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Minivans like the Honda Odyssey are some of the most useful vehicles on the road. They're versatile go-to wheels, medium-duty haulers, multi-passenger carriers, and rolling diaper bags. When they earn top crash scores and blend in a little driving fun--like the Odyssey does--they're among the highest-rated vehicles at The Car Connection.
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 Odyssey stands as one of the best minivans ever—a not-so-mini vehicle 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 “lightning bolt” hump along the rear window. The cue also aids visibility a bit.The 3.5-liter V-6 that's under the hood hasn't changed; it makes 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque throughout the model line; Honda's six-speed automatic transmission is now standard across the lineup. 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.
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.
The current generation of the Odyssey is loaded with thoughtful touches, and the second and third rows 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).
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 from the NHTSA, as Honda has introduced a new aluminum hood and fenders to the model. But the IIHS now calls it a Top Safety Pick+, and the Odyssey 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.
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.
Finally, the Odyssey Touring Elite adds a new HondaVAC system—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.