As soon as we said goodbye to our Volkswagen Routan the new 2011 Honda Odyssey joined our garage. It came loaded with the Touring Elite package with leather interior, navigation with voice recognition, rear-seat entertainment system with a 16.2-inch split screen, and a cool box in the center stack. At the test track, the 248-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 gave us a 7.4-second 0-60-mph run, and it is expected to return 19/28 mpg city/highway. The family-hauler'sall-new exterior styling has received mixed reviews, especially for its "lightning bolt" beltline and gaping sliding door channel.

So why would the Motor Trend staff-especially the photographers-be excited about getting a minivan, of all vehicles? Mostly utility. Pull out the second-row seats, fold down the third-row Magic Seat, and it can hold two photographers, half-a-dozen coolers' worth of rehydration, and all our photo gear. Also, the Odyssey has already become popular when staffers have visitors, as it seat up to eight adults.

When we took the Odyssey on a recent mega-photo shoot, we packed it to the windowsills with the testing and photo gear, and still had room to spare. Although it's doubtful we approached the 1340-pound maximum payload, the Honda seemed unfazed by all the extra weight, handling about as well as it does empty. However, all that poundage likely affected our fuel mileage. Our initial observed average fuel economy is 19 mpg, slightly worse than the EPA combined average of 23 mpg. We hope it improves.

During the first few weeks of driving the Odyssey, its split personality of versatility and luxury is what strikes me the most. Without the second and third rows, you have 148.5 cubic feet of hauling capacity. On the other hand, the leather seating, navigation system, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and streaming audio, satellite radio, power doors, and backup camera make traveling in the Odyssey about as sophisticated as in any luxury sedan. .

We're obviously happy to have another minivan in the fleet and expect to put a lot of miles on this vehicle. And we'll be putting this Honda to the test, hauling lots of gear and lots of people. We'll see if the all-new Odyssey is up for it.


Our Vehicle
Base price $41,840
Price as tested $44,030
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 8-pass, 4-door van
Engine 3.5L/248-hp/250-lb-ft
SOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4519 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 118.1 in
Length x width x height 202.9 x 79.2 x 68.4 in
0-60 mph 7.4 sec
Quarter mile 15.7 sec @ 89.2 mph
Braking, 60-0 127 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.73 g (avg)
MT figure eight 28.8 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 19/28 mpg
Energy cons, city/hwy 177/120 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 emissions 0.87 lb/mi
Total mileage 4046 mi
Average fuel econ 19.0 mpg
Unresolved problem areas None