First Look: Honda totally revamps the 2018 Odyssey, creating the best minivan it has ever built

There is no better way to transport a family than a minivan, unless, of course, you’ve got something heavy to tow or you live in a region where all-wheel drive and raised ground clearance are necessities. And among minivans, for quite some time now, there has been no better choice than a Honda Odyssey.

Chrysler might dispute this, and given just how good the 2017 Pacifica is, such disagreement carries legitimate merit. Even now, following Honda’s reveal of the redesigned 2018 Odyssey, the Pacifica remains compelling, especially in plug-in electric hybrid format.


You might have trouble spotting the new 2018 Odyssey at a glance, given that it uses similar design themes to the one that’s been around most of this decade. (Honda)

Nevertheless, the new 2018 Honda Odyssey is poised to lead its segment in terms of sales to actual retail customers like you and me. Honda’s reputation for reliability, coupled with brand loyalty, would alone keep showrooms stocked with Odyssey buyers.

Add the long list of improvements that will accompany the next-generation Odyssey when it goes on sale in the spring of 2017, and you can bet Honda won’t have any trouble moving this angular chunk of metal to people who refuse to be defined by the “active lifestyle” muckety-muck used to describe buyers of crossover SUVs.

Evolutionary design changes clean the Odyssey up


Integrating the sliding door tracks into the beltline trim beneath the rear windows gives the new 2018 Honda Odyssey a cleaner appearance. (Honda)

Sporting evolutionary instead of revolutionary styling, the new Odyssey is instantly familiar, requiring no more than a glance to identify it as Honda’s minivan. It employs styling cues that first debuted back in 2010 when the polarizing 2011 Odyssey design went on sale, cleaned up, sharpened and modernized.

While the Oddy’s looks appear decidedly less odd, it is important to remember that familiarity breeds indifference. There’s something funky going on with the van’s profile, bordering on Mazda 5 weirdness depending on the light and angle.

The good news is that the sliding side door tracks are now integrated with the van’s “lightning bolt” beltline, and the Odyssey no longer appears to be two different vehicles that met a Sawzall and then a surgeon – in that order.

Second-row seats can be positioned just about way you want them


Equipped with 8-passenger seating, the 2018 Honda Odyssey offers a multi-configurable second-row seating area. (Honda)

Inside, Honda installs more soft-touch materials than before, and equips the Odyssey with black carpets and seat belts that better hide stains. And minivans collect stains. New stain-resistant leather is also available, and the HondaVac vacuum cleaner returns for an encore.

Eight-passenger seating is standard, and new Magic Slide second-row seats allow for different configurations. For example, you can slide the seats forward to position a rear-facing child safety seat closer to Mom and Dad. You can slide them back to maximize legroom. You can remove the center seating position and slide the resulting captain’s chairs together, putting kids into a safer position farther from the sliding doors. You can move just one seat toward the middle, creating a large walk-through to the third-row seat.

Up front, a large center storage console separates the driver and passenger. Covering the storage bin, a smooth tamboured cover is designed to resist collection of crumbs, dirt and detritus.

Honda has also taken steps to quiet the Odyssey’s interior. Historically, this minivan has suffered from significant wind and road noise, making long trips tiring. With this redesign, Honda adds triple door seals, sound deadening materials, acoustic windshield and side window glass, and Active Sound Control. The result, according to the automaker, is the quietest interior in the minivan segment.

Honda also claims that due to a revised rear suspension design, the 2018 Odyssey provides the largest amount of space behind its third-row seat. However, official cargo volume measurements were not available when the minivan debuted at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.

New technology helps this Honda to better avoid collisions


Safety-related enhancements help the 2018 Odyssey to better avoid collisions, and to protect occupants when a crash occurs. (Honda)

Honda constructs the 2018 Odyssey around a next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) architecture that is designed to do a better job of dispersing crash energy away from the occupant compartment in the event of a collision. Of course, avoiding a collision in the first place is always preferable, and with the redesigned Odyssey, Honda takes a big leap forward over the previous version of its minivan.

