If your life includes hauling hay while towing a four-horse trailer, you're going to need a pickup truck. No other vehicle will do the job properly. So if carpooling, shopping, sports practice for the kids and the general toting of a family and its stuff sound familiar, why would any vehicle other than a minivan come to mind? Some shun minivans, but the reality is that they're usually the best choice for families. And the 2013 Honda Odyssey is one of the best choices among minivans.
Redesigned in 2011, the current Odyssey is fuel-efficient, quiet, easy to drive (even fun to drive relative to competitors, some might say) and bigger than its predecessor, which translates into more legroom for second- and third-row passengers. There's seating for up to eight passengers, versatile second-row seats that can be configured to accommodate up to three child seats or an aisle down the center or side, and an easy-to-stow third-row seat.
It is true that the 2013 Honda Odyssey isn't offered with certain gee-whiz features, namely all-wheel drive, keyless ignition/entry and radar-based adaptive cruise control, as in the 2013 Toyota Sienna. And the 2013 Nissan Quest provides a higher-quality cabin and its second row of seats folds flat for maximum cargo capacity. Price-conscious buyers even might be better served by the more affordable 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan. But for most, the Honda Odyssey is an ideal choice, offering the sort of universal competence that has made it a mainstream success.
The 2013 Honda Odyssey is offered in five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite.
The entry-level seven-passenger LX is well-equipped with 17-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat, a 60/40 split-folding third-row seat, manual two-zone air-conditioning, an 8-inch multi-information display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
Step up to the eight-passenger midrange EX and you'll get 17-inch alloy wheels, power-sliding side doors, heated outside mirrors, automatic headlights, tri-zone automatic climate control, a removable front center console, a multi-adjustable second-row seat, retractable second-row sunshades and a conversation mirror.
EX-L versions add a sunroof, a power liftgate, leather seating (front and outboard second row), heated front seats, a power front passenger seat, a chilled storage box, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and satellite radio. The EX-L's options include a choice of a voice-operated navigation system with an upgraded 8-inch display and rearview camera, or a rear-seat entertainment system. These two systems can't be ordered together on the EX-L.
Move up to the Touring model and you gain 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, front and rear parking sensors, memory settings for the driver, retractable third-row sunshades and a fold-down armrest for third-row passengers. Additionally, both the navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems are standard. The Touring Elite model adds automatic xenon headlights, a blind-spot warning system, an upgraded rear-seat entertainment system with a widescreen video monitor and a premium 12-speaker audio system.
The Odyssey provides a wide second-row seat that's roomy enough to fit three car seats side by side. The reconfigured seat's center section also slides forward 5.5 inches (except on the LX trim) to put little ones within easy reach of mom and dad. Compare this to the twin captain's chairs found in many other minivans that can seat only two. Unlike with the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Nissan Quest, you must physically remove the Odyssey's second-row seats should you require its total interior cargo capacity of 148 cubic feet.
Clever details abound, including a removable center console with a handy flip-up trash bag holder and a "cool box" beverage cooler built into the bottom of the dash's center section. Top-of-the-line Touring Elite models also get a rear-seat video entertainment system that includes a super-wide, high-definition 16-inch screen that can display two different program sources -- say, a DVD movie and a video game, for example -- at the same time.
With more than 80 buttons and dials at the driver's command in the range-topping Touring Elite, the Odyssey's dash can be a bit daunting. Fortunately, most of these controls are logically grouped for easier operation, but we found their small labels hard to decipher at a glance.
The Honda Odyssey comes with a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. The LX, EX and EX-L models send that power to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission; Touring and Touring Elite versions get a six-speed automatic. EPA estimates for the five-speed automatic-equipped versions are 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, while those fitted with the six-speed transmission post 19/28/22.
At the Edmunds test track, a five-speed Odyssey EX charged to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. However, a six-speed Touring Elite accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, fractionally slower than the Toyota Sienna, which accomplishes the same task in 7.7 seconds.
Properly equipped, the Honda Odyssey can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Even though the Honda Odyssey is out-powered by the Toyota Sienna, its acceleration is still brisk enough to deliver confident highway passing and merging. Touring models are a bit more responsive thanks to a six-speed automatic transmission that executes quick, smooth shifts. Other attributes include a suspension that delivers both a comfortable ride and relatively crisp handling, as well as steering that is the quickest and most responsive in this segment.
Whether bopping around town or cruising on the interstate, the 2013 Honda Odyssey is as quiet as a premium luxury sedan. Road and wind noise are almost completely absent, as is noise from the drivetrain. Honda's continuing use of active noise-cancelling technology contributes to the impressively peaceful cabin by electronically counteracting and thus eliminating much of the drone that passengers would otherwise hear.
The 2013 Honda Odyssey comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows. In Edmunds brake testing, the last three Odyssey minivans required less than 130 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, which is an average distance among minivans.
In government safety testing, the Odyssey scored a perfect five stars in overall, frontal and side-impact crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Odyssey a top "Good" rating in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash testing.
The 2013 Honda Odyssey expands standard content on the entry-level LX model to include a rearview camera, a multi-information display with an 8-inch screen, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and a USB input.