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2014 Honda Odyssey arrives for New York auto show

2014 Honda Odyssey

While minivans may be one of the most polarizing kinds of vehicles on the market-with some style-conscious parents still thinking they might as well be driving a diaper bag on wheels-another generation (and a different kind of style-conscious parent, really) sees their superiority and thinks that minivans stand out from all the identikit crossovers. Through all of this, Honda has been holding out, and refining its van, and the 2014 Honda Odyssey stands as one of the best ever-a not-so-mini van that open-minded families won’t be able to resist.

With all the latest infotainment features, lots of tech savvy, and even a little design savvy, the latest Odyssey is fully with the times-even with respect to design. Honda managed to add a little pizazz to this box on wheels with a “lightninig bolt” hump along the rear window. The cue also aids visibility a bit. For 2014, the Odyssey gets refined “more sophisticated” styling that includes a more deeply sculpted hood, a bolder grille, darker-finish headlamp housings, and a new lower front fascia with chrome-trimmed fog lamps. At the back there are LED taillight bars. Inside, the ’14 Odyssey gets a new center-stack design as well as new finishes throughout.

The 3.5-liter V-6 that’s under the hood hasn’t changed; it makes 247 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque throughout the model line; and depending on the trim level, it’s hooked up to a five- or six-speed automatic transmission. In short, the Odyssey performs like a car, with confident acceleration and passing, and even enough power to take on mountain roads with a full load. And even though it’s a taller vehicle, it handles more like the Accord sedan than the Pilot crossover.

The current generation of the Odyssey is loaded with thoughtful touches, and the second and third tows have a layout that serves a dual purpose-either helping to maximize the number of positions (up to eight) for smaller kids, or allowing a comfortable place for adults (up to six). And there’s definitely space (and anchors) for multiple child seats. It’s a standout in that it offers a a class-leading six child-seat tether locations and five LATCH locations (the official clips).

Inside, the Odyssey is surprisingly quiet and refined space, with a smooth ride. Active noise cancellation and active engine mounts both quell any vibrations from fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, as well as excess road noise.

For safety, you won’t be able to do much better than the Odyssey. In previous model years, it’s been one of the few large vehicles to achieve top ratings from both U.S. safety agencies; although we can’t yet say with certainty that will extend to 2014, as Honda has introduced a new aluminum hood and fenders to the model. But it has all the safety-feature bases covered, with a standard rearview camera system on all models, and the top Touring Elite getting an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror, a blind-spot warning system, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Warning.

New for 2014 on the top-of-the-line Touring Elite model that adds a new HondaVAC system-that’s a powerful integrated vacuum cleaner, with nozzle accessories and a dedicated space on the driver’s side of the rear cargo area. The system was developed with Sho-Vac, and it never needs to be charged or plugged in, as it runs as a normal vehicle accessory, capable of running for up to eight minutes with the vehicle turned off.

Base LX models include Bluetooth hands-free calling, the intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID), and an 8-inch TFT screen, in addition to 2 gigabytes of audio storage, and a USB audio port; but many of the most desirable features remains the exclusive domain of top 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring and Touring Elite models.

For 2014, the rather pricey Touring Elite gets some of the infotainment features that just made their debut in the 2013 Accord-including HondaLink, allowing owners to use a smartphone app to access Aha Internet-based entertainment, or hear Facebook and Twitter updates via text-to-speech. Touring Elite models also get a 650-watt sound system with hard-disk storage, the ultra-wide-screen system, theater surround sound, and HID headlamps. A standout option is the new 16.2-inch wide-screen system, which provides entertainment and can even split the screen in half for two separate inputs (including HDMI), while the navigation system includes Zagat listings and live traffic info.

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