Bigger, More Powerful Odyssey Slides into Picture

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Boe

Background: What's in a name? For Honda's Odyssey, the designation brings marketing consistency.

When Honda Motors redesigned its minivan for the 1999 model year, the Japanese automaker pondered a name change for its sole minivan. However, Honda retained Odyssey as the namesake well into the next millennium. A smart move making minivan shopping a bit less confusing for consumers already overwhelmed with minivan opportunities.

The redesigned Odyssey is considerably longer, wider and taller than its predecessor. In fact, Odyssey went from one of the smaller front-wheel drive minivans to the largest. Odyssey and Ford's Windstar measure in as the longest minivans on the road.

The under powered four-cylinder engine, jettisoned for this second generation, has been replaced by a more potent V-6 powertrain . Odyssey's car-like swing-out back doors have been replaced this year by more popular dual sliding doors. Honda assembles Odyssey at a new plant in Allison, Ontario Canada near Toronto.

The first-generation Odyssey, debuting in 1995, shared an identical automotive platform with the Isuzu Oasis minivan. For 1999 the two part company. If shorter-dimension minivans still appeal you, the 1999 Oasis retains dimensions from the first-generation Odyssey platform.

Trim levels: Two Odyssey trim levels are available: an entry-level LX with dual manually operated sliding rear doors standard and the premium EX equipped with dual power sliding doors. Both feature seven-passenger seating.

Engine: Honda's multi-point, fuel injected V-6 engine ranks as one of the most powerful in its class. The 24-valve powerplant generates 210 horsepower. The quiet- running engine delivers decent low-end performance and good pulling power. Either premium or regular unleaded fuel may be used, although higher-octane premium improves performance.

Safety features: Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, five-mile per hour bumpers and a security immobilizer system come standard in both trim levels. A remote entry system comes standard in EX while optional in LX. Traction control is an EX exclusive. Odyssey is the first minivan with three-point safety belts for all seven passengers.

Honda received more good news last month when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded Odyssey the government's highest rating for occupant protection during frontal collisions.

Price: Honda provided the Daily Herald with the top-level, well-equipped, beige colored EX. Base price started at $25,800. The only extra feature was dealer installed floor mates which boosted the bottom line to $26,364 after factoring in the $415 destination charge. Odyssey LX versions start at $23,000.

Standard equipment: Both trim levels include: cruise control; adjustable steering column; four-speed automatic transmission; power rack-and-pinion steering; rear window defogger; variable speed front wipers; dual illuminated vanity mirrors; front and rear air conditioning (EX trim levels feature automatic climate control); variable assist power steering; four-wheel independent suspension; power front windows; power side view mirrors and rear window wipers.

Odyssey LX versions feature an AM/FM/cassette feature while uplevel EX includes a compact disc player in place of the cassette.

Odyssey EX editions add a few unique additions including steering wheel-mounted secondary radio controls, eight-way power driver's seat roof rails and automatic day/night rearview mirror.

Interior: As with most minivans of this girth, roomy ambiance abounds. Between front seat captain's chairs is a flat, plastic storage tray incorporating four cup holders that folds down when not in use, providing a walk-through area to back seating.

A stand-alone digital clock situates between air vents at the top of the dashboard, next to the rectangular hazard light button. …