2014 Honda Odyssey Touring. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
Although a shrinking segment, minivans are still a key part of the automotive landscape, and the Honda Odyssey remains one of the best, staying at the front of the pack through constant improvement and helpful, family-friendly features.
For 2014, the headline grabber is the built-in vacuum included with the top Touring trim, but other notable additions are Honda’s clever LaneWatch passenger-side blind-spot camera and the upgrade to six-speed automatic transmission across the board to go along with refreshed styling and a host of other features. This trim arrives at a cost of $45,050 (down more than $2K compared to 2013 Odyssey Touring models) and all trims are charged $1,695 and $100 A/C Tax, though the Odyssey experience can start for as little as $29,990 with the LX trim.
The vacuum is a novelty, but it’s a shame it is available only on the top Touring trim as it would be a popular option if priced competitively with household vacuums. Then again, if pricing of built-in nav systems compared to handheld devices is a rule of thumb to go by, this vacuum would likely cost as much as a sunroof or that nav option, and I have a hard time seeing many families opting to buy a built-in van vacuum for over a grand. If you do fork over almost $50K for a rolling living room, you will have a cinch keeping it clean of dust and suckable detritus. Not much you can do about juicier and softer stains with this vacuum – it’s not a steam cleaner after all.
Anyhow, the hose is reasonably long and just reaches the front row, though the front footwells require constant pulling effort or it slinkys back to the rear compartment. Suction is also only moderate, and the two attachments seem a bit sad compared to any but the most basic Dustbuster attachments. It’s also a bag vac, so you won’t have to mess with emptying canisters, but it’s a small bag that might fill up quickly if you tend to experience large messes.
Conveniently, there’s a handy transportation unit attached to this living room with a built-in vac, and it is powered by Honda’s venerable 3.5L V6 making 248 hp at 5,700 rpm and 250 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. It’s more than sufficient for this 2,090 kg porker, picking up the heft and confidently, reassuringly getting it up to speed even with a full load of passengers, the six-speed transmission swapping cogs calmly and efficiently. It’s a smooth experience if you’re driving within the limits of the vehicle. On the flip side, the V6 can shut down half its cylinders in order to sip even more efficiently when cruising lightly on the highway, a task at which the big Honda excels.
The new transmission and cylinder deactivation are enough to earn the Odyssey best-in-class efficiency, the EPA setting expectations around 10.7 L/100 km (Sienna and Quest are next best at 11.2), and indeed the trip computer showed that in its last 5,000+ km, the Odyssey was returning 10.5 L/100 km. With some unnecessary idling and A/C running full blast on photo day (it runs so quietly I forgot it was even on) in addition to my usual rush-hour commuting and weekend highway runs, my average was 11.3, easily beating more cramped three-row SUVs, even with the disadvantage of that slip-up. Plus, us big city folk have little need for AWD or ground clearance, even if we do make an annual pilgrimage to the cottage or campgrounds.
It’s a large heavy vehicle, but they’ve balanced that with a refined suspension that carries its weight competently, excelling at absorbing bumps and remaining stable in turns. However, even a week behind the wheel wasn’t enough to adjust to how large minivans have become – every turn and maneuver in tight quarters felt like a battleship preparing to position its cannons, or the weight of the back end pulling like it was on a different orbit.
2014 Honda Odyssey Touring HondaVAC. Click image to enlarge
It is the longest of the minivans, but only by a couple millimetres over the Grand Caravan and by less than a 100 mm over the Sienna. It’s also the widest of the bunch, yielding cargo capacity of over 1,000 L in the trunk (trailing only the Sienna) and 4,205 L of total potential volume, but for that I imagine you’d have to remove the second-row seats. This does not require a wrench or tools, just massive brute strength, and even the skinny little middle seat was heavy enough to make it a challenge to extract from between the other two seats.