A car-like ride, great handling, good performance, and pleasing all-around comfort
Totally overhauled for model year 2011, the current-generation Honda Odyssey was built to deliver more functionality, space, efficiency and handiness than its predecessors, along with a more distinctive look and improved feature content. Across all available models, which include the Odyssey LX, EX, EX-RES, EX-L and the fully equipped Touring, more than 50 standard and available features were added to enhance comfort, convenience, class-leading fuel efficiency, and family-travel fun.
On the family front, this generation Odyssey also became the first minivan to earn top safety scores from both the IIHS and NHTSA under their more stringent testing guidelines.
The latest Odyssey included numerous functional updates including a new three-mode second-row seat design that expands laterally for easier third-row access, along with a simpler-to-operate, one-motion, 60/40 split third-row Magic Seat. The third-row seating provisions provided improved legroom, along with better sight lines out of the side windows for improved passenger comfort.
Feature content included Bluetooth, navigation, power sliding doors, power tailgate, premium audio, satellite radio, and even a widescreen rear-seat entertainment console with inputs for your favorite gaming console.
All Odyssey models were powered by a 3.5L VTEC V6 engine with Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system for minimized fuel consumption. Output is rated around 250 horsepower, and a five- or six-speed automatic fitted, depending on the year and model selected.
What Owners Like
In virtually all aspects of ride and handling, the Odyssey seems to have a satisfied group of owners, many of whom report a car-like ride, great handling, good performance, and pleasing all-around comfort. The spacious and convenient interior, luxury touches on up-level models, and advanced safety systems, like blind-spot monitoring, are also highly rated.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners report that the Odyssey rides a touch too low to the ground, and is easy to bottom out, by minivan standards. Numerous owners report poor audio system quality and not enough volume in the rear row of the vehicle, and some wish for a slightly quieter drive, too.
The Test Drive
A big issue first: Some owners have reported transmission-related issues, evidenced by clumsy shifting, banging sounds during gear changes, flashing transmission selector lights in the instrument cluster, or failure of the selected gear range to engage. A shuddering or vibration that presents itself at certain speeds may also be another warning sign of transmission-related issues.
The issue? Apparently, it’s software-related. Some more reading here. To address the issue, dealers have been reprogramming various computer components that control the transmission, and changing the transmission fluid of affected models. Here’s a copy of the Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) from www.odyclub.com. Note that this issue seems to affect mostly 2011 and 2012 models.
Other transmission-related issues like this one seem to point at rapidly deteriorating transmission fluid as a cause of unwanted sensations from the transmission, especially when it’s hot. The gist? Before buying any used Odyssey from the first few years of this generation, have a Honda dealer check the transmission out, whether or not any warning signs are present, for maximum peace of mind.
Here’s a bit of reading about non-functional seat heaters, which could be the result of a failed switch, which is said to be pricey to replace. Shoppers are advised to confirm proper and consistent operation of all seat heaters on their test drive. The issue, if present, will likely see the illuminated seat-heater switch turn itself off within a few seconds of being turned on. The cause, according to a TSB from Honda, is a broken piece of seat heater element, within the seat, that needs to be replaced.
While on board, be sure to inspect the carpeting in the front, outer corners of the cabin (i.e. the footwells) for signs of sogginess and mould, as well as the cargo area carpeting. Some owners have reported water leaks into the cabin, caused by things like a plugged and overflowing air conditioner drain system, which allows water to back up and seep into the carpeting. Note that cleaning the drain is relatively easy, but cleaning mould and mildew from frequently wet carpet under-padding isn’t.
Now’s also the time to confirm the climate control system, in both the front and rear seating rows, is working as expected, too.
Other complaints centre around the brakes, with numerous owners reporting much shorter than expected life to brake system components. Be sure to “feel” for a throbbing pulsation in the brake pedal during light to moderate stops in the Odyssey you’re considering, which is a sign that the rotors are warped and that the braking system is in need of attention. If in doubt, ask a mechanic to take a closer look. Here’s some reading on revised brake rotors, released by Honda around 2014, to address premature warping issues.
Check all on-board features and electronics, making double sure the motorized seat adjusters, all windows and locks, the rear-seat climate control, remote keyfob and sunroof all work as expected. Check the motorized tailgate too, if equipped. Any failure of the motorized tailgate to close and latch properly could be the result of a misaligned latch, which isn’t a big deal to fix.
You’ll also want to confirm that the motorized sliding doors, if equipped, are in proper working order. Plan to service and lubricate all motorized door components during your ownership of the Odyssey for maximum durability, and if the doors fail to open via the motorized function on a test drive, check out this DIY thread on repairing motorized sliding doors, noting that it’s for a 2003 Odyssey but that the procedure is highly similar.
Finally, here’s yet another discussion about the importance of maintaining a healthy battery charge on a newer vehicle. In this case, the battery went flat because of user error, but caused failure of various safety systems, and required a visit to a dealer, on the owner’s dime, to reset them. The reset procedure is complicated, and not easily carried out by do-it-yourselfers. Translation? Be sure the Odyssey you’re considering has a healthy battery and charging system, use a trickle charger when possible to extend battery life, and be sure to have the battery changed by a dealer technician to avoid frustrating electronics issues.
A newer used Odyssey with any available extended powertrain warranty, which specifically covers the transmission, is your best bet for long-term peace of mind. Though a bevy of transmission-related problems and some fussy electronics seem to dull the appeal of a used Odyssey slightly, a healthy used unit, with a thumbs-up from a Honda technician, should provide much-loved ride and handling characteristics, and top-notch safety performance, for confident family motoring.
Here’s a list of recalls.
Crash Test Ratings
IIHS: Top Safety Pick
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars
Here’s some more information on the Honda Odyssey from your pals at www.autoTRADER.ca