Since my SUV vs Minivan post, we've looked at a few of the higher rated models out there.
The first two we saw were the Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona, and we discovered that they're actually both the same company. We liked the Entourage better anyway so Kia got kicked off the list. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to see the Honda and Toyota that day and very shortly after that, Connor arrived.
Last weekend we finally felt back up to going car hunting again and had planned to go see the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and the Honda Odyssey. We were kinda biased against the Odyssey, mostly because Misha's not thrilled with her current Honda (Accord) and because I've never been one to root for the winner. Still, I wanted us to get to know it so that we had a bar to measure against with all the others out there.
The Dodge was a gadget freak's wet dream. Bluetooth, 20GB of Media storage, 2 DVD screens, Satellite TV, a touchscreen media system that turns into a backup camera... it was all there. But then we drove it and discovered why someone invented sway bars. The thing cornered like it was about to derail. Add to this that it wasn't very large-feeling inside after you factored in the low ceiling (and the DVD modules which brought the center ceiling even lower) and the fact that both the Stow-and-Go and Swivel-and-Go seats weren't that impressive* and we quickly dismissed it from our finalists. And since the T&C is basically the same car but a bit more posh and $1,000 more... that was gone too.
*(Stowing was harder than it should have been and required you to move the driver's seat completely forward with no memory option to reset it and Swiveling meant that you and the people in the third row now shared about 8 inches of knee space. Kinda like flying backwards on Southwest without the witty overhead addresses.)
We finally got to examine and test drive an Odyssey on Wednesday and it was a surprise. We liked it and it drove better than the Accord. The rear seats folded down in a really easy and completely different manner. The controls seemed well laid out (though there were a ton of radio buttons thanks to the XM Radio) and my only gripe was that the seat warmer buttons were low enough to be foot activated. I really liked the 2nd row center seat and the reconfigurable captains chairs that could be made into a "bench" without the center seat. Getting in and out of the third row wasn't as nightmarish as I thought it might be and even when I gave myself legroom in the front and 2nd rows, I was still able to sit comfortably in the 3rd row (which is important since the 3rd row can't adjust forward or backward). The suspension was solid, if a bit stiff and the ride was comfortable.
From Honda, we drove over to Hyundai immediately to get as close to a side-by-side test drive comparison as possible. We figured this would tell us clearly who was the winner, but the ended up liking both cars pretty equally. The Entourage has smoother suspension without swaying and also has some high-end features that would have required us to move to the Touring model on the Odyssey (at least $3,000 more than the EX-L).
At this moment, we're leaning toward the Entourage since it has almost everything the Honda has, plus a motorized tailgate, adjustable pedals and memory for the driver's seat, pedals and side mirrors... all for $2,000 less. Sure, it doesn't come with XM, but since I don't have XM currently, I'm not missing anything (yet). And the few other features (center 2nd row seat, MP3 player jack, rear climate control, etc) are all non-essentials. The only real benefit I saw was that Honda has an engine management system that shuts off 3 of the 6 cylinders when coasting and only uses 4 when cruising, which saves gas and the environment. Hyundai, on the other hand, has received stellar safety ratings from the IIHS and they just gush about this at the dealer. If one more person tells me about the breakaway engine mounts...
Any thoughts from the fray? Too late to talk us out of a minivan at this point. I'll admit that the Odyssey is a great vehicle with a solid fit & finish and some nice options, but the Entourage is just solid enough to make it a true competitor and leave us with a few dollars to put towards Connor's college fund.