I recently set out to answer the age-old question that every car shopper must eventually ask himself: Why would I buy a brand-new Honda Odyssey when I could get a used Aston Martin for the same price?
Yes, today I’m comparing my Aston Martin to a Honda Odyssey. And there’s a good reason: when you factor out the cost of the warranty, my Aston Martin was $45,400. The sticker price of the 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite I borrowed from a reader was $45,600. In other words: these two vehicles are directly comparable, if you ignore for a second the fact that one is a rolling emblem of boring, tedious suburban family life, and the other is driven by James Bond.
Before I get started, I think it’s important to describe the competitors. In one corner, you have the Honda Odyssey Touring Elite, which is a $45,600 minivan. Yes, that’s right: minivans now cost $45,600. It has eight seats, a 250-ish-horsepower V6 engine, a rear-seat DVD player, and a small pink container of stale Cheerios in the center console. And yes, this is the one with the built-in vacuum cleaner.
In the other corner, you have my Aston Martin: an exotic sports car whose sticker price formerly topped $126,000, before it surrendered to the single greatest foe that faces British automobiles: the unending spiral of momentous depreciation. I paid $45,400 for this car, but the next owner will probably pay something in the thirties. In five years, someone will try to trade it to Verizon in order to pay their monthly phone bill.
Obviously, these cars are so different that an actual comparison is hard to do – though I will point out that they have some similarities, such as round wheels, and transparent windows, and fuel doors. Nonetheless, I created an excellent comparison in a short, highly educational video that concludes with sinister laughter from a stuffed anteater. But I’ve also decided to write a column that expresses my opinions about the vehicles, just in case you are in an environment wherein you can read on your phone but not watch a video, such as a movie theater.
Here’s what I discovered: yes, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the Honda Odyssey Touring Elite are wildly different vehicles. (Surprise!) But holy crap, you can get a lot of car for $45,600.
A lot of us like to make fun of high-end Odyssey and the Sienna models for being so expensive, but after spending a few hours with this Odyssey Touring Elite, I’ve seen the light. I’m a convert. Praise be to the Lord, Asimo.
The primary reason is obvious: the Odyssey Touring Elite seats eight human beings in surprising comfort, it offers easy entry and exit, and it still has room for child gear, like a stroller, or a baby carrier, or a medium sized ball pit.
But that alone isn’t really very impressive. You can find room for eight people in any number of vehicles. Hell, you can find room for eighteen if you just hop on to Craigslist and pick up a used cargo van. No, they won’t be secured, but I do not see this as a downside unless you roll over and you accidentally swallow a ball from the ball pit.
What’s impressive is everything else about the Odyssey. When I was a kid, getting in a minivan meant tugging on an enormously heavy door and throwing it with all your weight, sort of like a javelin. No longer. Now there are fully automatic doors, with releases on the inside, and the outside, and the key fob. You want to open the door? There’s no heaving, no pushing, no pulling. You press a little button that says “OPEN.”
When I was a kid, “rear seat entertainment” meant staring out the window to find out-of-state license plates. In the Odyssey, there’s a split-screen rear DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones. The highlight of my family road trips was seeing a car from New Hampshire. The highlight of an Odyssey Touring Elite kid’s family road trip seeing dinosaurs trying to eat Chris Pratt in surround sound.
And it isn’t just those features. There’s tri-zone automatic climate control, which means rear passengers get their own climate zone. There’s a refrigerated box in front. There’s a navigation system, a forward collision warning system, a blind spot monitor, and a lane departure warning system. Put simply: if you remove the stigma that surrounds minivans, this is probably the greatest family car ever manufactured.
And yet, no doubt Odyssey owners will gaze longingly at my Aston Martin whenever they see it stopped at a traffic light. And who can blame them? It’s beautiful. It’s fast. It’s exciting. And the driving experience is many times better, partially because of the handling, partially because of the powertrain, and partially because there is no back seat to stick your screaming toddlers.
So what’s the best way to spend your $45,600? Of course, you’d rather have the Aston Martin. But then you miss out on the automatic doors. The cooled box. The forward collision warning. The rear-seat DVD player. The wireless headphones. Gadgets that James Bond would’ve surely appreciated.