2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Highlights
3.5-liter V6 (280 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
10-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
19 city / 28 highway / 21 combined (EPA, MPG rating)
12.2 city, 8.5 highway, 10.6 combined. (NRCan rating, L / 100 km)
Base price: $ 47,820 (United States) / $ 54,805 (Canada)
As tested: $ 49,335 (United States) / $ 57,106 (Canada)
Prices include $ 1,120 US destination charges and $ 1,970 freight, preparation and air conditioning in Canada and, due to cross-border equipment differences, cannot be directly compared.
Life circumstances force some people to buy minivans. Others do it for utility – to hell with freshness.
Whatever the reason for buying a minivan, he probably expects the driving experience to be far from fun. But that’s not always the case – Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid (review coming soon) isn’t a chore to drive. And Honda’s Odyssey is more engaging than the Chrysler.
Compared to the class, of course. We will get to that.
The Odyssey doesn’t do much of a journey into the unknown for 2021 – the changes boil down to slightly refreshed styling and the addition of Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of driver assistance features, as standard . Honda Sensing itself acquires new features.
The finishing step remains the same – LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite. Pricing starts at $ 31,790 for the LX, while an Elite like my tester starts at $ 47,820. Great prices, maybe, but then again, the average transaction price is now over $ 41,000. Considering the market went crazy between the time of my loan and the time of writing this, that $ 47,000 seems almost reasonable.
Exterior changes include LED headlights which Honda says are more powerful than before, a new front bumper fairing, new fog light housings, and a new “dimming” grille with a chrome strip across the top. A chrome strip also completes the gloss black rear trim. 19-inch wheels are offered for the first time on the Touring trim.
Interior changes are mostly minor, related to trim and materials, with perhaps the biggest news being the addition of a third-row USB charging point on the Elite and Touring trims, as well as hooks for grocery bags in the cargo area; and changes to the center console that Honda says makes it easier to manage charging cords.
There is also a simplified switching system to manage the anti-collision braking system, the lane departure warning system and the blind spot monitoring system.
A 3.5-liter V6 developing 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque stays under the hood, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Let’s be clear from the get-go: No minivan will really compare to, say, a sports sedan, but the Odyssey is as engaging as those people moving. I would probably stop before saying it’s fun to drive, but it’s as fun to drive as a minivan can be. It’s better than the mundane competence of the Chrysler.
It provides adequate thrust for city driving and the ride is acceptable, although it may be too firm for some tastes. This is the Accord owner’s van who reluctantly went #vanlife in search of more space / utility.
Safety counts in just about every segment, but it’s often a priority for parents, and minivans are obviously considered family vehicles. To this end, not only Honda Sensing (adaptive cruise control with low-speed tracking, collision mitigation braking with pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, hold assist lane and departure attenuation warning) standard, but the same is true for a recall at the rear. There is also a system that uses cameras to track what is happening in the back seats.
Safety isn’t the parent’s only concern on the go – everyone loves to be pampered. And if you go for the Elite, you will be. You’ll get an in-car vacuum, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, cordless phone charger, heated and cooled front seats, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
This is in addition to standard features on lower trims, such as LED headlights, third row USB, Bluetooth, keyless start, LED fog lights, sliding second row seats, radio satellite, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, three-zone climate control, heated front seats, double power sliding doors and navigation.
I’m actually not sure if I’m going for the Elite, as the lower trims are pretty well equipped. There again, there is an on-board vacuum cleaner.
Fuel economy is listed at 19 mpg city / 28 mpg highway / 22 mpg combined, regardless of trim.
Overall, Honda has put together a complete package that combines minivan practicality with driver engagement. The Odyssey doesn’t look as high-end as its rival Chrysler – or as the price suggests – but like Stellantis’ minivan, it does the utility very well. And it’s about as fun to drive as it gets, to boot.
The Odyssey and the Chrysler both make a strong case for being the best in the MPV class – hence the comparisons in this review – but the Honda is clearly the driver’s choice.
[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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