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First Drive: Honda Odyssey

The driver's minivan still offers a sublime driving experience.

by on Feb.17, 2011

The 2011 Honda Odyssey features an interesting "lightning bolt" design that improves the view for third-row passengers

The minivan wars are on. All of the major players are either making major updates to their boxes or introducing completely new models. The timing could be a good right to push minivans. With the possibility of rising fuel prices on the horizon, many car buyers will be looking for better efficiency. But they still need the space to carry a junior hockey team, not to mention their gear. They still need to be able to fold down the seats and help a teenager move up to college. They still need to bring home a new couch.

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Love them or hate them, minivans offer the most space for the least money with the best fuel mileage and handling of any vehicle type on the planet. Period. (more…)

First Drive: 2011 Toyota Sienna SE

All minivan and proud of it.

by on Dec.10, 2010

The 2011 Toyota Sienna SE has a sporty vibe. Will it encourage would-be crossover shoppers to consider a minivan?

Maybe they’ve gone too far, this time. In the never-ending attempt to make the minivan cool, Toyota has taken the Sienna over the top.

At least it doesn’t look like a minivan trying to look like an SUV. Nope, this box is minivan through and through. But hung on that box are all sorts of air dams, spoilers, creases and shapes. The result is a minivan that looks like it had a makeover by one of those TV vehicle makeover shows.

To be fair, this is the SE  – sport edition in Toyota nomenclature. It’s meant to be sportier and edgier. For those buyers who can’t see themselves driving this hipstermobile, Toyota offers three other trim levels – base, LE and XLE – which have less razz matazz.

At least Toyota is making an effort. Minivan sales have lagged for years while buyers opt for sexier SUVs and crossovers. But for most buyers, minivans would actually make the most sense because they offer more space, cost less, handle better and some get better fuel mileage.

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SE or not, Toyota has given the new Sienna added visual interest with arcing creases, a shapely grille and bigger wheels.

For the core group of minivan buyers, exterior styling hardly matters. They care about what’s inside. On that front, Toyota made some interesting choices, some good, some not so good. More in a moment.

First Look: 2011 Honda Odyssey

Improved minivan functionality meets the latest styling quirks.

by on Feb.10, 2010

The never ending quest to call a box something other than it really is, and needs to be.

Honda unveiled a new “concept” vehicle at the Chicago Auto Show today that shows what the fourth generation Honda Odyssey will look like when it reaches the market next fall as a 2011 model.

The “concept”  has gone through a top to bottom redesign that attempts to move the appearance of the vehicle away from the boxy configuration that has defined the segment since the first Chrysler minivan rolled out back in the last century. And this is not the first time, nor is Honda the first company to claim its box isn’t.

“The common feedback that we received from our customers on the current generation Odyssey was that while tops in its class with great functionality, drivability and performance it was still bit too boxy and to generic in appearance – especially in its profile view,” said Catalin Matei, the head designer on the project.

“With the styling embodied in the concept, we are presenting a dramatically more distinctive and dynamic Odyssey, separating it from other minivans and giving it more personality,” he claimed.

“The new Odyssey is marked by an aerodynamic, cab-forward body with a tapered rear cabin, directional character lines and an athletic stance,” Matei said.

This translates we think, once you get past the styling babble, to a slightly lower height, wider body, better wheel-to-body proportions, pronounced shoulders and wheel flares.

Three child seats- lord help the parents - can now fit in the second row.

Matai also said the next Odyssey will include a second row that can now handle three child seats.

The fuel economy also has been improved so the new Odyssey with a V6 will get 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway. The current numbers for a V6-equipped Odyssey are 17 city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Currently in its third generation, the Odyssey has been America’s best-selling minivan since 2008 with calendar-year sales of 135,493 and 100,133 for 2009.

Odyssey is produced  in Alabama by Honda Manufacturing of Alabama (using domestic and globally sourced parts).

Both the concept and production vehicles, along with all development of the 2011 Odyssey, are being performed at Honda R&D Americas in Torrance, California, and Raymond, Ohio.