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November 19, 2010

A Preview of the 2011 Honda Odyssey

All new 2011 Honda Odyssey exteriorWith our second son on the way soon, I've been thinking about what our next vehicle should be. While we can fit two kids into my Accord, it's starting to show its age. And it really is too small for my six-foot-two husband -- we've just been making it work the best we can. I have liked all of the Hondas I've owned, so it was natural for me to turn my attention to their minivan. And it is the perfect year to do that -- Honda has redesigned the Odyssey for 2011. I was fortunate to attend a preview event in San Diego where I got some hands-on experience with the vehicle.

The first night of the 2011 Honda Odyssey preview event we got to see all of the different features of the vehicle. The interior design, exterior and all of the technological goodies. And while we were exploring the vehicles top-to-bottom, we got to chat with the experts -- the people who re-designed and worked on the new Odyssey. They showed us all of the little details that went into this new design.

Honda Odyssey widescreen DVDSince I'm a huge tech geek, I had to go check out the technology in the new Odyssey. You want bells and whistles? It has them. Do you have two kids who want to watch two different things on those long road trips? The split-screen DVD player will let you play two movies. Or one DVD and a video game. Or just one widescreen movie. In the third row, it has chargers for your mp3 players. An HDMI hookup for your video camera or gaming system. I loved that the back controls for the DVD player pop out into a remote control, but there are no volume controls so your kids can't blast you out of the vehicle.

For the interior, I was concerned about head room. As I said, my husband is tall and needs plenty of clearance. Fortunately, one of the engineers was the perfect height to test my theory. He sat in the driver's seat for me and had plenty of head room. That was really good to see. There were quite a few other things that impressed me about the Odyssey interior as well. 2011 Honda Odyssey interiorHave a large family? There are LATCH anchors for five car seats (and a 6th tether that you can use with a seat belt). The second row seats move outward to make more room for multiple car seats. And the middle seat in that row comes forward 5.5 inches so you can reach a little one much easier. The windows in the third row are low enough that smaller passengers can see out. The second row (and third on the Touring edition) has built-in retractable shades.

And yes, the trash bag ring is awesome. Oh, you missed that little detail? The Odyssey has a ring that folds down from the front center console and anchors a regular plastic bag from the grocery store -- for easy trash storage and removal. Yes, it's the little things that make it easier for busy families.

There was one thing I had trouble with: getting out of the back seat. It's not easy for an adult, especially a pregnant woman. Of course, you can remove the seat, which helps. But it's still a pain to have to do that. Kids shouldn't have much of a problem until they hit their teens. They're more flexible anyway, right?

Thank you engineers, for putting a nice big section in the center console. It's big enough to fit my (huge) purse and giant water bottle. With room to spare. So when I have a passenger in the front seat, I can store my bag and still have it handy. And you don't have to remove your drinks from the holder in order to access it.

2011 Honda Odyssey navigation systemMore little details that tell me the engineers put a lot of thought into this redesign? They included little places to put your phone and mp3 player. We all like to have those out and handy, especially if you have a GPS navigation system on your phone. Not that you'll need that in the Odyssey, because there's a great system built right in. I love the fact that they give you a lifetime subscription to traffic updates. That is so helpful when you're traveling, don't know the area, and need to re-route because of an accident or construction (in select metropolitan areas).

What about gas mileage? We drive my Accord a lot simply because it gets much better gas mileage than our Ram pickup. Even though it's somewhat uncomfortable for my husband (and becoming that way for me the further along I get in my pregnancy - low vehicles are not a pregnant girl's friend). But when we do road trips, we always take the Ram for comfort. With 28 mpg highway, the Odyssey would save us almost $300 in gas for our round trip. That is huge when you have a newborn. Or kids in general. Or just a limited travel budget.

I've had people ask about the power in the Odyssey. On the highway, I drove as I normally would. It had plenty of power for hills, acceleration and traffic. I never felt like it was lagging. When I needed to speed up, it just did. After we turned a corner, I punched it to see how quickly we'd get up to speed in the event we needed to pass someone. There was no problem at all. The cylinder management kicked on and off seamlessly. I never felt it at all. And power wasn't an issue on the closed course, either. The big test for me would be our annual trip where we go through the mountains. How does it handle when loaded down with our baby gear, suitcases, etc.? While I didn't get to load it down and test that, I think it would be fine.

And speaking of power, take a look at this video of our test drive on a closed course. Admittedly, some of this footage is of professional drivers, but we all got the chance to drive the same course as fast as we felt comfortable. Let me tell you - this is not your mother's minivan. The handling was fantastic. It drives so much better than my Accord (and I love my little Accord). I hope I never have the occasion to NEED to drive that way again, but it erased my doubts that a minivan could be fun to drive and handle just about anything our family can dish out.

Many of the engineers who worked on the redesign have worked on the Odyssey team for years, have families and own an Odyssey themselves. Who better to help reinvent a minivan than the people who own one?

Even so, I had at least one suggestion for Honda. Make all of the windows with automatic reverse. Even if they're not automatic - which the back windows are not - for child and pet safety, they should auto-reverse just like the front windows do. That's a safety feature that too many vehicles lack (whether as an option or - preferably - standard equipment).

There are so many more details and features that I didn't get a chance to cover. But if you'd like to see more reviews, check out the other bloggers who were also at the event:

Bloggy Moms

Classy Mommy

Design Mom

Eighty MPH Mom

Hula Hooping Mom

Just a mom's take on things

Mommies With Style

Mommy Insider

Mom's Favorite Stuff

Rockin Mama

Savvy Housewife

Traveling Mom

I'm sure you're wondering about the price of the new 2011 Odyssey. The Odyssey LX starts at $27,800.* The Touring version that we tested starts at $40,755.*

*MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, destination charge and options.

By Becky Scott, contributor

Disclosure: GIVEN A SAMPLE BY BRAND and its Staff and Editors may have a material connection because we have been given an opportunity by the manufacturer to thoroughly evaluate a vehicle through participation in a sponsored media event. We are encouraged to honestly review said product or vehicle and are expressing our own educated and impartial opinions.

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