Wednesday, March 30, 2016

2016 Honda Odyssey: Proof that minivans matter

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California ­– Friends and colleagues often ask: How come you still review minivans?

They ask it in the same manner that a technology pro might ask: Why do you still have dial-up?

You get the idea.

For me, minivans must be considered as long as they’re still around.  My family has roots dating back to the long-ago introduction of the minivan.  Yes, the first true Chrysler minivan -- which defined the segment -- that was rolled out by none other than Lee Iacocca.

And minivans were a big part of my traveling days as a parent with young children.  You had to have one of those big boats to carry the kids and all their cargo, right?  I drove minivans in every corner of America.

Naturally, those minivans were dinosaurs compared with what’s available now.  Oh, what I would have given for an in-vehicle video entertainment system for the youngsters back in the day.

But I digress.

My most recent minivan tester was the 2016 Honda Odyssey SE.  The Odyssey is in my personal “Big Four” of minivans, joining the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and Toyota Sienna.  All of them offer a lot.  They’re rolling hotels.

Yeah, minivans might not excite the auto purist’s heart, but they’re entirely functional for road trips and serious errands.

The tested SE’s starting price was $33,375, and that included everything, including a blizzard of five-star government safety ratings.  I loved the remote, dual, power sliding doors.  Makes things so much easier.  Everybody gets settled in before I settle into the driver’s seat.  This is a big deal if you’re a parent, take my word for it.

Comfort/convenience features are numerous.  The tester had the DVD rear-seat entertainment system that I longed for all those years ago.  It was a treat to try it out as a passenger in the parked Odyssey.

If you have to live in your vehicle, this is a good choice.

The 3.5-liter V-6 churned out a respectable 248 horsepower, good enough for most situations, although the power plant did let out a wail on extremely steep hill climbs. That’s not a deal-breaker.

Do be advised that fuel mileage is fair at best: 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Volunteer passengers loved the spacious interior, back-seat amenities and plentiful cupholders and storage spaces.  Some actually left singing the praises of the minivan.

I think that’s what I’d call progress.

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