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2005 Minivan Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

2005 Honda Odyssey

Performance and fuel efficiency. Comfort and handling. Sportiness and utility. Polar opposites, you say? Yet Honda has merged such assets into the redesign of its Odyssey minivan for 2005. This third generation Odyssey, with all new underpinnings, remains a true minivan, but boosts power and performance and an earth-friendly stance through advanced technology.

Improvements include an all-new chassis and more rigid body structure for better and firmer handling. Honda mates a new, five-speed auto trans to its 255-horsepower VTEC V-6, adding about 15 ticks of engine gusto. It's the first segment use of "Variable Cylinder Management" to improve performance and fuel efficiency. Among safety the add-ons are tire pressure monitoring, side curtain airbags, a stability assist system to prevent rollovers and improved crash compatibility with other vehicles. Rear seat activities are visible in a convex interior mirror.

Honda seems to have compromised (or maybe not) by choosing adjustable legroom over mid-range space achieved by the likes of the competitors Chrysler and Dodge models with disappearing second row seats. Honda still has you hoist them out to carry something really big. But the second row separates, as bucket seats, or merges into a bench. And a stowable mid-row seat, available on upper level models, boosts total seating to eight. The disappearing third row "Magic" seating Honda was first to invent now flips more easily into the storage floor with headrests intact.

Long revered as practical, the Odyssey moves toward luxury with a new, top-level Touring edition. It joins the base LX, EX, and volume, leather-seated EX-L versions. In the minivan cup holder race, Honda now has 15 truly usable ones. Among amenities, depending on model, are a navigation system with backup camera, XM Satellite Radio-readiness, power tailgate and a rotating storage tray. While Honda hadn't released prices by press time, it's expected to match the $20,000 to nearly $40,000 range of competitors.