- The Washington Times - Friday, November 16, 2001

Minivan buyers, you can breathe a bit easier.
Honda has begun regular production of its popular Odyssey minivan at a new assembly plant in Alabama, helping to boost supplies of this award-winning van.
The added production comes as Honda updated the 3-year-old Odyssey with a variety of changes.
They include more horsepower, new, five-speed automatic transmission, standard side airbags, available factory-installed DVD entertainment system and available leather seats.
Front and rear styling is subtly touched up, too. On the other hand, it didn't take long to notice and appreciate the improved horsepower in this biggest Honda ever.
The 4,398-pound test Odyssey EX-L with entertainment system responded readily as I depressed the accelerator, and the quick response came at many speeds, not just at startup. Note that the Odyssey is among the heavier minivans on the market.
The new transmission changed from the previous four-speed automatic shifted so smoothly, I didn't notice any jerks or hesitation between shifts.
The displacement and overall design of the Odyssey engine is the same. But horsepower is up to 240 in the 2002 model and the Odyssey's recommended fuel now is regular unleaded fuel.
This compares with premium unleaded, which was needed in earlier Odysseys to get the full 210 horsepower. Torque is increased, too, in the 3.5-liter, single overhead cam V6 going from 229 foot-pounds at 4,300 rpm to 242 at 4,500 rpm.
The improvements come from changes to the intake and exhaust, Honda's variable timing and electronic lift control (VTEC) system and the addition of a larger bore throttle body.
Interestingly, though, estimated fuel economy remains as it was last year: 18 miles a gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
Honda notes the new Odyssey is "class-leading" in its horsepower. The Ford Windstar has maximum 200 horses, while the Dodge Grand Caravan with 3.8-liter V6 offers 215 horsepower, for example.
But the Grand Caravan's 3.8-liter V6 offers 245 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.
The Odyssey already had top, five-star ratings in both frontal and side crash tests for 2000 and 2001 model years conducted by the federal government.
But Honda chose to make side airbags standard for 2002 on the front seats. In addition, frontal airbags in the front seats now have dual-stage technology to vary the rate of deployment, depending on crash severity.
Brakes are improved, too, for 2002 as rear drums are replaced with discs for less fade and better braking performance. Antilock brakes are standard on all Odysseys.
The front-wheel-drive Odyssey's ride is smooth, with the suspension keeping nearly all bumps away from passengers. Honda tweaked the suspension for 2002, increasing spring rates, decreasing the size of the front stabilizer bar and adjusting the shock absorbers.
The 68.5-inch-tall Odyssey does have considerable body sway, though, especially in the curves, and can convey an unsettling feeling if you try to take the twisties too fast.
The power-assist rack-and-pinion steering feels light but not overly so. The Odyssey is quieter to ride in now, thanks to added sound dampening. I didn't hear much from the outdoors as I drove. There was engine noise only upon acceleration.
Perhaps the new Odyssey entertainment center is the reason. The clarity of the sound, not to mention the picture, was admirable. It was enough to make me want to be a passenger, not the driver.
The LCD display screen is 7 inches wide and flips down from the ceiling. Two wireless, infrared headphones are included. So is a remote control and audio and video jacks so camcorders and game consoles and VCRs can be linked to the system. No, the Odyssey's entertainment system does not, by itself, include a VHS player.
I still dislike the low-to-the-floor dashboard on the Odyssey's front-passenger side that makes me feel as if my legs are constrained. I appreciate how the Dodge and Chrysler vans' power sliding doors allow a manual override if you're in a hurry and want to jump inside or close the doors quickly. Honda's van doesn't operate the same way.
In addition, the Odyssey doesn't offer power adjustable pedals, power liftgate or rear parking assist all of which are offered on various competitors.
But Odysseys don't come cheaply.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a new Odyssey is $24,690.


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