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2000 Grand Voyager vs 2003 Honda Odyssey

At first it may seem like we are comparing apples and oranges.  This is true to a certain point.  However, the intention of this report is to transmit the impression of a car driver who substituted one car for another.  The views and opinions expressed herein are personal points of view of the driver.  This report is more qualitative than quantitative in nature; since the writer/driver never actually intended to write it, actual measurements and performance figures were never taken on a systematic basis.

In this case we are trading-in a 2000 Grand Voyager for a 2003 Honda Odyssey.  The cause of the trade-in was a chronic problem with the former’s brakes.

Both vehicles have more or less the same dimensions both outside and inside.  The Odyssey is longer outside and should be more or less as wide as the Grand Voyager. Inside, the Grand Voyager gave the impression of being more spacious than the Odyssey.  Access to the third seat was easier in the Grand Voyager than in the Odyssey, even when the latter’s captains’ chairs are next to each other.

Fit and finish are more or less the same, although the quality of plastics in the Grand Voyager looks cheaper than in the Honda.  A big difference is that the Grand Voyager had velour seats while the Odyssey has leather upholstery.

The instrument panel is very convenient an easy to read in both cars.  Which is better is a matter of taste.  Personally we like the night lighting of the Odyssey better. 

The Odyssey has the usual Japanese layout for lights in the turn stalk on the left, and a separate wiper/washer control on the right stalk.  This includes the controls for the rear wiper.  The Grand Voyager had the rear wiper controls next to the A/C.  At first the Odyssey’s controls are difficult to operate mostly because the driver was used to operate American car controls.  At first it was easy to grab the wiper stalk instead of the gear selector in the Odyssey.

The Grand Voyager had a 3.8L V6 12-valve engine coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission; the Odyssey has a 3.5L V6 24-valve SOHC VTEC engine coupled to a five-speed automatic gearbox.

Front suspensions in both vehicles were struts, while the Grand Voyager had Chrysler’s solid axle in the rear and the Honda has independent suspension.  Chrysler used leaf springs, Honda uses coils.  Cornering is significantly better in the Odyssey.

Brakes were front disks in the Grand Voyager and rear drums, while the Honda has four-wheel disk brakes.

As expected, the driver found that both are very good vehicles with advantages and disadvantages. 

Clearly the Honda outperforms the Chrysler in engine power and consequently, in acceleration.  It must be noted though that both cars are fast for their category.  With more or less the same weight, the Honda’s 240 hp does a better job than the Grand Voyager’s 200 hp when pulling a fully loaded vehicle. 

The Chrysler transmission shifted very softly, flawlessly.  It was noisy especially when climbing hills or going down with engine-braking.  Living in mountainous areas, the driver found that the PRND3L gear selection in the Grand Voyager severely limited the vehicle’s engine-braking capability.  The second gear could only be accessed by selecting “L” above 25 mph, but still the car accelerated on its wa down the hill.

The Odyssey has a PRND[D3]21 gear selector which clearly allows the driver to select “2”, which manages to keep acceleration in check to a better degree than the Chrysler.  This transmission has harder shifts than Chrysler’s but it feels good too.  Interestingly enough, the Odyssey doesn’t have a 1:1 gear.  The third gear is about 1.04:1 and then fourth and fifth are overdrives.  Fifth gear is between 0.5:1 and =0.58:1 or so, which should help the car delivering very good mileage on long, straight highways.

At this point is is difficult to provide mileage numbers for the Honda.  However, the Chrysler never returned more than 18-19 mpg in highway driving with regular gas.  City driving was even worse but then the car was driven mostly on heavy traffic and on grades. It is the feeling of the driver that the Honda uses more fuel than the Chrysler.

There are several details here and there that are interesting to note.  For instance, first and second row seats are more comfortable in the Odyssey and they have much better lateral support.  The third seat is more comfortable in the Grand Voyager.  This seat could also be positioned at a very wide angle to allow the rear passengers to have a nap.  The Odyssey’s third seat folds down into the trunk and you get a nice flat floor, but it can’t be set to such a wide angle as Chrysler’s removable bench seat.

Incidentally, the writer/driver never saw the need to remove any seats from the Grand Voyager.  The captain’s chairs in the Odyssey may be move fore and aft, and they can be set close together so the aisle to the third seat is next to the door, or they can be separated so that the aisle is in the middle. 

The right armrest of the driver’s seat is at a different height of the left one.  The armrest of the driver’s door protrudes too close to the seat, making it difficult to adjust the electric seat or to open the fuel cap.

The glove box in the Grand Voyager was lit, the one in the Odyssey isn’t.  The passenger seat in the former had a lockable drawer, the Odyssey doesn’t. 

Honda didn’t provide any sort of illumination for the electric door locks and the window switches, which the Grand Voyager had.

The gadget-oriented crowd will find that the trip computer that’s present in almost every Chrysler vehicle is absent in the Odyssey.  It was there so we used it, now it’s not there so we don’t use it but so far we haven’t missed it.  More than once we found that the outside temperature indicated by the Grand Voyager’s trip computer was higher than real, mostly when the car was parked under the sun.

Our main reason for trading-in the Chrysler were its brakes.  It must be said that this car was absolutely reliable in every other aspect.  The first time the writer/driver took control of the Grand Voyager when it was delivered at the dealer, was that the car didn’t stop.  There was a distinct sensation of slippage.  All in all the life of the front brake pads in this particular vehicle was too short, maybe 4,000 miles on average.  Reports from other drivers in the internet reported ten and even twenty times more life in their pads than the author.

This lack of braking power coupled to the inability of the transmission to do serious engine-braking, made up our minds to change this car as soon as we could, especially after two incidents in which the brakes caught fire within three days.

It must be noted that although we are comparing a car with front disks and rear drums to a car that has four-wheel disk brakes, the difference in performance shouldn’t be as noticeable as it is.  The Honda is much more sure-footed when braking than the Chrysler we had. [Webmaster note: we did review a similar Grand Voyager and did not experience any of the same braking problems.]

Noise is always an important factor when evaluating cars.  We have found that the Honda is noisier than the Grand Voyager.  Credit the third seat well for that, and probably the Bridgestone tires as opposed to the Grand Voyager’s Michelins.  At 75 mph the Grand Voyager was as quiet as possible at that speed; the driver only heard the noise of the wind against the left rearview mirror.  However, the Odyssey’s noise is no big deal.

Chrysler’s Infinity sound system was also superior to the Odyssey’s.  Chrysler’s cup holders were sprung so they held better the cups and bottles.  The Odyssey’s flip cup holders on the sides of the captain’s chairs are better because they are out of the way and won’t hurt the back of people’s legs.

The author has omitted mentioning the automatic passenger doors of the Honda on purpose.  As convenient as they are, they were not available in the 2000 Grand Voyager and comparing them would be absolutely unfair against it.  They are a definite plus but so is Chrysler’s more recent automatic rear hatch which isn’t available in the 2003 Honda. [Chrysler also sold minivans with automatic doors during this time period, perhaps not in Mexico.]

I prefer the Honda due to its driveability, comfort, brakes, and gearbox. Fit and finish were good in the Grand Voyager but the Odyssey is marginally better, particularly in the quality of plastics.  The Grand Voyager is quieter.

Both are very good vehicles and the prospective buyers should do well in comparing them before deciding which one they should buy.  2005 will bring interesting changes in both makes, so if there is no rush the wait may be worth it. [Note: review written in 2004.]

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