Most of us go through a stage in life when we drive a car we need rather than one we want. However, just because you have to drive a vehicle that can haul the soccer team doesn’t mean it can’t have some nice amenities that make it a pleasure to drive.
Case in point is the Honda Odyssey. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of automobiles, its interior is so flexible. First of all, it’s a terrific people mover, capable of transporting seven or eight passengers over long or short distances economically, safely and comfortably. The biggest advantage of a minivan over an SUV is the ease with which passengers can enter and exit the second and third row of seats. With two seats instead of a bench in the second row, kids can just walk through and access the third row. Space in all seats is plentiful, and passengers in the rear get their own air vents.
Having a ‘neutral zone’ between the two second row seats is fantastic too. Just a foot or two of space between the seats is enough no man’s land to avoid all those “he’s touching me” fights. Cargo room behind the third row is adequate for a week’s groceries, especially if they can be stacked, but if you need more space, the third bench folds into the floor, which is really convenient when you’re going to the airport. If you need a ton of cargo room, the second row seats even come out.
Another nice feature of the Odyssey is that it drives like a Honda, with plenty of pep, a nice comfortable suspension, and handling like a big car rather than a truck. Power comes from a 3.5 liter V-6 that pumps 244 horsepower to the front wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission. Front, side and side curtain air bags provide safety in a worst-case scenario, and ABS brakes, vehicle stability assist and traction control help you avoid the worst. Mileage is 16 city, 23 highway.
Convenient touches abound in the Odyssey, including a center tray that flips up between the front seats to offer four cupholders and a deep bin to hold a purse or loose items. Another is the sunglasses holder that flips down from the ceiling and includes a wide angle mirror so you can see what’s going on behind you in the cabin. A tri-zone climate control system lets each front and rear passenger pick their own comfort zone. Fancier models offer electric sliding doors, a power tailgate and rear parking assist.
Martin Kingsbury, salesman at Honda of Frontenac, boasts of several Odyssey selling features. “It retains its value well, offers the safety of a back-up camera, and has special body construction that diffuses energy in case of a crash, thus making it a very safe vehicle.”
A base Odyssey LX starts at about $27,500, and a loaded Touring goes for about $41,500.
Another vehicle that could work for soccer moms is the Land Rover LR4, a new generation of Land Rover’s mid-sized SUV, with a new engine and many new features for 2010. Although the exterior looks like the old LR3, the interior is upgraded. Keyless entry and starting is a nice convenience, as are dual automatic climate control and a back-up camera. Front seats are comfortable and covered in rich leather. Second row seats are also comfortable with decent leg room. The third row seats are accessed by tipping forward the second row seats and climbing in. Third row seat room is adequate.
When not needed, the third row folds into the floor, offering a very large cargo area. For even more room, the second row seats can be folded down, too. Moon roofs over each row of seats add to the airiness of the cabin. The rear tailgate opens in a clamshell fashion, with a small part opening down and the rest up.
One exciting new option is a camera system that gives an almost 360 degree view around the vehicle, which really helps in tight parking spaces. Not only do the graphics show where the vehicle is headed, but in trailer mode they allow you to see the hitch for attaching the trailer and even show where the trailer is headed when reversing.
A new, more powerful 5.0 liter V-8 engine unique to Land Rover not only offers more horsepower, at 375, but also better gas mileage: 12 city, 17 highway. Power is distributed through a six-speed automatic to all four wheels. Legendary Land Rover off-road capabilities are enhanced by a new Terrain Response control that allows you to tell the vehicle what type of terrain you’re driving in, and then the LR4 does the rest, setting the throttle, differentials, brakes and other systems to provide maximum traction and control.
Handling and ride are surprisingly good for a 5,700 pound vehicle with the toughness of a truck. The brakes are decent, but it is obvious that they are working hard to stop a lot of vehicle.
Tom Akers, sales manager at Plaza Land Rover says, “The new LR4 offers an increase in power and dramatic interior improvements.” It will set you back in the neighborhood of $50,000-plus, depending on options.
Robert W. Paster is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.