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Honda Odyssey

Perhaps this isn't as much about lust as it is grudging admiration and respect. After all, it's hard to really lust after a minivan--if for no other reason that to do so opens you up to merciless ridicule. Not, of course, that being ridiculed for my automotive tastes is anything new.

Before you begin pelting me with rotten produce, please let me explain. The minivan gets a bad rap in this country--it is almost universally reviled as a symbol of dweebish parenthood and mindless suburbia, a scarlet letter attached to soccer moms' chests. Of course, soccer moms now have embraced large SUVs, which are similar to minivans yet inferior in every way that is relevant to family transport. Of course, now the affection of soccer moms has begun to afflict SUVs with the same stigma that large station wagons and minivans have borne for the last few decades.

Okay, so minivans are universally scorned. But why? What are the minivan's crimes? The only crime I can see is that it's too good at its job.

The minivan's job is to haul people and cargo in as comfortable and efficient a manner as possible, and it fulfills that mission admirably. Forget about three-row SUVs. Minivans can carry more people more comfortably than even large SUVs; and with the extraordinary flexibility of seat placement/folding/removal, minivans are unparalleled at virtually everything you'd need it to do.

Need to carry a bunch of kids and their stuff on a road trip? There's no better vehicle than a minivan. Want to haul as bulky a load of cargo as you could in a pickup, but you'd prefer to keep it dry, clean, and secure? Fold down or remove the seats, and the minivan becomes a cargo hauler par excellence. Want to take your buddies on a week-long backpacking trip? You can fit everybody, their backpacks, the food, AND a few cases of beer.

People rightfully rave about the cargo-carrying flexibility of wagons, hatchbacks, crossovers, SUVs, and even oddballs like the Honda Element and PT Cruiser, but all of those pale in comparison with the humble minivan.

As a group, SUVs' sole advantages over minivans are style and sheer off-road capability--and it's not as if today's popular car-based SUVs (effectively minivans in drag) are fantastic at low-range bouldering.

The other day, I posed a question to a few of my co-workers--if you needed the people- and cargo-carrying capacity of a large vehicle, would you really penalize yourself by selecting something less useful than a minivan just to save your ego? And if that's true, just how sad is that? How much are we letting what others think dictate a fundamental part of our everyday lives? A surprising number said they would never drive a minivan, no matter what.

Popular culture is so anti-minivan today that driving one is so counter-culture, so in the face of popular biases, so keeping-it-real, that it's almost punk rock. In a utilitarian way, anyway.

Anyway--what about the Honda Odyssey? In my mind, it's the peak of the minivan mountain. It comes with a smooth and torquey 244-horsepower VTEC V-6, is as silky smooth to drive as its similarly excellent Honda and Acura siblings, and with leather and navigation, you'd have to push the Odyssey pretty hard before it feels at all dissimilar to the excellent Acura TL.

Honda's Pilot and its near-twin, the Acura MDX, are both among the best SUVs you can buy; yet in terms of everyday use, I'd be hard-pressed to find a way in which they are superior to the Odyssey. Plus, the Odyssey even looks good.

Okay, now you can throw rotten produce at me.

--Chris H.

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I'd like to own one of these, but they're too expensive..used!

That having been said, I like minivans, and my wife and I don't even have kids as of yet. That having been said, I agree that they have great utilitarian value.

I own a used '03 Chevy Venture, and it has done an awesome job at doing everything I ask it to, whether hauling friends, bicycles, materials and whatnot for craft shows, or anything else that comes to mind.

Compared to what I had last, one of your Car Disgust ones (Saturn SW2), it's the shiznit! I would love to own an Odyssey some day, and perhaps I will. But so long as I have a minivan in general, I'm a happy boy.

I grew up with a VW Microbus in the '60s. I remember when my aunt and uncle moved, the only safe and easy way to move their gigantic console TV/Stereo was in the Bus.

