It's easy to see why the Honda Odyssey is called a benchmark by reviewers. When it comes to road manners, it's the most refined of its kind. When it grew in 2011, it also got tighter.
The 3.5-liter V6 is smooth, quiet, and efficient. It has active cylinder management that runs on 3, 4 or 6 cylinders as needed, improving fuel efficiency.
Honda Odyssey is rated 18/27 City/Highway miles per gallon by the Environmental Protection Agency. That's better than the Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest, each EPA-rated at 19/24 mpg. The Sienna V6 has a bit more power than the Odyssey does, but it isn't as refined or as economical when cruising on the highway.
The Odyssey is about equal in power to the 4.0-liter V6 in the Chrysler Town & Country, but gets better fuel mileage, even with its 5-speed automatic versus the Chrysler's 6-speed automatic. Town & Country gets an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg. With an EPA-rated 21/28 mpg, the Mazda 5 is more fuel-efficient than the big Odyssey around town, but the Odyssey nearly matches the much smaller Mazda 5 on the Highway fuel economy rating. Kia Sedona is rated 18/25 mpg. Regular gasoline is recommended for the Honda Odyssey and the other minivans.
Odyssey Touring models come with an excellent 6-speed automatic transmission. The Touring models weighs an additional 200 pounds, but thanks to its 6-speed it accelerates better and climbs hills more smoothly than do the LX and EX models. The 6-speed transmission and its aero kit helps raise the EPA fuel economy rating of the Honda Odyssey Touring to 19/28 mpg City/Highway. The transmission lacks a sport mode, but we don't think it's needed.
Vans generally handle better than people expect. They are often more stable than SUVs because they're lower. Among minivans, the Odyssey is one of the best handling. The steering is light on center, and weights up nicely with cornering effort. It's direct without being quick, gives good feel for the front tires, and pulls a U-turn in 36.7 feet, way tight for a long-wheelbase minivan. The brakes also have good feel, unfazed by our downhill charges. No van is tuned for sports-car handling, but that didn't stop us from trying sports car roads and parking-lot autocross courses. That tells you something about how it would behave in an emergency maneuver.
We found the Odyssey corners like a heavy, front-wheel-drive sedan: stable, predictable and secure. The electronic stability control is not invasive; on the one occasion we managed to reach the limit it gently and quietly put things back on the ideal course.
The Odyssey rides like a big sedan, too, admirably soaking up bumps. The Toyota Sienna is stiffer but compared to the Odyssey feels rubbery, leaving the driver slightly less connected and passengers rolling more. Among the minivans, the Honda is the driver's car.
The Odyssey doesn't offer all-wheel drive, so it's not a van for places with lots of snow. The Toyota Sienna is available with AWD.