Dads will tell you the best vehicle to transport the wife and kids is a big, burly SUV, but Moms know better. Despite its less-than-macho image, the minivan is still the best family transport ever invented. Large sliding side doors make for quick and easy entries and exits, while a low and level cargo floor means minimal muscle is required when loading. If a minivan is in your future, there are a number of makes to choose from, and at the top of that list is the 2009 Honda Odyssey. Renowned for its spacious interior, powerful engine, comfortable ride and exceptional safety rating, the Odyssey leaves little room for criticism. About the only deterrent to purchasing an Odyssey may be its high price and limited ability to pick and choose stand alone options.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you'd rather be driving a nice sedan but you have a family, a dog and a load of luggage to haul on vacation, the 2009 Honda Odyssey makes for a livable compromise. With all its nifty features, some of your friends may even think it's cool.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you don't like the traditional minivan look, about the only choices left are Nissan's spacey Quest or the sporty Dodge Grand Caravan. Bargain shoppers put off by the high price tag should look toward newer competitors, such as the Hyundai Entourage.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
The EX-L trim receives the Touring's power rear lift gate, while the optional satellite navigation system gains Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.
One of the goals of every minivan is to deliver a car-like driving experience. If the car in that comparison is a large sedan, the 2009 Honda Odyssey succeeds on some levels and comes close on others. With plenty of horsepower and usable torque, the Odyssey moves quickly from a stop and easily merges with traffic. Once moving, the ride is smooth and well-controlled, even if rougher roads don't go unnoticed. While few will call its performance inspiring, the Odyssey brakes and corners with a capability some may find surprisingly good for a vehicle of its proportions, and the strong engine can get you quickly back to cruising speed.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
A carpeted panel in the floor in front of the second-row seat lifts to reveal a compartment big enough to swallow the available eighth seat. When you need the room for something else, an optional Lazy Susan makes it easy to access items that might otherwise require a reach.
Comprehensive Safety Features
From Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control, Electronic Brake Distribution, Anti-Lock Brakes and Tire Pressuring Monitoring (to help keep you out of trouble), to the Advanced Compatibility Engineering Body Structure, Active Front Head Restraints and a full complement of airbags (to help protect you if trouble should occur), the Odyssey offers its occupants an extremely comprehensive set of safety features.
There are plenty of innovations worth noting inside the Odyssey, as well as a couple of surprises. Honda engineers have made the third-row seat more accessible, thanks to sliding second-row seats. The third-row seat is also split on a 60/40 bias and very easy to fold flat into the floor. The second row features power windows plus optional twin captain's chairs and a clever in-seat storage compartment (dubbed the PlusOne Seat by Honda). There are three sets of LATCH child safety seat anchors: Two on the outboard second-row seats and one in the middle third-row seat.
Rather than pushing beyond the expected limits of minivan styling, the 2009 Odyssey emerges as a refined version of its former self. Honda's designers have conceived an Odyssey that is both sleeker and more sophisticated than previous generations. The Odyssey's wide stance gives it a more secure visual stance. Appealing features such as available power sliding side doors and a power rear liftgate bolster the Odyssey's desirability.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
Every 2009 Honda Odyssey (LX, EX, EX with Leather and Touring) includes the disappearing third-row seat, in-floor storage, CD player, dual-zone air conditioning (tri-zone in EX-L and Touring), power windows, keyless entry and cruise control. Standard safety features include frontal and side airbags up front, three-row side-curtain airbags and Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control. The standard 3.5-liter VTEC engine gives way to a similar, higher-mileage i-VTEC engine with variable cylinder management (VCM) in the top two models.
Features available only on select trim levels or as stand-alone options include the stowable eighth seat, leather seating, power sliding doors, four-way power passenger seat, six-disc in-dash CD player, 360-watt stereo, Bluetooth hands-free communication link, memory-linked tilt-down side view mirrors (standard on Touring), more fuel-efficient i-VTEC engine with VCM, power moonroof, nine-inch rear DVD entertainment center, plus a navigation system with voice recognition and an integrated rearview camera (models without navigation display an image in the rearview mirror). Available only on the premium Touring model are a memory driver's seat, power-adjustable pedals, front and rear parking sensors and a run-flat tire system.
UNDER THE HOOD
Until someone drops a V8 into a minivan, the Odyssey's 244-horsepower V6 is the most powerful engine in the class. The Odyssey's 3.5-liter V6 is a solid piece of work. Strong, quiet and fairly fuel-efficient, its performance attributes are only enhanced by its bulletproof service and repair history. On EX-L and Touring trims Honda adds its Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) which, depending upon load, deactivates some cylinders for improved fuel consumption.
244 horsepower @ 5750 rpm (LX and EX)
244 horsepower @ 5700 rpm (EX-L and Touring)
240 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm (LX and EX)
245 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4900 rpm (EX-L and Touring)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 (LX and EX), 17/25 (EX-L and Touring)
The least expensive 2009 Honda Odyssey is the LX, which has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $27,000. The EX with leather, DVD and navigation runs close to $38,000, while a Touring with navigation tops out just over the $40,000 mark. A look at the New Car Blue Book Value shows the typical transaction price paid by consumers in your area, so be sure to check it out before you buy. The Odyssey's pricing may seem high, but keep in mind that over a five-year period it holds its value better than the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage, Nissan Quest and even the Toyota Sienna.