Every 2018 Odyssey except for the base LX trim level will include Honda Sensing, a suite of driver assistance and collision avoidance systems. They include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, and a lane departure prevention system called Road Departure Mitigation.

Accompanying these Honda Sensing systems, all but the base Odyssey LX are also equipped with a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. Depending on the trim level, Odyssey buyers can also obtain automatic high-beam headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and front and rear parking assist sensors.

CabinControl, CabinTalk, and CabinWatch, oh my!


CabinTalk – it’s not a dating app for women who like men with beards, flannel shirts and long rifles. (Honda)

Some families prefer conversation, “I Spy” games, and to talk about the passing landscape during a road trip, while others would rather plug-in and tune out. Honda accommodates both approaches, and makes it much easier for parents to communicate with movie-watching youngsters and to referee squabbles.

Starting at the beginning, all versions of the minivan except for the Odyssey LX are equipped with a new Display Audio infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen. It has a volume knob, it runs on Honda-developed software, and it supports system updates via Wi-Fi or the USB port whenever necessary. Additional highlights include upgraded satellite radio, HD Radio, access to Pandora music streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi internet connection, and wireless device charging capability.

The infotainment system provides a new suite of applications, including a CabinControl app that allows Odyssey occupants to control the infotainment system, the climate system, and the navigation system from their smartphones. This app also supports a Social Play List, a virtual jukebox of sorts that allows each person aboard the Odyssey to submit favorite songs to a compiled group play list.

The rear seat entertainment system installs a 10.2-inch display screen on the ceiling of the minivan. It features headphones, HDMI video gaming jacks, and can stream video via the onboard Wi-Fi connection or a smartphone data plan. An app called “How Much Farther” keeps kids apprised of the remaining distance in the journey, though anyone with a child realizes that this is not going to cut down on repeated questions of: “Are we there yet?”

Even when your adorable offspring have their headphones on and are singing “How Far I’ll Go” at the tops of their little lungs, you’ll be able to get their attention in a calm, cool and collected manner. Thank you, CabinTalk technology, which feeds a parent’s voice to rear passengers via the rear speakers and, yes, the headphones.

CabinWatch is also new, sounding like the name of a really crappy TV show in which the stars get bundled up in flannel shirts and L.L. Bean boots rather than dressed down into lifeguarding suits. In reality, this is a camera system that gives Mom and Dad a video view of what’s going on in the second- and third-row seats. The image is displayed on the infotainment screen, providing evidence that yes, your children do lie to you. All of the time.

More power, better fuel economy, improved driving dynamics


Nobody buys a minivan because they want to have fun behind the steering wheel. Honda improves the 2018 Odyssey in this regard, anyway. (Honda)

With this redesign, the 2018 Odyssey moves to the same platform that underpins the Acura MDX, Honda Pilot, and Honda Ridgeline. Weight drops up to 96 pounds, depending on the trim level, and the minivan boasts a 44 percent improvement in torsional rigidity.

Not that minivans are supposed to be enjoyable to drive, but this change certainly helps in that regard. So does the new Agile Handling Assist technology, a more responsive electric steering system, more powerful brakes, and a revised rear suspension design that Honda says improves the Odyssey’s ride and handling.

A new direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine summons 280 horsepower, a 32-pony increase over the previous Odyssey. Cylinder deactivation technology, active grille shutters, and new transmissions help the minivan to achieve what Honda claims will be best-in-class fuel economy ratings.

A 9-speed automatic transmission powers the Odyssey’s front wheels, and in upper trim levels, Honda introduces a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Both are shifted using a collection of buttons and switches located on the dashboard.

Honda ups its minivan game, but the Chrysler Pacifica remains a formidable foe


The redesigned 2018 Honda Odyssey is better than ever, but it still might not topple the Chrysler Pacifica from the top of Minivan Mountain. (Honda)

Undoubtedly, the 2018 Odyssey is best minivan Honda has ever built. But, is it the best minivan? A test drive and family shuttling will help to determine that, but given just how good a package the Pacifica is, especially in plug-in hybrid format, Honda might still have some work cut out for it.

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