1999 Honda Odyssey EX Preview Test: Bigger and Better

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From the November 1998 issue of Car and Driver.

Ever since Chrysler invented this thing called the minivan in 1983, different versions of it have popped up as automakers tried to find the perfect combination of size, versatility, and appearance that would win new customers.

As model year 1999 is upon us, it’s apparent that Chrysler’s minivan formula still rules the roost. Not only have the Chrysler vehicles outsold all others, but each new minivan on the market in the past two years has been a Chrysler clone.

The first indication of the cloning came when Toyota dumped its unique Previa minivan with its mid-mounted engine in favor of a conventional front-engine design. Now Honda is the latest manufacturer to chime in with a Chrysler drivalike.

The 1999 Odyssey rec­tifies the old Odyssey’s biggest flaw—its small size. Honda now concedes that its previous family hauler, based on a four­-cylinder Accord, did not offer enough space or power. The Honda folks also found that Accord and Civic owners were doing a no-no: buying Chrysler mini­vans instead of Odysseys.

Without a platform larger than the Accord in the lineup (remember, folks, the Passport sport-utility vehicle is a repack­aged Isuzu Rodeo), Honda was forced to produce an entirely new platform for the 1999 Odyssey. With a clean sheet, the engineers thought big.

The wheelbase grew 6.7 inches longer than the old Odyssey’s to 118.1 inches. The length went up 13.6 inches to 201.2, the width increased 5.0 inches to 75.6, and the height by 5.1 inches to 69.7. Those dimensions are within two inches of a Grand Caravan’s.

A bigger outside meant a bigger inside. The interior volume of all three seating rows is at least on par with Chrysler, and behind the third seat, there is 19 cubic feet of space. As in the previous-generation Odyssey, behind the third seat is a deep well into which the rearmost seat can fold, leaving a flat cargo space. With the third seat up, we could put 19 of our standard beer-case boxes behind it, one more than we could fit in a Dodge Grand Caravan.

Since the indentation for the folding rear seat occupies the space normally reserved for the spare tire, the Odyssey’s spare resides underneath the floor between the first and second rows (in the old Odyssey, the spare hugged a rear side wall). While we’re at the second row, it’s worth mentioning the two separate bucket seats and their two-position feature. There are two sets of floor anchors for the right-­side middle bucket. One set positions it behind the passenger’s seat and about 12 inches from the other middle bucket. The other set puts it next to the left-side bucket, making a bench.

To increase the Odyssey’s power, the four-cylinder engine is replaced with a 3.5-­liter version of the aluminum SOHC V-6 used in the Accord. Although incorpo­rating Honda’s VTEC system, the engine uses an intake-valve scheme not seen since the 1992 Civic VX’s VTEC-E engine. Below 3300 rpm, only one intake valve is opened fully, and the other valve is opened a smidge to prevent fuel from pooling on the valve. Honda says this promotes intake swirl and better combustion, lowering emissions (the engine achieves LEV status for light trucks). Above 3300 rpm, both intake valves open for better breathing. Output is 210 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 229 pound-feet of torque at 4300 rpm. Putting that power to the front wheels is a four-speed automatic. At the track, the Odyssey EX accelerated to 60 mph in 10.0 seconds, 0.1 second quicker than the Grand Caravan ES, but 0.6 second behind the Ford Windstar LX and Toyota Sienna XLE we compared last February.

Honda says it went to great pains to keep the Odyssey’s center of gravity low and to make the minivan a confident han­dler. A strut suspension up front and a rear multi-link setup do the job, and the Odyssey doesn’t feel as tall as it is. Ultimate grip, at 0.74 g, betters the 0.71 g achieved by every van in our last comparo.


Two models of the Odyssey will be offered, the base LX and the EX. Standard on all Odysseys are anti-lock brakes, dual sliding middle doors, the folding third seat and the nifty movable middle seat, air conditioning front and rear, and shoulder belts for all passengers. The step-up EX minivan gets you traction control, dual power-sliding doors, alloy wheels, and a CD player. Prices have not been released, but expect the LX to cost about $23,500 and the EX to come in at about $26,000.

Overall, the Odyssey combines the virtues we’ve come to love in Hondas—a commanding view of the road, outstanding quality, and benign, confident handling. Now with a versatile, roomier interior, the Odyssey has a shot at knocking the minivan crown off Chrysler’s noggin. We wouldn’t bet against it. Look for an upcoming comparo with all the latest minivan players.

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1999 Honda Odyssey EX
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door van

As Tested: $26,000 (est.)

SOHC V-6, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 212 in3, 3471 cm3
Power: 210 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 229 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm 

4-speed automatic


Suspension, F/R: strut/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 11.8-in vented disc/10.1-in drum
Tires: Michelin Symmetry


Wheelbase: 118.1 in
Length: 201.2 in
Width: 75.6 in
Height: 69.7 in
Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 61/60/50 ft3
Cargo Volume, seats up/folded: 19/79 ft3
Curb Weight: 4387 lb


60 mph: 10.0 sec
1/4-Mile: 17.6 sec @ 81 mph
100 mph: 30.0 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 10.3 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.4 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.6 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 117 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 203 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.74 g  

City/Highway: 18/26 mpg 


Source: Reviews -


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