For 2018, Honda is aiming to not only improve the way its Odyssey minivan handles those mission-critical tasks, but it's also improving the way the Odyssey drives and keeps its occupants occupied.
How do you know this Odyssey is new? Honda's toned down some of the lightning-bolt styling and added touches like LED lighting. It's still dramatic looking, but maybe not quite as pretty as Chrysler's Pacifica.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Honda Odyssey video preview
Inside, the cockpit has better materials and it’s quieter than ever. It also gets a new touchscreen interface that can be powered by 4G LTE data, which can also stream video to the rear entertainment system.
And that's where the Odyssey really gets interesting--where it takes on the excellent Pacifica toe to toe.
The Odyssey has room for up to eight, and you can keep an eye on all of them. An available camera lets the driver see any seat in the van, and a microphone lets you yell at kids of any age through the speakers or through the wireless headphones.
Every passenger will be comfortable, even in the third row. Getting back there is easier, too. The Odyssey has sliding second-row seats with a removable center seat. The outboard seats can slide side to side, and you can put them together in “buddy mode,” which lets you put two child car seats together and still leaves plenty of space to hop into the roomy third row.
Or, you can move those seats into “wide mode,” so nobody back there can touch each other.
Honda says this setup gives the Odyssey better comfort than the Pacifica's fold-away seats, but it makes it harder to use the Odyssey as a part-time cargo van. Those outboard seats are removable, but they weigh about 70 pounds each, and you’ll need a place to store them.
The cargo area? It's still pretty huge when the third row is folded away. It's easy to access, too--the power tailgate can be opened with a wave of a foot.
As for safety, the new Odyssey makes a slew of safety features standard on most models: almost every Odyssey will have forward collision warning with emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control. No crash-test data is in yet, but Honda expects top results.
Now for the bonus round. The Odyssey has been a great minivan to drive, and for 2018 it gets even better. The steering is quicker, and a stiffer body lets it ride and handle better. It feels tied down to the road, and it lacks the up-and-down and side-to-side motions that that could topple juice boxes or wake up the baby.
2018 Honda OdysseyEnlarge Photo
2018 Honda OdysseyEnlarge Photo
Honda 10-speed automatic transmissionEnlarge Photo
Under the hood is a new 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 280 horsepower, up 32 horses from last year. It provides plenty of punch for the morning race to drop off the kids at school and still get to work on time. It’s almost a second quicker in the 0-60 mph run than any competitor and its 19 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined EPA fuel economy ratings are also at the top of the class.
That’s thanks in part to two new automatic transmissions, a 9-speed or an all-new 10-speed for Touring and Elite models. The new 10-speed is a revelation. It’s silky smooth, responsive, and gladly makes use of the full range of its gear ratios.
So what's the bottom line? The 2018 Honda Odyssey is a great living room on wheels. It takes a different approach to seating than the Pacifica, but it rivals the Chrysler in convenience features and it beats it in power delivery, fuel economy, and dynamics. It’s a fantastic way to carry the family and do it safely.