Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Honda Odyssey Touring

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

Remember the opening of Reservoir Dogs? After the initial scene in the diner, that group of totally cool, totally badass dudes walks in slow motion down the sidewalk and viewers immediately know, these guys are the guys you don’t want to mess with.

There may be more luxurious vehicles that show the world how big a lease payment you can swing, but no vehicle masters space efficiency the way a contemporary minivan like this Odyssey can do.

That was us; my buddies and I. It was a getaway weekend for the boys in Montreal, and we were just dripping with swagger.

Except, not really. None of us were wearing a black suit with a skinny black tie and cool shades. We didn’t call each other Mr. Blonde and Mr. Pink and Mr. Blue. And as far as I know, nobody committed any heinous crimes while we were away.

Plus we arrived in a minivan instead of a couple of early ‘80s Cadillacs.

Okay, truth be told, we were just a bunch of regular guys. Some of us missing more hair than we’d like to admit. Some of us haven’t seen a gym in a while and one of us still lives with his mom. Yeah, a real bunch of hard-nosed tough guys, for sure.

But despite the minivan’s current image of being quite possibly the most uncool vehicle for sale today, there was not a single of peep of disdain about my booking Honda’s mommy bus for our adventure to Canada’s most fashionable (and likely most car-crazy) city. This even though I could have just as easily arranged for a luxo-barge SUV with a swanky badge on it.

There may be bigger vehicles. There may be more powerful vehicles. There may be more luxurious vehicles that show the world how big a lease payment you can swing, but no vehicle masters space efficiency the way a contemporary minivan like this Odyssey can do. And that, kind reader is why nobody complained about travelling 1,500 km round trip in a beast guaranteed not to make the ladies swoon.

Nor should my friends complain. Not only did they get a chauffeured ride, door-to-door, but in considerable comfort too, regardless of where any of the six of us were settled inside the Honda’s cavernous cabin. A cabin that offers more passenger volume than the competitors from Toyota, Kia and Chrysler, I should add.

Not a Family Truckster: Road Trip: 2015 Honda Odyssey to the Indy 500

Naturally, front-seat passengers enjoy all the amenities of most modern cars: comfortable bucket seats (heated of course) and independent climate controls. So too do the second-row passengers. Heck, even the third row (that splits and does a disappearing trick into the floor when not needed) reclines and was the preferred perch for those of us needing our mid-afternoon beauty sleep while en route to the next province over.

Had the Reservoir Dogs needed to cart around bodies (minus an ear or two), they’d have considerably more space in the back of the Odyssey than in even those gargantuan trunks of the old Cadillacs (with 4,205 L of total cargo volume, the Odyssey is just a few litres short of the Toyota Sienna). Prying eyes would be kept at bay thanks to the deeply tinted windows, with privacy reinforced by the retractable sunscreens on the rear passenger windows too. What’s more, cleaning up messes that could otherwise be held against them a court of law is a snap thanks to the built-in Shop-Vac at the rear of the cargo area.

Back up front again; the driver and front seat passenger have control over the cool box – a mini refrigeration unit that kept our water bottles, juice boxes and ear medicine from getting warm or spoiled.

The view out front is expansive to say the least. The seating position is commanding and the windshield is huge, providing outstanding sightlines for 180 degrees. The sizable exterior mirrors aid tremendously in the view behind, but blind-spot checks and even reversing isn’t too bad as long as the third row’s headrests are tucked down. With them up, the back-up camera is a welcome assistant for careful parking.

Odyssey drivers are treated to a set of primary analogue gauges with white-on-black numerals that are large, clear and easy to read. In fact, the ergonomics of Honda’s van are quite good overall with the exception of the convoluted two-screen-plus-a-rotary-knob infotainment set up. This is essentially the same system found in the Accord and the Acura MDX also tested recently and one that could do with an update to a more streamlined single-screen affair.

Anyone thinking a minivan should accelerate, brake or handle like a premium sedan will be disappointed in driving the Odyssey. The rest of us with a modicum of common sense will appreciate the reasonably precise steering feel the Honda provides despite the roly-poly nature of such a tall vehicle. The smooth and refined 3.5L V6 is decently quiet with just a reasonable amount of mechanical snarl when revved up. Even with six adults and each person’s weekend luggage, the Odyssey never felt strained.

The six-speed automatic shifts cleanly and with a smoothness expected of a $50,000 luxury vehicle, and that is sort of what this minivan is. No sequential “sport shifting” or steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are offered and none are missed. Gearing is such that the V6 turns at a decently sedate rhythm on the highway, helping the Odyssey achieve best-in-class fuel efficiency (12.3 L/100 km city, 8.5 L/100 km highway). Wearing snow tires and driven down highway 401 at speeds that may have been a bit higher than the posted limit (See? I told you we were rebels!), our Odyssey delivered an average of 10.3L over 1,475 km. Regular fuel is all that’s required here.

While the Odyssey’s ride is sufficiently supple – better than most SUVs out there – the decent noise suppression (both wind and road noise) is also notable, enabling the very good sound system to fill the big cabin with music. Or in our case, with the sounds of seasons 3 and 4 of The Simpsons – discs purchased just before departing Montreal to be played on the very wide screen that flips down from the Odyssey’s ceiling in the second row. For those keeping tabs on the technology, Toyota and Chrysler both offer vans that will play HD Blu-Ray discs, unlike this standard-def Honda.

Our oh-so-cool Odyssey tracked straight and true down the highway, devouring kilometers by the hundreds without a squeak, rattle or peep of discontent – a loyal accomplice in the task of passenger conveyance and comfort. With so many great seating configurations and space for people to stretch out, this is about as good as it’s ever going to get for sane long distance travel, even if you’re transporting a group of attention deficit children.

Upon our return to Toronto, when asked for honest feedback on the Odyssey, not a single gripe or complaint was voiced. Everyone remarked how perfect the van was for our excursion and appreciated the flexibility of the seating, the impressive cargo carrying capability and all-round comfort the Honda afforded us. It’s about as good looking as vans come, too. Either we’re getting old and embarrassingly practical, or the minivan is on its way to becoming truly cool again. I expect the latter to be true.

There is no vehicle more versatile than the modern minivan. The transition from sublime multi-passenger hauler to massive cargo container occurs with just a few adjustments to the interior seating. Even if you’re not Reservoir Dogs cool like my friends and me, Honda’s Odyssey is still such a great choice to solve so many of life’s transportation challenges. Sure, we might not see a minivan in the next gangster movie as the badass transport of choice, but cool people like you and me can make a difference. Just don’t get your retainer stuck in the Shop-Vac.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Chrysler Town & Country
Kia Sedona
Toyota Sienna

Model Tested 2015 Honda Odyssey Touring
Base Price $48,410
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,695
Price as Tested $50,205
Optional Equipment