As mentioned in our kickoff piece, our 2021 Honda Odyssey arrived with only 30 miles on the odometer. As we like to log at least 1,000 break-in miles before we first run the vehicle through our standard acceleration, braking and handling tests, some serious driving was in order. How best to log miles in a hurry? Loan it out, of course.
Our colleague Matt came to us with a tale of woe: The transmission in his wife’s SUV was having issues, and he had to get his son to Arizona for a weekend baseball tournament. Could we help him out?
Absolutely. The trip from our headquarters in Los Angeles to Chandler, Arizona, and back would easily put over a thousand miles on the clock, and those long miles would no doubt generate some thoughtful feedback from a unique, higher-than-normal perspective.
At 6-foot-4 tall, Matt is a full 7 inches taller than the average height of an American male, aged 20 and older (per the Center for Disease Control’s Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults). Perhaps as a result, he’s also a longtime owner of traditional American SUVs. In his garage are a 2015 Chevrolet Suburban and a 2013 Ford Explorer. How would he find the Odyssey, a front-wheel-drive unibody minivan, against his V-8 and V-6 rear-drive SUVs? Would the driving position and cabin comfort work for him? Would he be cramped or comfortable for the long haul?
Winning Hearts and Minds from Los Angeles to Chandler, AZ
After clocking over 1,200 miles of mostly interstate driving, Matt didn’t mention any ergonomic issues or observations at all. In fact, the first thing he texted back was, “Great ride.”
When pressed for details—good, bad, or ugly—Matt found a lot to like and little to complain about on his maiden odyssey in an Odyssey. First gripe: He noticed a bit of slowness (latency) in the response from the infotainment touchscreen while using Apple CarPlay. Another touching insight: Our Honda newbie reported that “aside from having to touch the steering wheel every 10 seconds or so,” the adaptive cruise control worked well.
Matt’s 12-year-old son enjoyed stretching out in the rear of the Odyssey and taking advantage of the space and amenities. “He was able to use the charging capacity to power a PS4 and iPad Pro to game on during the drive out and back,” Matt said.
Overall, Matt was seriously impressed, enough to do a bit of poking around in our Buyer’s Guide for pricing and spec details. “It’s pretty amazing that for the same price as the highest level trim of a Honda Odyssey you only get a base model Tahoe or Yukon. For hauling surfboards, kids, people, even on a long-distance drive, I would legit trade in my Suburban for it,” he said.
But would someone swap a fine German automobile for Honda’s U.S.-made MPV? To rack up even more miles, we offered our Odyssey to another colleague, Mike, for his eighth wedding anniversary road trip to Sedona, Arizona.
Another Roadtrip, Different Perspective
Like Matt, Mike is a family man with two young kids, but instead of American SUVs, he favors German hatchbacks and American classics as his family haulers; he has a 2012 Audi A4 Avant (wagon), a 2014 VW GTI, and a 1964 Pontiac Bonneville convertible in his stable.
With his newest vehicle seven years behind our Honda, how did he find all the buttons, sensors, and software?
“The adaptive cruise control and lane keep was a game changer on those long, desert highways where you’re basically pointed straight for hundreds of miles,” he said. “I felt far less fatigued, both physically and mentally, by the end of our nine-hour trip from L.A. to Sedona, and I think that was largely due to the Odyssey’s technology assist. Just beware during slow traffic caravans: The following distance setting will never be close enough to discourage wannabe racers from diving in front of you and pushing you further back in the pack.”
But despite over 1,000 miles of Honda Sensing-assisted cruising, Mike isn’t ready to give up his German or American metal just yet.
“This Odyssey is definitely the best [minivan] we’ve driven to date, but there is something about all of them—probably a combination of the ride height, the steering feel, and the suspension—where I still feel like I’m driving on top of the car, not necessarily in the car,” Mike said. And from a utility standpoint, there are still great wagons out there, if you look hard enough, that can haul all the kids and cargo you want but still deliver a fun driving experience. Besides, if we just want to relax and cruise down the road in a big boat of a car, we’ll take the Bonneville!”
We’d counter that comparing a five-passenger wagon and a convertible to the capability of a seven- or eight-passenger minivan isn’t quite fair, but we got the needed miles and the honest insight requested. In our next update, we’ll see how our broken-in Odyssey performs at the track.
Read More About Our Long-Term 2021 Honda Odyssey EX-L:
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