New Car/Review

HONDA ODYSSEY LX (1997)

by Tom Hagin

Honda

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,560
Price As Tested                                    $ 24,180
Engine Type                          2.2 Liter I4 w/PGM-FI*
Engine Size                                 132 cid/2156 cc
Horsepower                                   140 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               145 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  111.4"/70.6"/187.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3498 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      205/65R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                               Five percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            20/24/22
0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       18.7 seconds @ 76 mph
Top speed                                           104 mph
     * Programmed fuel injection

Things are happening at Honda. The new Accord is just a few months away, while the Civic and del Sol sportster are a few years from major remakes. A new minivan is scheduled for a spring 1999 launch, replacing its current Odyssey, Honda's first foray into the huge minivan market.

Odyssey seems more of a tall station wagon than a minivan, and comes in two trim levels: upscale the EX and our week-long tester the LX.

OUTSIDE - Odyssey doesn't show excessive bulk, being both about a foot shorter and narrower than others in its class. Its wedged shape and expansive amounts of glass give it a wind-cutting shape and a panoramic view of the road, while the low roof makes loading cargo on top easy - except that the LX model doesn't come standard with a roof rack. Its four conventional swing-out doors are lightweight and swing out very wide. Unlike sliding side doors in other minivans, they also offer retractable windows on all doors. The only problem that may arise is the space needed to swing the doors open in a small garage, but no more so than a sedan. Only bright-work is the tail pipe extension and a small strip of chrome surrounding the Accord-like grille while a black rub strip runs the length of the doors. A rear wiper/washer is standard.

INSIDE - Those four doors and a low step-in height make climbing aboard Odyssey as easy as any sedan - maybe more so. The flat door sills all have a convenient step, while low seats translate to headroom for all but the tallest passengers. Legroom could become tight for taller passengers, however. The dashboard is in close proximity to those up front, much like a sedan, and the switches are all in familiar places. There are two glove boxes on the passenger side, and cupholders everywhere. The seating arrangement of the LX model comes as a pair of buckets up front, then a three-across middle bench, with another bench in back that can disappear into the floor with the twist of a knob. Standard Odyssey features include power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, AM/FM cassette, cruise control, rear window defroster, variable speed intermittent wipers and a digital clock.

ON THE ROAD - Odyssey is powered by the same 2.2 liter four cylinder engine used in its Accord sedan sibling but with a slight difference. In the Odyssey it produces 140 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, which is 10 horsepower and six lb-ft more than the one used in Accord LX. It accelerates quite well, considering its lack of the V6 power offered by most of its competition. It gave us an impressive 0-60 mph time of 11 seconds, which is better than most minivans but when loaded its sprinting abilities diminish. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, and uses what Honda calls Grade Logic. This system will automatically downshift on down or uphill grades, eliminating the gear "hunting" that plague many automatics. Earlier models suffered from a "slippery" feeling in the column-mounted shifter, where it was easy to slide though the gear pattern and end up in an unwanted gear. Newly designed, more positive notches in the system have cured the problem.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Honda developed Odyssey on the Accord platform and it shares a just slightly reshaped version of Accord's double wishbone suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. This type of layout is rare in minivans, where most of the front-wheel-drive competition use a simple, space-saving beam rear axle layout. The Odyssey ride feels solidly planted, and is firm without being harsh. There is very little pitch in corners, even tight switchbacks, and little squat and dive under braking or acceleration. The front end plows a bit under heavy cornering, but the steering is light and communicative, delivering better feedback than most minivans. It is by no means a sports car, and when given quick twists of the steering wheel, the power boost struggles to keep pace. Braking distances are acceptable, though, as we pulled the 3500-pound machine down from 60 mph in around 135 feet. It standard equipment anti-lock braking system (ABS) no doubt helps this figure.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side impact beams and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Our test van came with floor mats at $125 extra.

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