A Honda Odyssey up north
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of driving the Honda Oddyssey up north. To be honest, driving it in Metro Manila traffic was pretty abysmal in terms of fuel consumption: even with my carefully honed ultra-efficient driving technique, I was lucky to make 5 km/liter.
But the Odyssey’s greatest redeeming factor, in spite of its miserable in-city fuel consumption, is absolute comfort. The Japanese version Odyssey, though smaller and therefore better suited to our narrow roads, is just as comfortable as its larger American cousin, which Honda previously sold.
The Japanese version Odyssey makes do with a smaller, more fuel efficient 4-cylinder 2.5-liter Earth Dreams II engine, delivering an adequate 173 hp and 226 Newton meters of torque.
The CVT transmission driving the front wheels also has a manual mode, which delivers a simulated seven forward gears, although you could have made it a 10-speeder and it would still only feel adequate at best if you’re pressing on.
Thankfully, the CVT feels far less recalcitrant, and more responsive and intuitive in traffic and on the highway.
So, one hot summer afternoon, we loaded up the Odyssey with me, the missus, our poodle Lulu, along with my brother and sister-in-law, with their westie named Challah, to drive up north, get the Odyssey in its element, then come back home.
This would be a test of the Odyssey’s smoothness, refinement and comfort, its impressive long-distance touring ability, and eke out the best possible fuel efficiency figure only a long drive would deliver.
We left Greenhills at 2 p.m., and Edsa, despite being a Sunday, was grid-locked. In no time, my wife, in-laws and two dogs were fast asleep, leaving me to navigate Edsa traffic northbound.
It’s not hard to understand why: everything is covered in soft leather, driving position is excellent, van or not, and the three-zone air conditioning control system provides a perfect climate-controlled environment.
The second row captain’s seats slide backwards, and recline comfortably like a Lazy-boy sofa. Traffic gave me time to review the Odyssey’s safety features: six airbags (front, side and curtain airbags), traction/stability control, and ABS brakes with emergency brake assist, plus hill-start assist.
The Odyssey’s sliding doors also open electronically, which makes it handy for Moms carrying loads of bags, shopping, groceries, yayas carrying kids, or elderly folks getting in and out.
On NLEX, I kept the Odyssey at a steady 100 km/h. Here, the Odyssey was in its element: almost no road, wind and tire noise could be heard. The engine hummed peacefully as the CVT transmission kept the revs at a low 1,400-1,700 rpm throughout the drive on NLEX.
Crosswinds did little to affect the Odyssey’s stability, too. We encountered a rough patch of the expressway road that was being repaired, and the suspension gave enough compliance to keep us relaxed inside.
Our first destination was Clark Field in Pampanga to check out some parks we found online and allow the dogs to run around.
Trundling about the busy streets of Clark Field, the Odyssey’s brakes came in focus: very strong, progressive, and easily modulated, but the initial tip-in of the brakes was a tad over-assisted: my passengers would complain when I would suddenly have to stop for crossing pedestrians and Clark Field’s 4-way first-to-stop/first-to-go intersections.
After the dogs had their fun at the park, we headed towards Subic Bay to meet with some local friends for a triple date.
As dusk was approaching, the LED headlights of the Odyssey showed their limitation. LED lighting technology, though super efficient and with very low current draw, still does not provide the same level of illumination as HID/xenon lighting.
I had to use the high beams on the drive home, as it was pitch black on SCTEX, which for the most part remained unlit at night except for the bridges and exits.
Travelling with millennials means they are very curious and want to check every single feature inside the car. The multimedia system with its 7-inch touch-screen monitor can mirror-image your mobile phone using an HDMI cable, but we never got to try it, although it connected to Spotify, thus giving us music all the way.
There’s even a 9-inch rear seat monitor that folds out from the ceiling so kids can be entertained while travelling, minus the incessant “Are we there yet?” questioning.
After our sumptuous dinner, we left Subic at 9:30 p.m., and arrived in Greenhills by 11:45 p.m. We had covered almost 400 kilometers of predominantly highway driving in half a day; I never felt the need to swap driving seat time with anyone.
I felt just as refreshed as when we left Greenhills at 2 p.m. earlier that day. And yes, finally, we hit the magic number: 11.7 kilometers per liter.
The Odyssey is and always will be a niche model. It only makes sense if you do long drives regularly, as in 2 to 3 times a week, covering something like 100 kilometers per drive.
It’s much more refined and easier compared to, say, the Honda Pilot SUV I tested a few weeks prior to the Odyssey, and it’s easier to get in and out of too, while favoring children and elderly alike.
If you spend a lot of time in traffic and don’t mind the fuel consumption, the Odyssey makes perfect sense as it will be more comfortable than even a large executive 4-door sedan.
For us, the Odyssey was the perfect travel companion up north. Roomy, comfortable, fuel efficient on long drives, loaded with technology, and feeling very posh and luxurious enough (leather and piano black wood are very nice to the touch) to look classy without being flashy or tacky.
Given the chance, I’d love to drive one again even further. Pagudpud anyone?