little surge to it, merging easily with highway traffic and winding up with an amusing muted growl.
It never minded spinning to 5,500 rpm and yet also averaged 21-miles per gallon with my driving 75 to 85 mph. (The Odyssey is rated at 19 mpg in town and 28 on the highway).
The 10-speed automatic – available on Elite and Touring models – helped immensely, finding the right gear for climbing the inclines in Arkansas and Missouri without difficulty.
As I had expected, the steering was precise but unremarkable, while the ride was car-like – smooth, well controlled and capable, even with our weight.
Though my grandchildren grew up in cars and crossovers, both gave the Odyssey two thumbs-up (with their headphones still on, of course), mainly for its smart gray interior.
Three rows of seating kept everyone civil and fistfights to a minimum.
In fact, both the second- and third-row seats provided good leg- and head-room – something you don’t always find even in full-size SUVs.
Moreover, the Odyssey offered 39-cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seats, a 4G LTE data connection so the kids could stream whatever, a 10.2-inch flip-down display in back and a built-in vacuum cleaner.
Even better for the driver – me – it was a pretty pleasant place to reside.
A large, mostly flat gray dashboard in decent plastic, for instance, wrapped around a display screen that dominated the mid-dash, dropping down to a broad console that featured pushbuttons rather than a conventional automatic shifter.
Besides a Blu-Ray DVD in back, the electronics included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as well as dual power sliding back doors and a multi-view rear camera.
Both the mid-dash and door panels also sported classy pliable gray plastic and the console up front offered a charging pad for cellphones.
In addition, the second row of seats slid forward easily, lifting for relatively good access to the third row.
As in every new Honda I’ve driven, the Odyssey used touchpads in the display screen for tuning the radio, and on six occasions, automatically changed channels on me – opting for some truly wretched electronic thump-thump music.
Only comfortable leather seats with perforated centers kept me from taking a hacksaw to it.
However, at the end of our journey, I have to tell you I was pretty impressed – with a minivan, no less.
What’s next, bowling and burgers on the backyard grille?