After previewing the fourth generation of its best-selling family hauler in concept form at the Chicago Auto Show in February, Honda has revealed a selection of photos and facts on the production version of its 2011 Odyssey. While all of the images and information focused on the new top-of-the-line Touring Elite trim, it's fair to say that the lesser models in the lineup will share all of the basic designed-in goodness -- if not quite as many bells and whistles.

True to its mission statement, the production 2011 Honda Odyssey embodies more style, functionality and comfort than ever before in a package that's both lower and wider than the current model. Retaining the unique flash factor of its one-off precursor, the 2011 Odyssey's more distinctively rendered sheetmetal is highlighted by the dramatic "lightning bolt" side character line and unique greenhouse treatment that Honda is confident will give it a meaningful edge against its key minivan foes, most notably the new-gen Toyota Sienna. That dynamically bolder look will be accompanied by a more refined chassis setup that promises to maintain the Odyssey's longstanding reputation for sprightly handling.

Inside, the 2011 Honda Odyssey boasts a far more contemporary appearance and offers passenger-centric enhancements in all three rows of seats. Improved visibility, expanded soft-touch surfaces, more intuitive control layouts and greater usable space for both people and their carry-ons have improved both its short- and long-distance cruising charms. And when toting cargo takes priority, design revisions to its third-tier "Magic Seat" permit simpler, quicker reconfiguring while still allowing it to hold the benchmark 4x8-foot sheet of plywood, should the need arise.

As for the new Touring Elite model, it's set to venture where no Odyssey has ever gone before. Motivation will be supplied by Honda's 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 with tri-mode Variable Cylinder Management, which is expected to be the prime -- if not sole -- motivator for all 2011 Odyssey models and earn 19/28 mpg projected EPA city/highway numbers. HID headlamps and a power liftgate will be standard fare here, as will 18-inch alloy wheels. Adding to its appeal as a premier traveling companion, the Touring Elite complements its leather upholstery and heated power front seats with a 12-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD Premium Audio System, Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Activation and an Ultra-Wide Rear Entertainment System that offers split-screen capability.

Other notable items included in the Touring Elite's lengthy standards roster are a 150-watt AC power outlet, an external HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) input, retractable window sunshades for the second- and third-row seats, no fewer than 15 beverage holders and a handy cool box in the lower front console.

Additional details and pricing info on the Touring Elite and all other versions of this impressively recast minivan won't be available until closer to its on-sale date in the fall. However, even at first glance, it appears that the 2011 Honda Odyssey will be well prepared to defend its existing turf as well as seek new conquests when it finally does arrive in dealer showrooms.

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