Honda Reveals All-New 2011 Odyssey Minivan

By Chris Haak

At this year’s Chicago Auto Show, Honda previewed its 2011 Odyssey minivan concept.  True to Honda’s recent practice, the so-called “concept” was nothing but a very strong hint as to what the production vehicle would look like.  Honda did the same thing with the most recent versions of the Accord coupe, Pilot, Insight, and CR-Z as well.

Honda has now revealed the production 2011 Odyssey, set to go toe-to-toe against its arch-rival, the also all-new 2011 Toyota Sienna.  Though both new vans carry the same 2011 model-year designation, the Sienna got a several-month head start on the new Odyssey by hitting the market this past spring; the Odyssey, instead, will appear at dealers this fall, around the time that the new model year vehicles would typically appear.

Just as the Sienna raised the bar in many ways in the previously-moribund minivan segment, adding features such as a double-wide LCD display, six-speed automatic, standard four-cylinder power, second-row lounge seating, pushbutton start, and Bluetooth streaming audio, the Odyssey is doing some innovating of its own.  New-to-the-segment available features include an HDMI video connection point, extremely configurable seating, and even a trash bag ring (trust me, this has to be superior to piling dirty tissues and napkins in a cup holder, then emptying them at every destination).  Taking advantage of the extra width, the second-row captain’s chairs can be moved to the far-outboard seating positions to allow safe installation of three child seats side-by-side in the second row; that is not possible in many vehicles.

The 2011 Odyssey takes the former Odyssey’s attractive, yet conservative shape and throws it away.  In its place is a van that on the whole is fairly attractive (as far as minivans go) with nice proportions (including a lower roofline and a wider stance), but an oddball “lightning bolt” beltline that suddenly zags downward past the C-pillar, after traveling completely straight past the front two-thirds of the van’s profile.  The result is somewhat shocking to see, at least initially.  I’m sure it will eventually become a common sight around Target, day care, and soccer games (or at least Honda hopes it does).  After the initial shock of the lightning bolt wore off, my second thought was “origami.”  The Odyssey is, after all, more or less a Japanese vehicle.  But the lightning bolt has the unfortunate effect, to my eyes, of making the rear third of the van look like it was grafted onto an otherwise-cohesive front two-thirds as an afterthought, or from another vehicle entirely.

Though Honda’s press release (reproduced below) – which focuses on the top-of-the-line Odyssey Touring Elite – doesn’t specify whether the Odyssey also grows another gear in its transaxle (the current Odyssey, like the 2010 Sienna, only has a five-speed automatic), it seems plausible that at least the top-end Odyssey must have some sort of serious trick up its sleeve.  Why?  Because Honda projects that the Odyssey Touring Elite with a 3.5 liter V6 and variable cylinder management (cylinder deactivation) will be rated at 19 mpg city and a staggering 28 mpg highway.  If these numbers pan out (and Honda wouldn’t dare release preliminary fuel economy numbers that turn out to be worse than the final numbers), the Odyssey V6 will match the Sienna four cylinder in city economy and top the Sienna four-banger in highway economy by a dramatic four miles per gallon, or 17 percent.  It would also top the Sienna V6 by the same margin on the highway (28 vs. 24) and by one mpg in the city (19 vs. 18).

Without sitting in, much less driving, the new Odyssey, it’s hard to tell how well it will hold up in daily use and whether its family-friendly features are bona-fide nice-to-haves in this vehicle class.  It’s also impossible to tell how interior materials will feel, and whether they’ve been improved over the previous Odyssey (which had a solidly-assembled, functional interior with quality parts and not a lot of glitz) or whether it took a turn down Toyota’s path, of more glitz and lots more hard plastic.  Hopefully it stuck with the formula that made the Odyssey a favorite of soccer moms (and dads).

On paper, Honda seems to have done a nice job re-doing its family hauler for the next several years of kid-shuttling duties.  We look forward to getting our hands on one to put it through its paces (including the ultimate torture tests that the 2011 Sienna survived – a road trip with two preschoolers and critiques from my wife, a happy 2008 Sienna owner).

Press Release:  2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite Fact Sheet

The all-new 2011 Honda Odyssey seeks to redefine the concept of the minivan with its aggressive stance and sporty “lightning-bolt” beltline. The lightning bolt not only provides an exclusive appearance, but also adds increased visibility for third-row passengers. New interior features add more convenience for families, while available entertainment technology introduces high-definition connectivity and split-screen viewing. Currently the best-selling minivan in the U.S., the all-new 2011 Honda Odyssey is set to go on sale this fall. Compared to the current Odyssey, the 2011 model’s lower roofline (-1.6 inches versus 2010 Odyssey EX) and wider track (+1.4 inches) contribute to a sleeker, stronger and more dynamic presence with improved aerodynamics that help increase fuel economy and also translate into more interior width.

