The powertrain in the 2011 Honda Odyssey is familiar—a variation of the same 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6, here making 247 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. The slight power and torque gains come via a new two-stage intake and cold-air intake system. While all Odysseys come with the same engine, top-of-the-line Touring and Touring Elite models get a six-speed automatic and the rest of the line gets a five-speed auto. Fuel economy ratings are improved by two to four miles per gallon—to as high as 19 mpg city, 28 highway—through aerodynamic improvements, improved accessory management, and an improved Variable Cylinder Management system, also featured across the line, that will run the engine on as few as three cylinders during coasting or low-speed cruising. Honda couldn't do any better with a four-cylinder engine, an official said, so don't hold out for a smaller engine. Considering the Odyssey's 21-gallon fuel tank, it should be good for at least 500 miles of highway cruising, if your bladder can make it.
Acceleration isn't quick, but it feels fast enough; with the six-speed, the Odyssey can get to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, according to Honda. That's technically a slight bit faster than the Sienna V-6.
Not all is perfect about the powertrain. Transmission behavior, as we've found in other Honda products, can be obstinate at partial throttle. If you're puttering around town, rolling through a stop sign causes a moment of hesitation as the slushbox debates about which gear to pick; the same thing happens in the higher gears when you're getting back on the gas out of a sweeping corner in Drive. There's no way to command individual gears, just the confusing combination of an 'L' mode as well as an O/D-off button on the selector. Of course, drive with your right foot mashed to the floor and the shifts are decisive, quick, and smooth.
Although the Odyssey is much more closely related to the Pilot SUV, it really handles a lot like a V-6 Accord. We don't know how they do it, but the engineers manage to set this minivan corner with remarkable poise. The suspension, isolated with separate front and rear subframes, really works, omitting the sorts of queasy secondary motions that plague most of the SUV field, along with some minivans, while quelling road shocks. Part of the success could be weight control—Honda managed to actually cut about a hundred pounds from the loaded Odyssey Touring (or 50 pounds off the base model) versus 2010.
Steering remains excellent. The Odyssey has a variable-displacement power-steering pump that works splendidly, providing more power assist at parking speeds and less at higher speeds, with more effort and even a little feedback in tight twisties.
We noticed very little difference in cornering feel between an EX test vehicle and a top-of-the-line Touring Elite, though the slightly harder-compound, taller sidewall tires that came with the EX were far more vocal. On a twisty road, we were left wishing for more lateral support from the front seats, along with more mid-back support.