• Minivan
  • 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Review and Test Drive

    2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Review and Test Drive

    Ferrari fantasies fade fast in a minivan, the dowdy cargo containers of the auto industry.

    Who has time in a van for 8,000-rpm reveries? You’ll be too busy dodging half-eaten Twinkies hurled by some kid way in the back.

    OK, OK, minivans don’t just haul sugar-fueled kids and muddy soccer balls.

    But, really, no one ever gets lathered up over a minivan. They’re just transportation devices with lots of seats.

    Which makes the 2021 Honda Odyssey difficult to explain – particularly for a rev-happy, road-loving, hard-core car-guy.

    But, gulp, I actually liked the silver Odyssey Elite I had recently.

    So do lots of people, apparently. Honda says the Odyssey claims a stout 40 percent share of the minivan market.

    These are not just aging boomers like me. Get this: Honda says the median age of Odyssey buyers is 45, they have average family incomes of more than $115,000 a year and 70 percent have some college.

    Moreover, Honda expects the fading minivan segment – battered by the consumer shift to crossovers and SUVs – to recover steadily over the next six years.

    Heck, my Odyssey even sported a little flair. What’s next – a Presidential Minivan?

    Still a bit too long, tall and boxy for my taste, the Odyssey nonetheless benefits considerably from sculpting that tightens its vast, flat sides.

    Like all new Hondas, the big minivan greets the world with a clean, horizontal grille flanked by contemporary headlamps and topped by a relatively short, sloping hood.

    Credit: Honda.

    As you may recall, Odysseys looked pretty strange prior to 2018, with awkward back doors that appeared to have been lifted from another vehicle and forced – junkyard-style – to fit the rest of the body.

    Curving character lines high and low have smoothed those lumps out considerably and my now-sleeker Odyssey Elite settled comfortably on 19-inch gray and alloy wheels fitted with 235/55 tires.

    Also helping, I thought, were nicely stylized rear roof pillars that eased the van’s square dimensions.

    However, aside from the seven-passenger Odyssey’s immense practicality, the best part about the new minivan was its polished 3.5-liter V-6 and equally sophisticated 10-speed automatic.

    While not quite as muscular as the engines in some SUVs, the Odyssey’s silky V-6 handles its 4,600 pounds handily, hitting 60 mph in a quick 6.5 seconds and achieving overall fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon.

    I particularly liked the Odyssey’s overall balance. It accelerated nicely, provided great visibility, felt fairly agile in traffic and turned cleanly into corners with decent stability.

    Step into the accelerator and the V-6 delivers a smooth, polished little wave of torque, making merging with freeway traffic pretty effortless.

    Most buyers, though, will likely be more attracted to the van’s smooth, highly composed ride.

    As you probably know, minivans are built on car platforms with car-like suspensions, while big SUVs ride on heavy truck chassis.

    Parking can still be a challenge because of the Odyssey’s 205 inches of length, but otherwise, this is a smart bus that’s easy to live with.

    For the most part, minivans are built from inside out, meaning priority is given to interior space, utility and convenience, and that was evident in the dark-gray interior in my $49,000 Odyssey.

    The deep dark gray dashboard in the vehicle, for example, was cast from a flat-tone, semi-pliable plastic that reduced glare from the giant windshield.

    Credit: Honda.

    Most of the audio and climate controls were clustered in the center of the mid-dash around a tablet-shaped touchscreen trimmed in piano-black.

    Although the stereo had to be tuned through the screen – definitely not a family-friendly feature – the system offered Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

    Honda also compensates with loads of safety features, including vehicle-stability assist, collision-mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist and a blind-spot information system.

    As a top-of-the-line Elite model, the Odyssey also had rear bucket seats that could slide side to side for space, as well as fore and aft, and, of course, automatic sliding rear doors.

    In addition, the vehicle’s deep console up front provided a wireless phone-charger, while the fold-down third-row bench-seat had enough leg- and head-room for real adults.

    The seats, incidentally, were stitched in dark-gray leather and complemented by switch-gear that clicked expensively.

    Not too surprising, my well-equipped, near-$50,000 Odyssey had no options.

    It didn’t really need them, though. Don’t tell my hot-rod buddies, but if I were looking for a big people- and stuff-hauling vehicle, I might actually give the Odyssey some serious consideration over an SUV.

    I wonder if it comes in Ferrari Red?

    2021 Honda Odyssey Elite

    • What I liked most: The Odyssey’s considerable capabilities, combining room, storage space and polished overall performance with a smooth ride and reasonable fuel economy.
    • What I would change: Is there any way to butch up a minivan’s looks?
    • MSRP: Base price, $47,820; as equipped, $49,335
    • Official color: Lunar Silver Metallic.
    • Fuel economy: 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway and 22 mpg combined with filler on the left.
    • Odometer reading when tested: 949 miles.
    • Spare tire: Temporary compact.
    • Weight: 4,574 pounds.
    • Length-width-height: 205.2 inches long/78.5 inches wide/69.6 inches tall.
    • Fuel-tank capacity: 19.5 gallons.
    • Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds.
    • 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite in a few words: Put aside your soccer-mom minivan biases for a moment – and I harbor them, too – and you will be pleasantly surprised and impressed with the Odyssey.
    • Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile overall warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
    • Final assembly location: Lincoln, Ala.
    • Manufacturer’s website: www.honda.com
    • E-mail me at terry@carprousa.com
    • Up next: 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE