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Hello all, It's been years since we've last visited this site so let me start off by briefing you on our story.

We have never bought into the notion 'minivans are the best family vehicles.' When we had our 3rd child, we sold our Land Rover and went to buy the Suburban we had always dreamed of; We had done tons of research and worked out something on one with dealer incentives, discounts etc. etc. The best deal on the Sub was only about $3.5K more than the best deal we could get on the Odyssey.

When we finally went to pull the trigger in mid '03, the deals on the Sub had expired just as they began to surface with the Odyssey. We ended up finding an EX-L Navi unit for near invoice and the margin between it and the SUV's was more like $7k.

We knew in our hearts we would regret it but at the time, the $7k plus better MPG's just seemed to be more than we could sensibly ignore and add to that, we are strong Honda/Acura advocates and had driven several past 200K without issue.

So, for the first month or so, we really enjoyed certain things about our new Odyssey but it did not take long to notice what it really was lacking. We take 2-3 week long vacations a year and another 6-8 long weekend trips. The Oddy certainly does feel roomy to sit in but we could never vould figure out a way to pack it in a way that we could access things on our long trips from Maryland to the Carolina’s, New England or Canada. Everything was always crammed into nooks and crannies and precariously balanced vertically.

Also, with the six of us (we now have 4 kids) and our gear, the van is so sluggish and low slung that the ride is terrible and everything shifts about while we get terrible MPG’s (16) and even worse if we tow our small Pop-up. About 2 years ago, we decided to experiment by renting a Suburban for a 2 week trip to Maine. WOW!!!!!!!

Not only were we able to pack everything in a much more logical and accessible way, we even had enough room to take our 145lb Newfoundland with room to spare! We averaged 18.7 MPG’s (more than our Odyssey) and we never once felt under powered and had a wonderful ride, even through the mountains.

So, ever since then, we have rented various SUV’s including a Traverse, Tahoe, Acadia and another Suburban or two for all of our long distance trips. The entire family thinks of the SUV as a vacation in itself and almost looks forward to spending 14 hours one way in it as they do 2 weeks in a lakefront cabin in Canada!

Now we find ourselves in a very similar situation. Our Oddy has 200K miles (thank you Honda) and we need to replace it. The new Oddy, though much improved over our ’03 still leaves much to be desired and is still a minivan. The Suburbans MPG’s have risen but so has the Oddy’s. We now need more space than ever and travel more than ever. The Acadia is a huge hit with us all but no cargo space to speak of. We would love it but will still have to rent a Suburban for long trips.

So again, it is between the Odyssey and Suburban. Once again, we are reluctant to pull the trigger on either as the Oddy seems more sensible than ever but OMG! The thought of having to suffer with another minivan for ANOTHER 8 years is just depressing.
It’s funny. We seem to know plenty of people who sit on either side of the fence and it seems as though those who have never had an SUV insist that we NEED a minivan. Those who have driven SUV’s or both seem to understand us.

With that being said, It’s still not an easy choice by any means. I am no longer concerned about the cost difference as we have learned that we will pay for it one way or another by lower MPG’s in the Oddy when loaded or by renting a Suburban. Now, it is more an issue of the legendary Honda reliability and quality compared to the not so legendary likes of a domestic vehicle.

I’m a proud veteran who strongly believes in buy American but I’ve just had too many domestic vehicles end up costing me tons and too many Honda/Acura’s that have gone 200K+ without even a single issue.

Same boat, different paddles. Take the boring road with the tried and trusty (Odyssey) or the super exciting road with a few possible surprises (SUV.) - Then, get the Acadia and rent a Suburban for trips or just lay down the cash and get the Suburban from the start.

We're about to make a spring trip to Hilton Head Island for a week and really was looking forward to another week in a Suburban but we are considering trying a 2011 Odyssey.

What do you guys think?
 

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Wow,

That's quite the first post.

While we have less kids I couldn't disagree more with you about the usable space in a minivan as compared to a SUV. Minivans are simply the most efficient use of space given the size of the vehicle.