I have to admit I've considered a minivan for that functionality, but have never been able to go there......I have a friend who was able to choose a Dodge Caravan as his company car a few years back and all of those benefits are absolutely true. Today, he drives an Element because he can carry his bike and outdoor toys in a secure, closed environment.

I love the Odyssey, but I'd never drive one either (I drive a Pilot). It is kind of sad.

On the other hand, this all seems like the old Yogi Berra expression. "No one buys Odyssey's any more. They're too popular."

Right On Chris ! The Odyssey is a prince among mini vans. While I'm not champing at the bit to buy one personally I don't have a problem with mini-vans. I do have a problem with SUV's and Full Size vans - especially the 4WD variety. My hatred of SUV's is for self evident reasons - the environment, the danger they pose to others, then tendency to roll over, the sheer ridiculousness of building something the size and weight of a house and then putting wheels on it. Full sized vans while useful are annoyingly large and hard to see around - too much clutter. But the mini-van has a size, weight, utility balance that makes it just right.

The classic VW microbus is exactly that - a classic. It is an unassailable touchstone of design. It goes beyond aesthetics to establish an iconic status. The Odyssey is a great piece of engineering. Fantastic engine. Smooth precision wrapped in a clean package. But! From the perspective of visual aesthetic design neither of these would be my first choice.

My nomination for best looking mini van is the "Toyota Van" from the 1980's. Yes that's the name the "Van". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Van
Internationally there were a variety of names. This vehicle really impressed me with its lines and balance. The utility versions - called the "Utility Van" were especially attractive. I think the front mid engine layout, unusual window lines, upright sides contrasting with front slop, and front overhang all made this a really unusual looking ride. One that seemed to really place the car in the category of "other". Not a car, not like all the other vans on the road, not a truck. It has something that just makes it fun and slightly like it fell from outer-space - or rolled off the set of an old Godzilla movie.

The Toyota Van's odd lined semi-hip utility was re-established on the roads when the 1st generation scion xB's appeared. The xB is perhaps the closest thing to a really cool looking micro van wagon thing. Sadly those happy hip little boxes on wheels have been bloated, stretched, and rounded in the new xB ( 2nd generation), losing all the humor, charm, and innocent chic.

I think I'd try to snag an old Toyota Van before I got an Odyssey. But if I needed a true utility vehicle and I wanted a rocket the Odyssey would be my choice way before an SUV. Of course I would probably have to lower it and convince myself it was really an oversized Civic Hatchback... They don't make an "Odyssey si" do they? :)

A couple months ago, I saw a Chrysler minivan that had been given the full tuner-car lowrider treatment: thumping subwoofer, body kit, flashy graphics, alloy wheels, tinted glass.

Scary.

I agree with your comments. The Honda is the sportier of the vans out there today, with all the power and convenience one can hope for in a utility vehicle. The ride on the freeway can't be beaten. If you have many miles to cover, I can't think of a more comfortable vehicle to do it in.

pops

Too big, too heavy, too expensive. It's not a minivan; it's a station wagon.

The original Dodge Caravan was small enough to be easy to drive, light enough to get decent gas mileage and at least some performance out of the standard 2.5 liter K-car engine, and cheap enough for everybody to buy. People loved them.

So what happened? Gas got cheap. Really cheap. And then the Powers That Be decided that minivans were no longer cool. To be cool in the later half of the 1990's, you needed a Chevy Suburban. Never mind the gas mileage. Never mind the fact that you're buying what is basically 1950's off-the-shelf tech at a steep premium (just the way Detroit likes it). Never mind that curb weight doesn't always mean safety, or that Mom can't handle three tons of big ass truck. Minivans were clearly no longer adequate to the task of getting your precious little snowflakes (who prefer World of Warcraft to soccer) to school, picking up bread and milk, and the ever-important task of keeping up with the Joneses, all because Detroit said so. Also never mind that the Joneses are idiots.

