2004 RB1 Odyssey Absolute
An Owner (and TOVA Reader) Review
The 3rd generation JDM Odyssey was launched in 2004 as the replacement for the JDM RA6 Odyssey. Sporting a lowered floor platform and sleeker styling, it projected a sportier image from the other ho-hum MPVs. When the RB1 Odyssey was launched here in Malaysia, Honda Malaysia only offered the ‘normal’ Odyssey with 5AT. It came with a 160PS K24a with luxurious appointments of leather and 10 airbags. Sadly, the more powerful Absolute model remained a JDM special.
But thanks to the parallel importers here, the Absolute is finally available to us. What we have here is a 2004 model RB1 Absolute in silver. The RB1 Odyssey Absolute is differentiated externally from its lesser sibling by the sculpted front bumper with foglights and a bodykit befitting its sportier image. The chrome trim has been deleted and smoked head and taillights finish off the appearance, with ‘Absolute’ badges splattered over the car. The car sits lower on sports suspension and rides on 17 inch, 10-spoke gun metal alloys shod with 215/55 rubber.
Step inside and you’ll be greeted by a dark, no-nonsense interior. The seats are deeply bolstered and hold you in place comfortably (this is still a family MPV, mind you). Black glossy trim is swathed across the deep dashboard. The gauge cluster is bathed with red lighting, even down to the switches on the centre console. The gear lever is thoughtfully placed, but it gets cold due to the cool air blowing from the air vents right in front of it. This particular model has been generously appointed with the options available.
Cruise control, dual zone climate control with independent temperature control for the rear passengers, a 30GB hard drive with navigation (redundant here in Malaysia) and TV are fitted alongside an Acculief Premium Sound system which adds tweeters and a 12cm sub underneath the front passenger seat. There is also a car phone system and voice command. The car also has a keyless start system and auto-leveling HID lights with AFS (automatic front headlight system) which swivels the projectors around bends. VSA (TCS + ABS) is standard for the Absolute as well as dual front airbags. The 2nd row of seats is deeply bolstered as well, while the 3rd row is fairly comfortable but with limited legroom for long-legged people like me. In this car, the 3rd row can be folded electrically with the touch of a button. Enough of the interior and lets hit the road.
On the go, the Absolute feels, just like any Honda sedan. The body control and steering feel are very Accord-ish, since it is based on the Accord platform. But the extra weight over the Accord does tend to show up in the corners. Negotiating a high speed bend will induce some body roll, but always kept in check by the firm suspension setup. Yes, the suspension is firmer compared to the Accord but never feels crashy or overly damped.
The 3 spoke sports steering is a bit light for my liking, but is direct and the VGR (variable gear ratio) rack helps in parking lots and tight places but never feels awkward when compared to BMW’s system.
The DOHC i-VTEC K24a in the Absolute is a higher tuned version of the K24a, with the VTEC mechanism on both intake and exhaust cams and runs a higher, 10.5: 1 compression ratio. All this equates to 200PS @ 6800rpm and 232Nm @ 4500rpm. This engine also serves duty in the JDM CL9 Accord Type-S and USDM Acura TSX. Mated with a seamless 5 speed automatic gearbox, it never falls short of power. Fuel consumption is a respectable 11km/l, based on the Japanese 10-15 cycle.
The K24a powerplant is a gutsy engine, which revs smoothly all the way to 7000 rpm. Acceleration is linear, with the VTEC operating smoothly, unlike the VTEC in the H22a or a K20aR in the new Civic Type R, where you really feel and hear the VTEC surge and roar. The shifts of the gearbox are seamless yet crisp. Slot the lever into manual mode and the shifts are executed at your own command.
At triple digit speeds with a full complement of passengers, the car feels stable and planted. Accelerating in gear from 80km/h to 130km/h is very smooth yet fast. Noise levels are fairly good, with only the roar from the tyres. The brakes on the Absolute are up to the task as well, with 300mm front rotors, similarly sized with the CL7 Accord Euro-R.
The RB1 Odyssey Absolute doesn’t feel like an MPV at all, more of an estate car with 7 seats. The marketing tagline for this car is ‘The new MPV. Sometimes it’s a sports car’. No joke. And it does feel like a sports car. Moms will surely love this car for the daily school-supermarket-kindergarten run. If I were in the market for an MPV, this will surely win my heart, hands down.
RB1 Absolute vs normal RB1
So, how does the Absolute compare to the normal RB1? In a nutshell, the two are highly similar to an extent.
The normal RB1 is ‘softer’ when compared to the Absolute. But the specifications appointed by Honda Malaysia to its Odyssey are more aimed towards luxury and comfort. The official model (the Absolute being a grey import) has acres of leather, lighter coloured wood trim and a comfort biased suspension. It also rides on 16 inch wheels wrapped with 215/60 rubber.
The car also has less power, with only 160PS and 218Nm churned out by its version of the K24a. This K24a runs on a lower compression and only has VTEC on its intake cam. But it is still up to task lugging the car, but compared to the Absolute, it is no match in performance. It does achieve a better fuel consumption figure, though.
The normal Odyssey rides softer and feels more comfortable. The tyres have a thicker sidewall, contributing to its softer ride. Steering feel also goes down a notch, but I doubt Odyssey owners will hurl their car into a corner and accelerate out with a touch of counter steer.
Performance-wise, the 160PS is sufficient enough. However, the engine does sound strained at higher revs. The 5 speed automatic is seamless as well. Acceleration is good, but it’s on the wide open highways is where this particular model shines. At a steady cruise, the interior is serene and the seat heaters (yes, seat heaters) do a good job of heating things up a bit. So, if you were to choose between these two Odysseys, which would, you choose?
Would you opt for the sportiness and power of the Absolute or the total comfort and luxury of the normal RB1? I have my heart set on the Absolute, since it floats my boat. Choose wisely, yet both Odyssey variants will reward the owner with a great drive and a memorable odyssey.
Special thanks go to Mr Mohd Farid Jaafar for the loan of his RB1 Odyssey Absolute and Dato’ Yahya Jaafar for his white RB1 Odyssey.
TOVA Reader 'BIEN'
© Temple of VTEC Asia
© Temple of VTEC Asia