Derek Shiekhi | Feb 18, 2021

Exterior view of the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite

I'm a lifelong car nut, but I've never been into vans. That all changed recently. A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I moved to the Phoenix area and started staying with her parents. There are several beautiful spots nearby that are perfect for socially distanced day trips, so I booked a press vehicle that would be large and comfortable enough for an all-day adventure.

Once the weekend rolled around, we all got into the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite ($49,335 as tested) and headed toward the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Exterior

Exterior view of the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite

I timed my media loan perfectly because Honda thoroughly updated the Odyssey for 2021. All trim levels get a completely redesigned front end with more powerful LED headlights, a blacked-out grille topped with a strip of chrome trim and stacked jewel-like LED fog lights. Touring and Elite models come with new 19-inch wheels. The Shark Gray and silver alloys gave my otherwise low-key Platinum White Pearl tester a sporty, custom look. Another strip of chrome and more black trim separates the wraparound LED taillights.

There are even more cosmetic and functional interior updates for most Odyssey trim levels. Like many of its siblings, the Elite model receives an updated center console that better manages charging cords, new tri-color floor mats that help hide stains, and piano black trim for the third row, which also gains a USB charging port. The available Magic Slide second row seats can not only be slid left to right to ease entry into the third row, but now can also be folded almost completely flat to make the interior more entry- and cargo-friendly.

The Odyssey Elite gets its own specific upgrades. The first- and second-row seats are covered in perforated leather; contrast stitching and piping highlights all three rows. The trim pieces that span the dashboard now have a darker metallic finish.

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2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Interior

Interior view of the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite

A few minutes before my fiancé, her parents and I set out for the Grand Canyon, we loaded the Odyssey. It had plenty of room for the bottled water we were going to need. There were two cup holders in each front door panel, a pair at each end of the front center console and one in each of the rear door panels. The third row had more than enough legroom and headroom for adult passengers, so it had no problem holding all of our bulky winter coats.

My future father-in-law volunteered to serve as navigator, so he used the map on his iPhone instead of the Odyssey's onboard nav and eight-inch touchscreen. He made sure to connect to the Apple CarPlay system because he was also our DJ for the roughly 3.5-hour trek to our breathtaking and awe-inspiring destination. Seated in the second row, my fiancé and her mother had their own personal 10.2-inch flip-down high-resolution screen for watching Blu-Ray movies, but we all opted to jam out to Disney tunes, modern pop and '80s hits on the 550-watt, 11-speaker audio system.

My future mother-in-law brought plenty of snacks, including a road trip classic: granola bars. Those were a welcome treat a couple of hours into the drive. They were also kind of a crumbly mess. For the first time in my life, I looked forward to vacuuming. It was the perfect excuse to use the Odyssey's onboard Shop Vac, which easily sucked up the crunchy snack time debris.

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2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Performance

View of the engine block of the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite


The further north we went on I-7 toward Flagstaff, the lower the outside temperature went. Certain stretches flanked us on both sides with snow-covered fields. A part of me wished Honda offered the Odyssey with all-wheel drive. Its naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 routes its 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque through a 10-speed automatic and the front wheels only. Fortunately, the roads were meticulously cleared. Just in case we encountered some powder, I was ready to hit the easily accessible Snow button to engage its specially tuned traction control.

The Odyssey's on-road dynamics made an already pleasant journey with my loved ones even more enjoyable. Wind noise was well muffled. All of the various grades of asphalt quality showed that the suspension struck a great balance between comfort and composure.

When my week with the Odyssey was over, I had put 449.8 miles on it. The majority of those were highway miles, which helped me hit an average fuel economy figure of 26.7 mpg. That's a little below the EPA's highway rating of 28 mpg, but considering I had four people in the van and we climbed to an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet, I was pleased with it.

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2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Safety

View of the safety features of the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite

The Honda Sensing suite of safety features and driver aids is standard equipment across the entire 2021 Odyssey range. Those include Traffic Sign Recognition, Collision Mitigation Braking System and Road Departure Mitigation System. The combination of Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow functionality and the Lane Keeping Assist System helped keep me calm and centered (literally and figuratively) through the miles of sweeping curves between my new home and the Grand Canyon.

Touring and Elite models are equipped with the combination of the Rear-Seat Reminder system and the CabinWatch camera setup that provides a clear, adjustable view of the rear seats. I could see my fiancé and future mother-in-law in high def - and understand why such a feature would be useful to the parents of small children who don't like sharing their toys.

Two major vehicle safety testing organizations have great things to say about the Odyssey, too. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Odyssey a 2020 Top Safety Pick + and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it its highest Overall Rating of five stars.

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2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Overall

Exterior view of the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite

Now that I've spent a week in the 2021 Honda Odyssey, I completely understand the appeal of minivans. It looked sharp and had plenty of room and features to change "Are we there yet?" from an eager plea for the drive to end into a playful joke. Test out the 2021 Odyssey at an AutoNation Honda dealership, where you can get the one that's perfect for you and start planning your own family adventures for a starting price of $31,790.   

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2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Specs


4-door, 8-passenger, FWD


1.3L V6, 280hp, 262 lb-ft
Ten-speed automatic


19/28 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

AutoNation Drive Test Drive Review: ★ ★ ★ ★

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