You absolutely nail two points which so many people miss. I am constantly amazed by the number of people who will not even consider a minivan for image reasons. It's a particularly curious phenomenon among married guys, who, frankly, will never drive them except on weekends and road trips and emergency duty tours. (As the owner of an '01 Odyssey and '97 TL, I can attest to this).

The only reasons to buy an SUV versus a minivan are if you either a) offroad seriously, b) live in a snowy climate (we'd be SUV owners if we still lived in Denver rather than LA) or c) have much in the way of towing to do.

And for those who argue they by SUVS for style, I think are mostly blowing smoke. Yes, there are a few stunning SUVs -- the new GMC Acadia comes to mind -- but you can't honestly say that most SUVs are prettier than an Oddessey. This list of uglies from Honda (CRV, Element, Pilot) should be enough to put that thinking to bed.

My one major disagreement? Minivans, no matter their sophistication, have nowhere near the driving feel of their sedan counterparts, no matter how many components they share, largely owing to weight and weight distribution. And no, you don't have to push very hard to notice the difference. It's pretty apparent just backing out of the driveway. Given the choice between driving my 11 yr old sedan and a loaded new Odyssey, I'd take my TL any day of the week.

I feel sorry for you. Keep trying to fool yourself. You're married with 2.5 kids, but you're still cool! Really! F'n boomers.

Yep, minivans rule, and if you are a family of five or more there's actually no substitute, especially given the ever expanding booster seat requirements. We have a Hyundai Entourage, which is marginally less handsome than the Odissey but has lots of really nifty features inside.
The alternative for us would be two sedans, a small one and another one with some cargo capacity, but that would mean more fuel consumption and a lot more insurance.

flyerguy: "I feel sorry for you. Keep trying to fool yourself. You're married with 2.5 kids, but you're still cool! Really! F'n boomers."

Who's trying to be cool here?

You know what's better than being cool? Actually having a useful vehicle.

I've been driving my family around in a Dodge Caravan for five years now. Best car I've ever owned. In this day of $3/gallon + gas, I appreciate its four cylinder even more. I'm looking at the Mazda 5 to replace it in a year or so. I always find it astounding to see one person driving some goliath SUV these days. Nuts!

I think that among many people the SUV is rapidly adopting the minivan image. Heck, for me the SUV crossed into soccer mom territory long ago.

I'm not so anti-minivan anymore, so maybe I'm ahead of the culture curve. I have no use for one, but I'd probably get one over an SUV if I really needed the carrying capacity without any off-road capability. My brother has an Odyssey and I think it's great. They not only ferry their kids and their friends around, but it's great for when visitors are around, too: extra seating for car trips.

Admittedly, a Miller beer commercial opened my eyes to this. Search on YouTube for "Miller commercial SUV" and you can see it.

I was looking at used S10 Trucks when I discovered that Chevy's little ASTRO Van was available with the Vortec V6 pumping out 180+ horsepower from the factory. These things are a dime a dozen used on Craig's List in good condition loaded with conversion interiors etc... I might just have to get me one and add a 75 or 100 punch of nitrous to create a little demon of a kid hauler.

Watch out kids... here comes Granddad!

I swore I would never drive a minivan. Then I had 2 kids. I drove a Tahoe, but my Toyota Sienna is much more mom-friendly. It drives and handles great and has lots of seat configurations. At the push of a button on my keychain, I can open both side doors and tailgate, which is unbelievably helpful when carrying kids/groceries/gear with both hands. We have driven comfortably with 4 adults and 3 kids, with room for everyone.

I just try to remember that I drove a sports car before and will drive one again someday, after convenience isn't so important.

We've driven minivans for years, even before we had kids. They're much more comfortable, fuel-efficient, commodious, safe, and generally useful than any SUV. We take the kids, tow the sailboat, throw the kayaks on top, or the snowboards or hang the mountain bikes off the back.

