Vol. III No. 38 - Saturday September 18 - September 24 2004
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Automania

Honda Odyssey ‘Luxury’

The Honda line-up in this country I find somewhat confusing. Not only does Honda have small cars such as the City, but they also sell the Jazz, which to me would take away market-share from the sedan, but then I suppose Mr. Honda would undoubtedly have done his sums.

Honda Odyssey

Then there are three Hondas that all appear to be in the same market, the Stream, the Odyssey and the Elysion. These are all large van-style people movers, from my point of view, and they have similar sized engines, ranging from 2 litres to 2.4. They range in price here from 1.2 million baht (Stream) to 2.5 million (Odyssey) through to 3.2 million for the Elysion. So they are offering people movers to cover all tastes (and pockets) it seems.

John Weinthal, our man Down-under has been evaluating the top of the line Odyssey and feels that this latest incarnation of the Odyssey is sure to breed copycats. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

“Occasionally a vehicle comes along which virtually creates a new class of car – ground-breakers like the original Range Rover, Mini, VW Golf GTi, Toyota’s RAV-4 and Tarago and, arguably, even the Mazda RX8. When such cars are successful, others are sure to follow.

“If that be so, then we can expect more along the lines of the latest Honda Odyssey. Superficially it will be classified as a people mover. For sure it is a seven seater of roughly medium sedan length, just like Tarago, the class dominating Kia Carnival and, indeed, the original Odyssey.

“But it is in fact very different in that it rides much lower than conventional people movers; a design distinction we will return to later. At times I saw it as a bootless stretch limo, maybe a seven seat hatchback or even a stylish ground-hugging station wagon. Whatever, this is one very appealing way of carrying seven people in real comfort, with genuine car-like ride, handling, hush and comfort levels. But please ignore the nonsense about it being sporting. It is no more, nor less sporting, than say a Camry.

“The Odyssey was widely admired as a smart car with far more aesthetic appeal than the utilitarian form of most people movers. It is powered by an advanced 2.4 litre, 4-cylinder, 118kW engine. This drives the front wheels through a 5-speed auto transmission which has a fascia-mounted shifter and prompt response selectronic manual over-ride function.

“The well equipped base Odyssey costs AUD 38,790. There is also an AUD 45,290 Odyssey Luxury. Both constitute excellent value but, for once, we would be tempted to pay the extra for the Luxury model which we reviewed.

“Both have front and rear air con with two sets of controls and individual vents to all three rows of seats, front and front side air bags and anti-lock ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, power windows front and back and heated mirrors. They have remote locking, an engine immobiliser, fold-down centre console table, and flat folding second and third row seats allowing a multitude of seating or load carrying options.

“As well as its sleek external styling, Odyssey features a futuristic cockpit dash design with blue on black instrument backlighting and red needles as well as titanium and woodgrain look finishes. The supplementary audio and cruise control buttons are steering wheel-mounted. Odyssey has eight cup holders, adjustable centre front armrests, driver and passenger vanity mirrors, a sunglasses holder and expandable map pockets in the passenger doors.

“Odyssey Luxury adds an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, two-stage heated front seats, sunroof, leather seats and door trims, six-CD stacker, auto headlights and 16 inch alloy wheels. It has curtain airbags covering all three rows of seating, power retraction for the third row of seats, a leather-bound steering wheel with woodgrain-look trim, illuminated vanity mirrors and lidded 2nd row passenger door pockets. “That is an appealing and comprehensive equipment list for any vehicle, much less a car-like seven-seater costing well under AUD 50,000, so will it be to everybody’s taste? Some will miss the high driving position of most people movers and four-wheel-drives which gives a better view over traffic. Most people would also prefer a conventional handbrake to the American-style foot-operated parking brake, even though this is also favoured by Mercedes and Lexus among others.

“The upside of the Odyssey’s low centre of gravity is superior handling and ride. It also contributes, along with the ski-slope nose and other not-so-evident aerodynamic features, to the outstanding fuel economy of around 9.2 litres per 100km which we achieved. At this rate one might expect an easy 700 km between refills of the 65 litre fuel tank.

“The versatility of the seating is a major bonus when mixing passenger and load carrying needs. This Odyssey may be only a minor ground-breaker but it is sure to attract its share of copycats. It represents a socially acceptable alternative to expensive-to-run and poorer handing and riding seven-seat four-wheel-drives and conventional people movers.