If comparing to SUV's, to make an accurate comparison you'd have to compare to something like a Tahoe as a Suburban is a much bigger vehicle which of course in your case is giving you that extra bit of room which means ......................you've already answered your questions, get the Burb.
 

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Well, you certaintly seem to need the space and do plenty of trips, so if I were you, I'd go for a suburban. With that amount of weight, the V6 in the odyssey will be struggling. I've only test driven the previous generation, but we own a 2011 Touring Elite with the 6 speed transmission, and on our 500mile drive to atlanta for christmas ( full of presents) it was quite sluggish. My parents rented a suburban for one of our trips, and it was amazing, but we just didn't need that behemoth for everyday living.
My first car was a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee v8, which i absolutely adored, but I have to say, it is by FAR the most expensive car to keep on the road that our extended family has ever owned. So with that in mind, we've stayed clear of american manufacturers. (thought my dad recently got a Silverado). On that line, you have to consider that the 2011 odyssey is designed in america and assembled in america.
If you are considering the Acadia, over the suburban, well I would opt for the Odyssey personally. I drove one, it seemed fine, but I didn't like the hugely swinging doors, the chromed airvents kept blinding me in the sun with the glare, and it just somehow seemed cheaper interior wise. I'm also not a huge fan of their style (not that i like the new odyssey exterior). I also don't like floor tracks for the 2nd row seats, and I also thought the 2nd row seats were too low to the ground in the Acadia.

happy car shopping!

{edit} don't get the Sienna like Snobike Mike, he's regretting his purchase, that's why he's still lurking on honda forums... just kidding Mike :)
 

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4 kids = burban in my book. Ody is perfect for three.

We have six suburbans here in the company fleet and they get the snot beat out of them. I drive an '09 LTZ with 80k miles on a regular basis and it drives very nice and had little done to it. I wouldn't sweat it at all. I've rented Suburbans before and you'll never save enough fuel with the Ody to offset that rental bill a few times a year.
 

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I think the Suburban is your vehicle. You have had both and say the family prefers the SUV and you have more usable space available than with a mini van.

You don't mention the driving experience in the Suburban and which vehicle is easier to drive on a day to day basis. I'm not sure how much cost figures into things for you either. While we can debate whether vehicles will meet or beat the EPA ratings, this is how it works out for you on fuel expense based on a comparison between a 2011 Odyssey Touring (6 speed) and a 2WD 1500 series Suburban:

Based on a 2003 with 200,000 miles on it, you are averaging 28,500 miles/ year. I'll make the assumption that 65% of your driving is city. The national average for regular gas this week is $3.57.

When you plug these numbers into the EPA Fuel Economy Calculator, the annual fuel cost for the Suburban is $6,000, while the average cost for the Odyssey is $4,857 for a difference of $1,143/year. Over 7 years, the cost is about $8,000 assuming the cost of fuel doesn't increase (but it will).

In the end, I think you have to go with what works best for you. And you probably know best what will work. My wife comes from a family of 5 kids. When they were young her parents had a full size wagon (one with a row of rear facing seats) and they went everywhere in it. My wife's brother has 4 kids and they have a 2005 Odyssey and use it for daily driving and trips to the lake (3 hours). My brother in law views cars as tools and spends the least amount of money to get the job done. He find the Odyssey fine for his purposes.

Four kids generate logistics problems and allot of expense. If you are more comfortable in the Suburban and don't mind the extra expense I'd go that way. If you are looking to save some money and still have utility, a van is a good way to go. In my opinion, all of the mid/full size SUV's will be too small. You may fit everyone in, but the rear jump seats aren't comfortable and there is precious little space left over for luggage (never mind the dog).

You might consider a hybrid plan. Get a new mini van for around town and shorter trips and rent a full size Suburban for those long trips. You'll save miles on your own car (extending its life) and can pay for the rental with the fuel savings (and initial cost savings).