I'd even much rather drive a minivan in snowy conditions. Here's a hint folks -- 4WD is only good for getting you going, not keeping you on the road once you're moving, and the high center of gravity of SUVs is *really bad* in nasty conditions. When we drive north to ski for the weekend and the weather's bad, we make a sort of game of counting the wheels-up SUVs and pickups in the ditches -- you rarely see minivans in that position.

And it's really kind of silly how much power minivans have now. I really don't need 0-60 in 7 and a half seconds, but that's what I've got. I'm rather have a high-efficiency euro turbo-diesel, but I guess I'll have to wait a while on that.

As for cool -- cool isn't what you DRIVE, cool is where you GO and what you DO when you get there (well, at least that's the way we look at it). Living a hum-drum existence and imagining you can buy cool at the car dealership is really kind of pathetic (or, again, that's the way we look at it).

I had a 1999 Toyota Sienna and loved it. It ran great, took my husband and me camping, did everything, until 10 days ago, when a drunk driver hit us from behind and totaled it. :-( We were fine. The gallant van gave itself up to save us, with that huge crumple zone in the back. I will miss it. If we can afford it, we'll replace it with another one.

For what it's worth, I've taken my Toyota Sienna over so-called "roads" in the Joshua Tree, Cal. area that are much worse than the vast majority of terrain the typical SoCal SUV will ever encounter. And unless said SUVs had four-wheel drive, they'd've gotten stuck in the same sandy wash I briefly did. (Nothing a couple of rocks and ten seconds' pushing couldn't solve, BTW.)

It's kinda funny coming back into Orange County from a desert weekend and parking my minivan -- looking like something out of "Lawrence of Arabia" all covered with dust -- next to an immaculately-polished, never-had-the-paint-scratched-by-creosote-bush Tahoe.

I am 28, have two kids, and love my Odyssey. It's my wife's car, but trips are smooth, the van is roomy, and power is adequate. I've no doubt it was a better choice than a comparable SUV.

I put my money on the Honda Odyssey last August after the third Chrysler T & C got to 200,000 mi. Looked at the Pathfinders, Highlanders, RX300s, etc. But none of them make any sense.

The 2008 Chrysler T & C is still better designed than the Honda, but the Honda dealer service is so far superior that we bought the slightly inferior design because you visit the show room once but the Service Department every six months.

My '98 Odyssey serves all my purposes - from camping to hauling TONS of stuff - but one very important one. Even with all the seats removed but the driver's I can't fit a full 4x8' sheet of plywood or sheetrock, and that's considerable minus.

And "coolness"? What nonsense is that?

This sumsup some things: One car maker brought out a hybrid. It wasnot doing very well. The makers discovered after market research that people wanted a car identified as Hybrid (like Prius) so All those folks on the road would say: gee,golly, a hybrid...how hip.

Need room, get what you want. But for me the first measure is simple: what mileage does it get.

For the most part, an SUV is a minivan for people who can't calculate gas mileage.

And don't kid yourself.

Seems to me that a station wagon does almost as many things as a minivan does, and certainly everything that a typical family would need; and it does it on a sedan platform with better handling and better performance.

We got an '05 Odyssey because the third row folds flat and we have side by side 42" kennels in the back without losing the middle row. The VCM is very nice and smooth as it shuts down 3 of 6 cylinders at highway speeds. At best, I've been able to get 26mpg fully loaded which is very cool for a minivan. It's also cool to be able to have 8+ feet of depth if you take out all the seats. I've moved a number of furniture pieces that were way too long for the bed of my truck.

The only downside are the PAX run-flat tires. They're twice as expensive and last half as long. We got a set of snow tires as well and order them with the rims installed since it takes special equipment and a PAX specialist to install the tires. They're definitely in the category of "bleeding-edge" technology.

Other than that, it drives very nicely with good power and torque. They may be out of my price range next time, though, which is too bad. But I'm definitely getting another minivan.

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