“Were we impressed? Too right we were.”

(Thank you John. As is often the case, there are differences between similar models in different countries. The Odyssey on sale here has a 4 speed auto and 2.2 litres, and through taxes and duties costs much more than the 1.5 million equivalent in the baht to the Aussie dollar. Dr. Iain.)


What did we learn from the Italian Grand Prix?

Well, first off we learned that you can never write off Ferrari. With a gamble on Barichello’s tyres turning sour within five laps, and Michael Schumacher spinning on the first lap and being demoted to 15th, the red cars still came home 1-2, with this time Rooby Baby in the lead car. Of course there were no ‘team orders’ but Rubens did say in the post-race press conference when asked whether Michael was a threat towards the end, “Well at that stage the team told both us, I think, to conserve the engines just a little bit because we had to push very hard in the middle of the race so at that stage I felt quite comfortable to be honest.” The fact that maximum points for Rubens assists Ferrari in getting him to an unassailable second place, has I am sure, never crossed Jean Todt’s mind! (All please raise your umbrellas now, as there is a flock of pigs expected overhead any time soon!)

One has also to wonder about the tarnished hero from the UK, Jenson Button. Desperately trying to free himself from BAR, a team that has got him on the podium (and within a sneeze of the top step at Monza), to go to a team that has consistently under-performed all this year. The fact that both Montoya and Schumacher the younger are jumping ship from Williams would have to make you think twice about this move. However, from Mark Webber’s point of view, the move from Jaguar (to almost anywhere other than Minardi or Jordan), is a step forward.

We also learned that Michael Schumacher can pass other drivers on the track, and not just in the pits. He scythed his way through the pack with a total domination that was very obvious. Young Button was very easily put in his place, so the presumed and long awaited “battle” was very short-lived.

The on-track battles enlivened this race, and I believe should make the FIA sit up and take notice. By making the cars run to the end on one thankful of petrol would give us more on-track action. Blind Freddie can see this. Why can’t the powers that be?

The ‘real’ answer to the expensive petrol problem?

I was very disappointed that there was no charity bike ride this year. The official reason was that the roads are currently in such a state of disrepair that it was considered too dangerous – but I know the real reason. They were afraid of my electro-bike! For the past three years I have been seen whizzing along with the best of them, getting my exercise, but without having to rely totally on pedal power. From my point of view, struggling along with a standard bicycle is like sending messages carved on large pieces of stone. Why would you bother, when you can use the electronic email? Likewise, with electro-bikes being so inexpensive too, why would you bother with yesterday’s technology?

This line of reasoning led me to think about the current petrol price problem. Forget about gasohol and shutting the servo’s at 10 p.m. or other such knee-jerk reactions. Why be beholden to crude oil price per barrel, the Middle East, Venezuela, Texas and George Bush (in no particular order)? There is an alternative already here. Electric transportation!

Now I am not suggesting that we immediately trade in our gas-guzzlers for golf buggies, but imagine the scenario where we replace our petrol (or diesel) commuter cars with electric bicycles? In one fell swoop we have cured the traffic jam problem, the fuel crisis and air pollution! Now that has to be worth thinking about, surely?

I had a chat with Paul Markham, the MD of the Ecobrand electric bicycles, and with electric bicycles now available from under B. 10,000, and just about zero operating costs (3 baht for 100 kays, according to Paul), why would you bother about any other type of transport for local commuting? Definitely worth looking at are the Ecobrand electric scooters, complete with lockable luggage boxes on them. You will get good quality ones for around B. 18,000.

If you would like to find out more about these, you can contact Paul Markham at Eco-brand Exim International, email [email protected], or telephone 02 903 3037, or direct to his mobile on 01 552 3966.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I mentioned that GTO was a famous set of initials. The Pontiac GTO being a fine example. However, the initials were first used by Ferrari, with their GTO. I asked what did GTO stand for? The answer was Gran Turismo Omologato. So there! (And Eric Servaes from Belgium was first in with the correct answer. Well done, Eric!)

So to this week. A car was built in 1922 with independent suspension, a five cylinder radial air-cooled engine and the spare wheel set into the side of the car, in the place where you would expect the rear door. It was built by O. D. North. What was the name of the car?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!


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