I really wanted to get a 2011 Toyota Tundra Crew Cab. I like driving a large vehicle and can use it when I go to the stable (but don't really need it). It cost allot more though and uses allot more gas. In addition it is a pain to park and manoeuvre in tight spaces. But .. there is nothing like it travelling down the open road. In the end I couldn't live with the extra gas cost and didn't really need it, so we got a 2011 Odyssey. It is low to the ground, holds a ton of stuff (even with the rear row up) and gets decent fuel mileage. the right choice for us .. but for you, I'd go with the Sub.
 

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In your situation, I can't imagine NOT getting the Ody.

But, as much as you hate minivans, just get something else and see how it goes. I mean, how badly could a Suburban turn out? ;)

Maybe consider a used Ody that would last you 4 years, so there is only 4 years of suffering.
 

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Wow,

That's quite the first post.

While we have less kids I couldn't disagree more with you about the usable space in a minivan as compared to a SUV. Minivans are simply the most efficient use of space given the size of the vehicle.

If comparing to SUV's, to make an accurate comparison you'd have to compare to something like a Tahoe as a Suburban is a much bigger vehicle which of course in your case is giving you that extra bit of room which means ......................you've already answered your questions, get the Burb.
You meant to write "fewer" kids right? :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
To Minivan Mike :)

While we have less kids I couldn't disagree more with you about the usable space in a minivan as compared to a SUV. Minivans are simply the most efficient use of space given the size of the vehicle.
I do appreciate any and all responses including the ones I disagree with. I am not an opinionated person so I look to others to help me discover my own.

With that being said, Boy Mike, our opinions in regards to use of space are worlds apart!

Like I mentioned before, when we decided to not buy the '03 Burb and did get the '03 Ody, it was with the understanding that at least we would benefit from a minivan's seemingly abundance of space.

Now, all I have to say is that both my wife and I were both stymied when we could not figure out how to take advantage of what seemed to be a cavernous minivan. On several occasions, we packed, re-arranged, repacked etc. etc. and could never figure out how to do a better job than just cramming and stacking things. The space in our Odyssey seems to be all around your shoulders and head which is not a good place for duffle bags, camping gear and beach toys!

The Tahoe and Suburban offer much more of a ‘foot print’ for stuff which means that things are not piled high, crushing and un-balanced. Granted, the Ody touts some serious cubic footage but again, it’s mostly air around your head, not floor to stow things on. Also, much of the space in the Ody, though it does add to the feel of openness, is not accessible. For instance, try standing something up in the back of the Ody. Though it has a huge, tall compartment, the window sweeps in steeply while the seatbacks are leaning backwards. There really isn’t more than 4 inches of clear vertical storage from floor to ceiling in the Ody. Now, the Tahoe has nearly 2’ while the Suburban 4’ of clear vertical storage from floor to ceiling!!

Again, I am not an opinionated or confrontational person. I’m just a little bothered when I keep hearing the same thing over and over again when I KNOW it to be not so true, at least in some respects. Keep in mind, I have over 200K experience hauling a family of 5, then 6 and with a large dog around everywhere from 1 miles trips to the store, all the way to Canada. We also have tons of experience driving on long distance trips. Not a single person in our family would hesitate to grimace at the notion ‘minivans have more space.’

Believe me, as much as I wanted, and still want an SUV, I’d welcome an option to save $7K, get better mileage and fit more stuff. I just don’t see that option.

I’ve yet to be able to compare the newer ’11 models side-by-side. I guess I’m just hoping to hear what others might say about their experiences and how they found one to be the better option than the other.

My Honda dealer agrees with Mike and tells me the same thing every time but my GMC dealers disagrees and gives me his quotes. Anyone out there with actual experience?
 

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I don't have actual experience, but I can see your point. Once you have the rear row of seats in use there isn't allot of extra space for large duffels and a large dog. I think you need a larger vehicle to meet your needs.

