2021 Honda Odyssey Yearlong Review Update: The King of the Highway Speaks

Around the office, photo department manager and longtime MotorTrend veteran Brian Vance has been anointed (perhaps by himself) KOTH—King of the Highway. The regal moniker is appropriate; he’s not only been one of MT‘s lead road warriors, shooting photos, scouting locations, and generally providing logistical support for our content creation, but he also spends much of his personal time on the road in search of fun.

When I got assigned to chaperone the 2021 Honda Odyssey EX-L, Vance tapped me early on; he’s a big fan of minivans for their ability to eat up the miles while carrying all the cargo required by his two little ones, Princess Neva (age 4) and Prince Luca (age 2). He told me he had a “a few trips” planned, but I wasn’t prepared for such a king’s ransom.

In the span of a few weeks, KOTH borrowed the Odyssey for a total of seven road trips. All started from his home in West Hollywood, from which he ventured north (Cambria, Benton Hot Springs, and Ventura), east (Indio, Cathedral City, and Tucson, Arizona) and south (Oceanside). Each was a separate trip, mostly with his family of four, except the Tucson trip, which stuffed eight guys into the Odyssey for a long guys’ weekend.

Kid Comfort and Containment

The Princess and Prince still ride in child seats, which Vance tried in both the second and third rows of the Odyssey. “The third row tilts backward toward the open rear hatch, which allows for easy access to the LATCH system for installing car seats,” Vance said. “Removing the middle section of the second-row seats makes it easy to separate the children with physical space.” He also noted the ability to slide the second row fore and aft, which helped “keep my kids’ dirty shoes off the back of the front seat.”

He appreciated how easy it was to get both the kids and their stuff out of the vehicle—so easy a child can do it. “My 2-year-old figured out how to open the power-sliding doors via three methods: interior handle, exterior handle, and the button mounted on the inside of the B-pillar,” Vance said. “Luca can load and unload his balance bike (a small, pedalless training bike) via the side door openings because the sill is so low. He can’t do that in an SUV.”

Downsides? The fuel-filler door occasionally got stuck, requiring a few additional taps to open. “The rear camera doesn’t stay on when toggling from reverse back to drive, making parking at a curb or in a lot tricky,” said Vance, who also found it odd that the child window locks prevent the driver from lowering the rear windows from the driver’s panel. “Shouldn’t the driver be allowed to control all windows at all times, regardless of the child lock?”

Mom Van? How Dare You

Regarding giddyup, no complaints from KOTH. “Even with four adults and two kids, there is lots of power from the V-6,” Vance said. “This van moves quickly when the pedal is juiced aggressively and the transmission grabs lower gears.”

Add more grownups, however, and the story changes a bit. “The Odyssey was sagging on its rear springs with eight adults and their stuff; it was more sluggish but not slow,” he said. “The engine is so strong, and all those gears make it very versatile.” He then, naturally, shared exactly the kind of story you’d expect from a guys’ weekend.

“In Tucson, we pulled up next to two college girls who wanted to show us their new tattoos (bandages still on). Then they asked me if that was my mom’s van. I said, ‘Let’s race, and then we’ll talk about whose van it is. …'”

Although the 3.5-liter V-6 kept the party going, the A/C system, not so much. “In 95-degree heat,” he said, “third-row passengers complained that the A/C vents weren’t getting air.”

How does the whining from the peasant class affect the royal decree? “The overall refinement and cleverness of this Odyssey makes it very apparent Honda aims to build the best minivan on the market.” KOTH has spoken.

More on Our One-Year Honda Odyssey EX-L:

  • Arrival
  • Update: Breaking It in at the Test Track

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