The new ’11 Honda Odyssey will arrive at dealerships this fall without a 4-cyl. engine, American Honda Motor Co. Inc. confirms.

“We will provide only a 6-cyl. powertrain, to provide customers with the power and performance they demand,” Art St. Cyr, chief engineer for the new model, says in an online chat.

“It’s important to note that our 6-cyl. Touring Elite model achieves an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway (12.4-8.4 L/100 km). This is better than competitors’ 4- or 6-cyl. models.”

The only 4-cyl. minivan offered in the U.S. is the 2.7L Toyota Sienna that achieves 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) highway with front-wheel drive.

The Odyssey will continue to be powered by a 3.5L V-6 with Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management technology, but the auto maker declines to divulge more details on the powertrain.

The ’11 minivan also will lack all-wheel drive, another Sienna feature.

“Honda's research showed that very few customers require AWD in a minivan,” St. Cyr says. “And applying AWD would compromise interior space and fuel economy...and these were key priorities for customers during this development.”

Ward’s data indicates 9.0% of Sienna buyers opted for AWD in the ʼ09 model year.

Honda focuses largely on the interior in a webcast revealing the new minivan.

“This is a vehicle we think the customer will want to spend a lot of time in,” St. Cyr says, noting engineers designed the ’11 Odyssey as the “Ultimate Family Vehicle.”

In describing the new Touring Elite trim, Stephen Frey, principal engineer, notes Honda re-engineered the vehicle’s center stack, creating three distinct zones for heating and cooling controls; the audio system; and navigation functions.

Honda doesn’t provide exact dimensions of the new Odyssey but reiterates it is lower and wider, giving it a sportier look despite its increased interior space. Frey says about 1 in. (2.5 cm) of shoulder room was added up front.

New storage abounds, although Honda eliminated the in-floor space behind the first row of the current van.

A media tray that pops out of the center stack to hold cell phones and MP3 players and a “cool box” capable of storing six 12-oz. (0.4 L) cans are two new features. The cool box will be available on a majority of trim levels that, combined, are expected to account for 70% of sales.

The Odyssey’s center console has been redesigned to hold a purse, and it can be removed to create a walk-through to the second row. A ring flips up from the back of the center console to hold a plastic bag for garbage.

A wide liquid-crystal-display screen, similar to the one in the new ’11 Sienna, flips down from the ceiling to let rear passengers view up to two different video sources.

Second-row seating is changed, with the middle seat now 4 ins. (10 cm) wider and suitable for adult passengers. Captain’s chairs are able to slide out 2 ins. (5 cm) to allow more space for big car seats.

The second-row center seat (not available on base LX models) also can be pulled forward so a parent can have easier access to an infant.

Levers to collapse second-row seats up and forward have been relocated to a more intuitive spot, Frey says.

In the third row, Honda expects up to a 1-in. (2.5-cm) improvement in knee room. In addition, because the sliding door motor was repositioned below shoulder height, the rear-most space now is wide enough to seat three adults, the auto maker says.

The cargo area remains capable of swallowing a 4-ft.-by-8-ft. (122-cm-by-244-cm) sheet of plywood but also has newer small cubbies to contain windshield-washer fluid and a first-aid kit.

Honda’s Magic Seat has been improved, Frey says, with a 1-strap pull function that folds the seat into a well for a flat load floor.

The Odyssey has 15 cupholders, redesigned to grasp containers of varying types and sizes, from a small Red Bull can up to a Big Gulp cup.

The Touring Elite grade includes front and rear door handles that meet together for a cleaner look, 18-in. alloy wheels, high-intensity discharge headlights, bigger, ventilated front disc brakes and a power tailgate.

The ’11 Odyssey is a 100% American development, Honda says, and the minivan will continue to be built at the Lincoln, AL, plant, also home to the Ridgeline compact pickup and Accord midsize car.

Honda plans to maintain current Odyssey pricing levels. The ’10 Odyssey, with four trim levels, ranges from $27,000-$41,000.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com