For everyday use though, I think a mini van would be more economical and easier to get in and out of parking lots and smaller spaces. But if you are only buying one vehicle, you have to make sure it can meet your most challenging needs - which in this case is loading requirements for your many long trips.

I'd suggest you wait until August (if you can) and wait for the inevitable "employee purchase program" from GM where you can save $7,000+ and you'll be even with a new Odyssey. That is called having you cake and eating it too. :)
 

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I think a lot of it is going to be personal experience and preference. I too have a family of six and a dog (though our shih tzu is 12 lbs lol) We take many trips each year including the trip to Hilton Head every summer. I recently traded in my GMC Acadia for a 2011 Odyssey and haven't once regretted it.

As you know but some others may not, with the Acadia/Travese/Tahoe/Yukon grouping you know that the Traverse/Acadia actually offers more room behind the third row than the Yukon/Tahoe. You wouldn't think this to be the case, but it does. When going on any of our trips in the Acadia, we had to always take the roof carrier, even for long weekends as there wasn't enough room behind the third row for all the gear.

I also carry a lot of stuff in my vehicle day to day for work from tools bags and equipment. I knew my Odyssey was going to be larger than the Acadia from a space perspective, but was still amazed just how much room is behind that third row. We have taken two long weekend trips where I would normally had to put stuff on the roof and had plenty of room behind the third row.

My only experience with a Suburban was this past December as I hit a deer going 45 in my Acadia. I had the Suburban for three weeks while my car was repaired. This time actually pushed me to get a minivan. I had driven Tahoe's in the past and thought I would of liked the Suburban full time. My plan was to get the Suburban/Yukon and hitting the deer actually ended up being a good thing. Mind you, I drive some 30K+ miles a year so I need to like what I am in. After driving it for three weeks, I hated it. Personal preference but the vehicle was just large. It had zero road manners. It was a pain to park. Yes it did have a lot of room behind the third row, but for the stuff I carry for work, it really didn't work well. I couldn't fit large boxes laying down in the suburban unless I put the third row seats down while they fit well in my Odyssey just fine.

Its really going to come down to your personal preference. I don't ever tow so i cannot comment on that. I wanted a large SUV and looked at the Expedition XL as well as the Suburban. They were in my eyes cooler looking. I can't say I love the way my van looks compared to my Acadia or a larger SUV, but I love driving it and the utility of it is well suited for me and my family. I see myself driving a van for a very long time.
 

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As a post note, I'm not sure how you calculate a $7,000 difference. In Canada, out EX RES (cloth seats, basic equipment) has a msrp of $37,000 including freight. When I build a base Suburban on the Canadian GM website, I see a net msrp of around $53,000 (including freight) with a few basic options added (electronic transfer case, etc.). If you are anywhere near snow I wouldn't do without the 4WD, but maybe you don't need it where you live. That is about a $16,000 difference (about $11,000 on a 2WD base model).

The other thing that weighs on my mind is that teh interior of that suburban has gotten pretty tired looking and is overdue for a revision. Due to GM's financial condition in the last year or so, the changes in all of the vehicles in that class (including the pick up trucks) was pushed off, leaving the GM's with the weakest interior in the segment. Have you looked at a Toyota Sequoia? Maybe that is an option if you really feel you need the extra interior space.
 

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Roomy as the Ody is, it's dwarfed by the Sub. Wonder if you had compared the Sub with the full-size Chevy Express van? The Express looks bigger than the Sub, especially the extended-wheelbase model.
 

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The Acadia was on our latest short list as well and it probably has the best space amoung SUV's....outside of the Suburban. It's still much smaller than a minivan behind that 3rd row and that's what scratched it from my wife's list.

If you go Suburban, get the upper end model as the active suspension and steering are much better than the basic models. I actually prefer driving the Suburban LTZ over the Ody. No it doesn't hook up as hard through the tight turns...but it drives very well the 99% of the time you're not rally-racing.

