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Test-drive reviews by NITISH S. RELE,

Who says minivans are a vanishing breed? Ask Honda and the Japanese carmaker will point to its all-new 2011 Odyssey and to prove that the market for these family movers is alive and kicking. The redesigned and evenand more powerful and fuel-efficient minivan will should steal the thunder right from under the competition. Compared to its predecessor, the front-wheel-drive 2011 minivan is now 0.8 inches longer, 2.1 inches wider and 0.4 inches shorter. Passenger volume (172.6 cubic feet) has been boosted by 1.2 cubic feet while curb weight is down by nearly 100 pounds.

We were fortunate to drive the upscale and high-end Touring Elite version of the Odyssey, which is equipped with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 engine, which develops 248 horsepower (up by 4 from last year) @ 5700 rpm and 250 pounds-feet of torque (up by 5) @ 4800 rpm. The Variable Cylinder Management system, which deactivates three or four of the cylinders at lower speeds to, enhances the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. The 5-speed has been replaced by a slick and effortless 6-speed automatic transmission. The outcome is a XXXX ride with quiet and responsive ride with good overall handling and cornering balance.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, active front head restraints, three-point seatbelts, blind spot alert, front/rear obstacle detection system, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Believe it or not, the minivan shows off a sporty look with aA steeply raked front with sweptback HID headlights and fog lamps underneath conveys a sporty appearance. But it is in the cabin and its amenities that the Odyssey truly shines. All is standard in the Touring Elite model, including power sliding rear doors, leather seats, 16-inch ultra-wide DVD split screen for rear-seat passengers, 650-watt audio system, wide-angle rearview camera, tri-zone automatic climate control and 10-way power front seats.

Drivers of varying heights will take to the tilt-and-telescopic steering column. The second-row seat, which can be folded down with a lever, moves 5 inches fore and aft; the third-row seat can disappear into the cargo floor if needed. And with the second-row seat removed, you can fit a 4-by-8 plywood sheet into the minivan. You also can take out the front-floor console for extra storage room. There are at least 15 beverage holders. A “cool” feature is the cool box under the dashboard, which can keep your beverages cool as long as the a/c is on.

If you are looking for a more-than-satisfying mix of people-hauling practicality, generous cargo capacity and impressive fuel economy, head over to your local Tampa Honda dealer to test-drive the 2011 Odyssey. This is one decision you won’t regret.

Tires: 235/60R18
Wheelbase: 118.1 inches
Length: 202.1 inches
Weight: 4,337 pounds
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; multilink rear
Steering: Rack and pinion
Brakes: 12.6-inch ventilated front; 13.1-inch solid rear
Fuel capacity: 21 gallons
City: 19 mpg
Highway: 28 mpg
Base price: $43,250
Web site:


Redesigned for 2010, the Lexus RX350 gets a boost of 0.79 inches in its wheelbase, 1.38 inches in length, 1.6 inch in width and 2.8 inch wider track from its predecessor. However, the enhancements make little difference to the smooth and comfortable ride in the four-door, five-passenger luxury SUV.

A 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranks out 275 horsepower (up 5) @ 6200 rpm and 257 pounds-feet of torque at 4700 rpm. It is equipped with a revised 6-speed multi-mode automatic transmission (previous version had a 5 speed), which enables the driver to manually shift gears. Also, the SUV is now equipped with new intake and exhaust manifolds.

The front MacPherson strut suspension with coil springs has been retained. However, the rear suspension now gets a double wishbone with coil springs instead of the strut-based configuration. Translation: more cargo space area. A standard and effortless electric power steering nixes the need for hoses that go with a hydraulic pump system. Brakes are a robust 12.9-inch ventilated in the front and 12.2-inch rear disc brakes. Towing capacity is a reasonable 3,500 pounds. We averaged about 18.6 mpg in city/highway driving.

Standard safety features are 10 airbags, Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, Active Torque Control for the AWD, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, active head rests for front seats, free-limiting seatbelt pretensioners for front seats and three-point seatbelts with pretensioners for rear seats, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

The 10-way power front seats, three-spoke power tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel, push-button start, automatic dual-zone climate control, walnut wood trim on doors and around shifter knob, center and console plates, chrome door handles, metallic accents around the center of instrument panel, 40/20/40-split recline/slide fold rear seat and Lexus Premium audio (in-dash 6-CD changer with nine speakers) are standard. A cool mouse-like Remote Touch can be used to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls.

If you are looking for vim and vigor in your daily ride, the RX350 may fall slightly short of your expectations. But if you seek a quiet, gracious and easy-riding companion, this Lexus would be the smart choice.

Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
Length: 187.8 inches
Width: 74.2 inches
Height: 66.3 inches
Tires: 235/60R18
Weight: 4,343 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.2 gallons
City: 18 mpg
Highway: 24 mpg
Base price: $38,650
Web site:

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