There's no disputing the fact that the Honda Odyssey is a great minivan. Having claimed the best-in-class crown from Chrysler shortly after its debut in 1999, the Odyssey reigned supreme for five years thanks to its cavernous interior filled with useful features, pleasant driving characteristics, excellent crash test scores and generally favorable reliability record.
And just when you thought the best couldn't get any better, the Odyssey hit the market for 2005 offering numerous mechanical improvements as well as increased feature content. The newest Honda Odyssey is quieter, more spacious and offers even more innovative features than before, including increased seating configurations and unique storage solutions.
The Honda Odyssey offers two V6 options. Both are 3.5-liter VTEC engines rated at 244 horsepower, and are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The difference is that one is classified as an i-VTEC featuring Variable Cylinder Management (VCM, standard equipment on top trim levels). VCM increases fuel-efficiency by "shutting off" three of the engine's six cylinders during cruising and deceleration, and switches back to using all six cylinders when added power is needed. The VCM system, noted to increase fuel economy by as much as 12 percent over the regular VTEC V6, is virtually undetectable. As an added bonus, Honda Odyssey models with VCM are extra quiet because they're equipped with Active Noise Control (ANC) technology that works with the audio system to effectively cancel inherent noise produced by the VCM system (along with some road noise).
The Honda Odyssey continues its tradition of a carlike ride and handling, further enhanced by a stout structure and well-tuned suspension dynamics. If you're looking for a minivan that's enjoyable to drive in addition to being practical, Honda's van remains the leader in this area. Inside, the Odyssey offers optional eight-passenger seating with a stowable middle seat in the second row. This optional seat can be converted into a center tray table or removed and stored in the vehicle's in-floor storage area, which can be made even more functional with a rotating "lazy Susan" feature hidden inside. Additionally, the second-row captain's chairs can be pushed together to form a two-passenger bench. In the far back, the third-row seat remains a fold-flat 60/40-split bench.
If it sounds like the 2006 Honda Odyssey is a great place to spend time, you're right. With vehicles designed to be everything from no-frills transportation to luxurious, fast sport coupes, the most important thing about minivan design is utility. It's not simply about style or luxury or power. Minivans are about the people inside them -- their comfort, their safety and the way they live. And in the case of the Odyssey, Honda approaches the challenge with a special thoughtfulness that has always set it apart from the competition. Although competiting minivans are also worthy candidates to consider, the Odyssey is our top recommendation to buyers in this class