After long last, the latest generation of the Honda Odyssey is here. After nearly two years of secrecy, Honda has unleashed the minivan of the future. Based on their successful Pilot and Ridgeline products, as with Odysseys past, Honda is attempting to take back their position as the gold standard in family hauling. Expectations among minivan folks, and yes, we exist, have been pretty high for the 2018 Honda Odyssey. It hits a lot of great notes, but isn’t without a few miss-queues. In all, this minivan will tick all the boxes for long family trips, while tapping into the racing heritage from Honda.
Honda took a different approach for the interior of their 2018 Honda Odyssey than Chrysler did with the Pacifica. While the Chrysler can be best described as luxury sedan, the Odyssey is wholly futuristic. This really is a minivan from the future. From the outside, this is a gorgeous vehicle. It’s the only minivan that garnered looks on the street and generated legitimate enthusiasm based on styling alone. There are hints of familiarity from the outgoing design. At top level Touring trim, LED headlights only add to the futuristic look and feel.
(Editor’s Note: In Canada, the top trim is the Touring. Comparing features to the U.S.-spec, it’d be similar to the Elite trim offered in the States.)
Honda stuck to their trusty 3.5L iVTEC Earthdreams V6 engine. It’s already seeing successful use in the Pilot and Ridgeline, and incarnations of the 3.5L have served the Odyssey well for over a decade. The latest iteration is direct injected, making 280 hp at 6,000rpm and 262 lb-ft of torque. Par for the course in the minivan market. Interestingly, the iVTECH engine is still a single cam, even while competitors have moved to more advanced dual cam engines. Still, this is a smooth powerplant which runs quiet. Mated to a ZF nine speed at all trims but the touring. Touring level Odysseys, like our tester, have a brand new 10 speed transmission.
Road handling is responsive by minivan standards. Honda equips all trims in Canada, and most in the US, with their suite of HondaSense technology. This gives most 2018 Honda Odyssey drivers adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and collision avoidance right out of the gate. Despite nearly a dozen gears to sort through, the transmission is CVT smooth in shifting, even under heavy acceleration. In a nod to their racing heritage, the 2018 Honda Odyssey is equipped with paddle shifters and “sequential” mode. Don’t be fooled. Sequential mode tightens the steering, changes shift points and heightens throttle response. In essence, it’s a sport mode, and it gives the Odyssey deliciously un-minivan like driving characteristics.
The interior is spacious, comfortable and intuitively laid out. Seats are very comfortable in all rows. Families will make frequent use of the new magic seats: Second row seats that slide apart or together. Honda uses the same button gear selector as the Pilot. The dash layout in general is very attractive and functional. Android Auto or Apple Car Play come standard on all trims, and Nav equipped models use a Garmin-based system. In keeping with modern family needs, Honda has equipped the 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring with plenty of USB charge ports in all three rows.
Nifty innovations include the latest generation of their HondaVAC system, something Honda first brought to market. They’ve also reduced third row folding to one step. It might seem minor, but Honda has done away with hydraulic struts on the tailgate; really opens up the rear entry. Kick triggered powered tailgate is also available. Build quality is exceptional; easily the best built minivan on the market. New for 2018 is the industry first cabin talk system. It’s essentially a “voice of God” mode for communicating with kids way back in the third row. It may seem gimmicky, but parents know well the frustration of getting your voice to carry to the back of a minivan, particularly as driver.
The not so good
The biggest points against the 2018 Honda Odyssey is what it lacks. Even at top trim, there are no options like widescreen DVD or Panoramic sunroof. Chrysler offers their innovative, dual screen uConnect Theater, while the 2018 Honda Odyssey is equipped with a single, center mounted screen. Still, these aren’t deal breakers by far. The Sienna suffers from headroom issues with the sunroof, while the Odyssey is spacious.
While the magic seats are functional, they’re heaving. Really heavy. Removing the second row is a difficult chore compared to other minivans. Their configuration flexibility is certainly a compromise for this. They may not fold into the floor like Stow-n-Go, but they are significantly more comfortable. The power sliding doors are very slow to close. Safety first.
Gone are the days of the minivan cup holder wars. Instead, Honda has decided USB charge ports are the new cup holders. While there are enough drink spots for every passenger in the 2018 Honda Odyssey, there aren’t as many as other vans. Flappy paddle shifters on a minivan? It feels tacky when you first get in. Other than the initial excitement, how often are parents going to use them? Transmission logic handles the powerband quite well on its own.
We experienced some issues with the LCD screen while the system was running Google Maps on Android Auto. It flashed like a strobe light. Switching to the main menu and back resolved the issue, so it might be related to the smartphone. Lastly, Honda only offers 3,000 pounds of towing on all trims except Touring. That’s a full 500 pounds less than competitors, unless customers are willing to shell out top dollar for a Touring, which tows 3,500.
Should I buy this minivan?
In the grand scheme of things, the 2018 Honda Odyssey’s issues are largely nitpicks. Honda has brought a minivan to market that again leads the pack. It’s build to last, loaded with practical functions, and priced very competitively. There are lots of options available to buyers even at mid trim. Minivan buyers looking to spend less than $40,000 will find themselves in an Odyssey. The technology-centric driver interface may intimidate some, but as the 80’s kids age and have families, the 2018 Honda Odyssey will feel right at home.
Honda’s 2018 Odyssey gives families all the space they need, the technology they want, the styling to hide the minivan they’re driving, and access to the performance they miss.