IMHO the Tahoe isn't even a fair comparison to the Suburban. With the 3rd row up the space is very tight. We traded a Tahoe for our Ody because of a lack of space and the 3rd row doesn't fold into the floor (nor does it in the Suburban).
 

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Amazing how much a Suburban costs these days. The difference between a base Ody and a base Suburban would pay for a lot of rentals, it seems. But still, the Suburban is what you really want, so you should get it.
 

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Maybe a mini van isn't the answer, but I think the Suburban is antiquated and in 5 years it will be a dinosaur. There must be a better solution for 6 passengers, if a mini van isn't right for you.
 

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If I were you I would go for a Ford Expedition EL. It has newer body style inside and out that make it much more modern and attractive than the Suburban, but it is still the same size. It has things like a newer dash and a folding third row seat that make it more flexible like a minivan. I would buy a Ford before a GM, but that's just me. I have been looking at vehicles for potential towing needs and have cross shopped both the Expedition and Suburban, and I can tell you that almost all of the articles say the Expedition has more friendly features. The Suburban's main edge is the locking center differential and the ability to get the 3/4 ton. If your not off roading and your not towing a huge trailer, go for the Expedition.
 

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As I mentioned before we have several Suburbans here in the company fleet, but there's a couple Expeditions as well the latest being a 2010 EL. Yes the 3rd row folds flat but that's where I stop at advantages for the Expedition. It drives FAR more truck like than the Suburban LTZ and while the interior is very nice I don't find the Suburban lacking greatly on the upper-end models. The LTZ has a different interior and plenty of features. The Expedition doesn't handle as nice, ride as nice, steer as nice, and frankly we have a LOT more trouble with the Ford light-duty trucks than the Chevys...although they're always cheaper on the front end. We have about 400 trucks in our fleet....and I buy every one of them so I'm pretty familiar.

I'll put it this way...when I need to run somewhere for work, I can take the 2010 Expedition EL or the 2009 Suburban LTZ and unless someone beats me to it...I always take the 'Burban. In fact, last time I took the Expedition the electronic suspension was flashing an error. There's a reason the Suburban/Yukon XL alone outsells Expedition/EL by a 2-1 margin. Throw in Tahoe/Yukon sales to be fair it's more like 5-1.
 

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Chevy > Ford

Nuff said.

:DD
 

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As I mentioned before we have several Suburbans here in the company fleet, but there's a couple Expeditions as well the latest being a 2010 EL. Yes the 3rd row folds flat but that's where I stop at advantages for the Expedition. It drives FAR more truck like than the Suburban LTZ and while the interior is very nice I don't find the Suburban lacking greatly on the upper-end models. The LTZ has a different interior and plenty of features. The Expedition doesn't handle as nice, ride as nice, steer as nice, and frankly we have a LOT more trouble with the Ford light-duty trucks than the Chevys...although they're always cheaper on the front end. We have about 400 trucks in our fleet....and I buy every one of them so I'm pretty familiar.

I'll put it this way...when I need to run somewhere for work, I can take the 2010 Expedition EL or the 2009 Suburban LTZ and unless someone beats me to it...I always take the 'Burban. In fact, last time I took the Expedition the electronic suspension was flashing an error. There's a reason the Suburban/Yukon XL alone outsells Expedition/EL by a 2-1 margin. Throw in Tahoe/Yukon sales to be fair it's more like 5-1.
I completly agree, the Ford rides like a truck, the suburban is much more civilized. If you want to constantly think to yourself "i am a rugged manly man" get the expedition, if you want to have a pleasant drive, get the suburban
 

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I completly agree, the Ford rides like a truck, the suburban is much more civilized. If you want to constantly think to yourself "i am a rugged manly man" get the expedition, if you want to have a pleasant drive, get the suburban
Or if you're like my neighbor (a doctor...who thinks he's "rugged") buy an Excursion, add a lift-kit, 36" mudders, and get stuck in a small snow bank that a minivan could plow through. Don't forget to check the "limited slip differential" box when ordering because an open-diff truck is useless!
 
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