So you’ve decided on a minivan? Your timing is spot on because the newest models are truly amazing, with unbeatable versatility and ingenious innovations. One of the heavy hitters in the class is the Honda Odyssey and it’s all-new for 2018.
There are 4 companies currently making minivans for the U.S. market with 95% of the sales going to the trifecta of Chrysler, Toyota and Honda. The 2 freshest models are the Pacifica and this Odyssey and both are sliding door dreams. Just like in every other segment these days, the top end models continue to push the luxury envelope. Take this Odyssey Elite for example priced at near $48,000, replete with all of the safety and convenience features you’d expect in a luxury sedan. But c’mon Honda; sticking the Elite badge on this connotes suburban snobbery of the highest order…how about picking a precious metal moniker like everyone else? Regardless, this 5th generation Odyssey is really good and by minivan standards that means it’s stuffed with cleverness in a package that accommodates just about anything; from 8 passengers to 2 4 X 8 sheets of plywood. The 2nd row center seat is removable and that’s how my tester arrived. If you want to clear both rows of their seats you must physically remove the captain’s chairs while the 3rd row split folds and tumbles into the floor.
Though the Odyssey doesn’t possess the Pacifica’s best seating feature which is Stow n Go, it does have this new trick – the Magic Slide Seat. It works on both sides and allows for easier access to and from the 3rd row.
Whether it’s separating sparring siblings, moving your carsick kid to the center for better visibility or joining buddies for a movie, this is a neat feature that can be accomplished on the fly, even by a child.
The standard rear seat entertainment system features one ceiling mounted big screen with lots of cool preloaded apps such as “How Much Farther” and working in conjunction with the onboard Wi-Fi or a paired smartphone provides a number of content channels, ostensibly functioning as a Smart TV. It also accepts Blu-ray discs. But according to my resident expert, the Pacifica’s dual touchscreen setup is superior.
With doors that slide open smarter and wider and the Magic Slide seats providing easy access, spaciousness and passenger comfort are excellent. Honda missed an opportunity though by not offering handsfree sliding doors and liftgate.
Honda calls this the Magic Stowing Seat and most of the time it works quite easily but other times it can be a little stubborn.
For mom and dad, the all-new 8” touchscreen is the conduit to straightforward infotainment fun. The Garmin navi is super easy, the album art looks great and there are a couple of innovative features – cabin watch – giving you a video view of what’s happening behind the front seats including speaking to the kids even if they’re wearing headphones and on the audio front there’s something called Social Playlist that allows passengers to add music to a queue via their smartphones so everyone gets a chance to hear their tunes. Carplay and Android Auto are here, too. Unfortunately, hubby and wife are left to fight over the sole USB port in the front. There are 2 in the rear. A CabinControl App puts many of the Odyssey’s controls in the hands of connected smartphone users…up to 7 at one time.
With so many kids going in and out of these things minivans can get pretty disgusting which is why it’s a great idea that Honda continues to offer a built-in vacuum.
And making your kid do the dirty work is ever better.
You’re not likely buying a minivan based upon its drivability but the Odyssey’s V6 gives you all of the passing power you need and then some. The Powertrain is smooth and the ride is sufficiently supple. It has that typically honed Honda feel. This tester has nearly 10,000 hard journalist miles on it but I’m unimpressed with how the seating has held up. It looks dingy and less than Elite-level quality. And the touchscreen is kind of a reach even for my long arms.
The 3.5-liter engine is mated to a 10-speed auto with Sport mode and Start-Stop rated at 280 horsepower making the Odyssey a performance sleeper…this thing is quick and there’s even paddle shifters…in a minivan…imagine that. 22mpg in combined driving is what you can expect. Forward visibility is panoramic but I’d like to see a surround view camera here instead of this multi-view setup. All of the driver assistive goodies are onboard including adaptive cruise control. And of course, there’s a heated steering wheel, remote start, heated and cooled seats, tri-zone climate control and a walk away door lock feature that’s allows you to just keep on moving.
A base Odyssey starts at about $30,000 but according to Honda 95% of buyers go for the EX trim or higher which starts in the mid-30s. This one rests at $46,670 with everything as standard. It’s a great family vehicle that goes neck and neck with the Pacifica but in my book, finishes a close 2nd.