2014 Honda Odyssey is more sedan than minivan

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pend enough on a Honda Odyssey and you’ll leave minivan territory behind and enter limousine world. Honda photo
pend enough on a Honda Odyssey and you’ll leave minivan territory behind and enter limousine world. Honda photo

No one ever walks into a pub, drops the key to a Honda Odyssey on the bar, and somehow works his minivan’s dual power sliding doors into the conversation.

But maybe we should; I’m told that women appreciate a male with domestic sensibilities, a man who chooses his ride for its easy passenger access, its comforts and capacities, its safety systems and its overall sociability. Who knew?

All minivans offer these features to some degree, but Honda seems to be nudging the Odyssey’s family-friendliness to new heights. Yet, with a low silhouette and a distinctive kink in its chrome beltline, from some angles the sleek Odyssey almost transcends minivan-ness. It’s no stretch to say that it is more handsome than some Honda sedans.

The Odyssey also packs features that many sedans would envy, along with power points and storage galore. The console between the front seats, for example, has a dished top tray, a compartment large enough to swallow a purse, four cupholders and a flip-up frame for a trash bag, and it’s removable. There are three more cupholders within reach of the front seats alone, plus an optional Cool Box to chill drinks.

The cabin can be arranged to accommodate the middle-school debate team or your department from the office. The outside seats in the second row—with armrests and a fold-down console inbetween—adjust for rake and reach and can even be slid three inches farther apart, for business-class comfort for two. Or left in place for seating for three.

There’s room for three more people in the third row. Honda calls this its Magic Seat; with the tug of a strap, one, two or all three chairs tip backward and disappear into the deep cargo well. Then we’re looking at a cavernous hold, one that can grow from C-130 to C-17 size by next removing the second row entirely. Pulling one lever on each seat unlatches them from the floor, and then two people can easily hoist them sideways through the large, squared-off doors. If you don’t need to yank them out, these seats also fold forward, although not flat.

Nearly all the fabrics and plastics look posh, and everything is neatly screwed together. (Odysseys are made in Lincoln, Alabama.) The controls are logically placed, easy to dope out, and feel like quality. Everything is well-insulated; the carpet seems extra-thick; and headroom is generous all the way aft.

On fancier models, the three rear doors operate electrically, via pushbuttons inside and on the key fob. Both rows of back seats have their own reading lights and dual digital climate controls, as well as power outlets, headphone jacks and window shades. And now this:

Along with a huge, split-screen high-def multimedia DVD player and wireless headsets, the 2014 Touring Elite-model Odyssey has a built-in vacuum cleaner. Behind a panel in the left-side wall of the wayback, you’ll find two nozzles and six feet of extendible slinky hose that feed a removable waste bin through a replaceable filter. HondaVAC will suck up dog hair, Cheerios or dried mud—and just think how this household extra will go over at the pub.

Honda hasn’t forgotten the Odyssey driver, either. The V-6 engine pushes almost 250 horsepower to the front wheels through a seamless 6-speed automatic transmission and can do close to 30 miles per gallon on the highway. (We averaged 22 MPG overall.) The driver’s seat power-adjusts eight ways and memorizes two settings. Buttons for the cruise control, audio, phone and trip computer are in the steering wheel. The satnav, Bluetooth and other telematics are loaded into a 60-gigabyte computer that can be talked to. The rear camera offers wide-angle, normal and spot views, as well as guidelines. There are side, forward-collision, lane-departure and backup sensors. And with its well-calibrated all-independent suspension, most of the time the Odyssey just drives like an oversize Honda sedan—effortlessly and competently.

Odyssey prices begin at about $29,000 for the LX value version and mount up quickly to this Touring Elite’s $45,000. At every level, however, Honda’s engineering chops, found in motorcycles and lawn mowers, outboard motors and jet airplanes, shine through. Who knows, the men at the bar might be just as impressed as the ladies.