Specifications

  • 3.5-liter i-VTEC™ V-6 engine with three-mode Variable Cylinder Management™
  • Preliminary estimated fuel economy, Odyssey Touring Elite (City/Highway): 19/28 miles per gallon*

* Preliminary EPA mileage estimates determined by Honda. Final EPA mileage estimates not available at the time of printing. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.

Features of the 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite model as shown in the June 17, 2010, reveal video:

Interior:

  • AM/FM/XM/CD Premium Audio System with 12 Speakers
  • Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ with Voice Activation
  • Ultra-Wide Rear Entertainment System (RES) with split-screen capability
  • External HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) input
  • 150-watt AC power outlet
  • Media tray with integrated beverage holder
  • Removable 1st row center console with hidden storage
  • New cool box in lower center stack (keeps items cool when vehicle is running)
  • Leather-trimmed seating with heated front seats
  • Memory-linked 10-way power driver’s seat
  • LATCH child seat anchors in five seating positions, including three positions in the second row to accommodate three child seats simultaneously
  • Two captain’s chairs in the second row provide adult comfort with center seat folded down
  • One-strap stowable 3rd Row Magic Seat®
  • Second- and third-row passenger window sunshades
  • 15 beverage holders
  • Trash bag ring

Exterior:

  • HID front headlights
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • 12.6-inch ventilated front disc brakes
  • Power side mirrors with integrated turn indicators
  • Power tailgate

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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13 Comments

  1. It is so ugly I’m not interested in reading up on the new features. I can’t believe this got past the test marketing. The concept car shown earlier wasn’t nearly as bad as the final design. It will be interesting to see how this does in the market. I guess we’ll have to gag for the next five years until Honda’s next design cycle.

  2. I can live with the lightning bolt, but I’m curious why they seem to over-emphasize the sliding door tracks. Most makers have been wanting to make them all but invisible over the last 15-20 years, and now Honda just pulls a 180. As the proud original owner of a 1984 Toyota Van, I can appreciate making the track visible (the 84 Van had a nice chrome-like accent). but this just looks like they forgot to cover it up properly.

    Maybe I’m just noticing it more b/c the lightning bolt draws my eye right to that region of the design

  3. Does the track for the door have to be that big? It looks like the section past the C pillar was cut in half. or maybe like a truck with a camper shell. Ughh…that’s just bad.

  4. This demonstrates that Honda North America has learnt nothing from success of the JDM version of the Odyessy. Instead they’ve crafted a sharp edged overweight beanbag.

    And the JDM version 2.4L four has long returned 19.4/33 for a combined of 26.4mpg. Yet still whacked out 132kW/218Nm. In a van that weighs only 1610kg and still seats seven.

  5. Minivans should try harder to make the outside look good. Hide the track…..you have the technology. I am so against the 2011 Honda track….and the New 2011 Nissan that I will in no way by one of those vehicles. I drive a Dodge Caravan now….with a hidden track…..Toyota Sienna will be my next van…

  6. In Europe this design will not fly, but taking into account poor taste of most of American public I do not see why it would not be a bestseller. It drives well I guess and made up to high quality standards of Honda, I assume.

    I personally would be offended to own car like this, but it is only me – I was born outside of USA. I do not drink Coca-Cola, eat hamburgers or watch reality shows either. Sometimes it is sad to watch American roads – so many ugly cars driving around. Esp when you now how stylish American cars were in 50s and 60s.

  7. Please get rid of that lightning bolt.The effect looks like two different vans pasted together.It also looks out of proportion – the belt line at the rear is not parallel to the door track and the side is too busy and makes the side windows look mis-shapen. I have a 2005 Odyssey -also owned a 2002 – was looking forward to a 2011.
    I am not sure I could look at the 2011 in my driveway – will they get rid of the bolt in 2012?

  8. Hold on a sec, these comments are way too one-sided. The lightning bolt isn’t that bad. In cars it is more important that form follows function. The lightning bolt allows more visibility out the rear sides — a good safety feature. All too many newer models have poor visibility to the rear. If most trim levels — not just the most upscale level — of the car have the 19/28 fuel economy, then I’ll buy one.

  9. 2011 Odyssey trying to get an award for uglyest minivan? What happens to the back window??
    Why you guys need to show the tracks for the siding doors?
    Anyway its just plain ugly……

  10. whomever designed this van should be suspended until he/she can design a van that’s better than the Sienna, or layoff all together.

  11. This proves that Honda has lost its way with vehicle design. The only way they could make this van uglier would be to sell an Acura version with one of those hideous beak grilles.

  12. Wow…I’m Sure You Will Get The Same Honda Reliability, But I Hope With The Purchase of this van you get a Giant Paper Bag You Can Put over it to cover its Ugliness..The New Quest, And Sienna Hands Down Have This Van Beat On Looks, And Are Japanese Built As Well…Shame On Honda~

  13. I just wish it was more reliable. Our 2005 with all of 30,000 miles has been a noisy and defect ridden pain in the butt. Just like my 04 Acura TL. I am not sure what happened to Honda, they used to be great. Now they remind me of GM.

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