Parental units, rejoice: There’s a new minivan option coming to sales floors this spring. While it may have a familiar nameplate, the sleeker, stronger, and smarter Honda Odyssey appears to be positioned to take home awards and sales figures alike. Redesigned by Honda R&D North America, the USDM-spec 2018 Odyssey was recently unveiled at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), and aims to retain its title as the most popular minivan with individual American car buyers.
Set for going on sale nationwide this spring, and on course for a seventh consecutive year of retail sales leadership, the next-generation minivan plays host to a plethora of useful new features. With a complete Honda Sensing safety suite and driver-assistive technologies coming standard on EX and above trims, a focus on practicality and safety remain a focal point for Honda.
Stylistically, the 2018 Odyssey adopts the Ridgeline and Pilot’s “flying wing” front grille and available LED headlights, and incorporates efficiency tweaks like an active shutter grille that closes at high speed to reduce drag. Both sides now have sliding doors that run on tracks that have been tucked within the lower portion of the rear quarter glass for a sleeker look, while the rear receives LED taillights, and an available foot activated power tailgate rests beneath the back bumper.
Inside the cabin, buyers will find features like soft-touch materials across the instrument panel, a driver meter with 7-inch, full-color graphics, and on EX models and up, an overhauled center stack housing an available 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen. Higher-end models also get stain-resistant leather in the first and second row, while the door trim, carpeting, and seat belts are designed to conceal the same. A groove-less lid atop the massive center console fights crumb collection and offers easy-clean ability.
Perhaps the most intriguing and innovative move the automaker has made with the new generation is how customizable the cabin has become. The Odyssey’s new Magic Slide second-row seat is engineered to be easily reconfigurable in order to make this eight-seater sleigh the pinnacle of passenger comfort and cargo-hauling cleverness, with an easy access third-row allowing entry even when two rear-facing child seats are in the second row.
Since EX models and above are expected to consist of at least 95% of all Odyssey sales, most buyers will benefit from the peace of mind associated with having Honda Sensing as a standard on-board safety suite. This latest line-up of advanced safety and assistive technologies includes things like Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
Other useful safety additions worth noting are rain-sensing wipers, blind spot information on all models with Honda Sensing, front and rear parking sensors, a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, and an electric parking brake with brake hold. Attached to Honda’s latest generation of Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structures, and topped-off with advanced airbags that now cover the knees of both driver and front passenger, the new Odyssey aims at being the safest option in the segment.
The new Honda-developed operating system now has more intuitive menus and customizable app tiles, and its 720P touchscreen interface supports things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Much like the redesigned CR-V, the Odyssey’s new head unit now has a physical volume knob, and includes system updates that can be downloaded via 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, or USB for both the touchscreen and the rear entertainment system.
Another interesting addition is Honda’s CabinWatch camera, which allows the driver and front passenger to keep an eye on the backseat via a display screen, and once paired with CabinTalk permits second- and third-row communication courtesy of speakers and/or entertainment system headphones.
Passengers can also now enjoy streaming videos on the ceiling-mounted, 10.2-inch WSVGA screen, which comes loaded with PBS Kids, iHeart Radio, Spotify, and much more. This system can be easily tapped into either via the on-board 4G LTE Wi-Fi, public Wi-Fi, or a user’s cellphone, and there is also a “How Much Farther?” feature, which allows impatient passengers the ability to track their progress on a colorfully mapped display screen.
Another neat feature is something called CabinControl, which allows users to custom tweak the entertainment system, rear cabin temps, and send destinations to the navi from an app on their smartphone. There is also a Social Play List tool, which operates like a jukebox, allowing up to eight people to upload their music choices to the audio system via their smartphones.
But if cabin calm is more your thing, Honda has you covered with triple door seals, available acoustic front and side glass, standard Active Sound Control technologies, and more sound deadening materials than you can shake a camshaft at. Additional creature comforts include heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate controls, wireless charging, an integrated vacuum, multi-zone audio, Sirius 2.0, Pandora compatibility, and HD Radio.
While this generation doesn’t deviate from Honda’s V6 approach to powertrains, the direct-injected i-VTEC 3.5-liter does come with things like Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), and 280 horsepower, a bump of 32 ponies over the outgoing model. Two available transmissions can be attached to this Earth Dreams engine: a nine-speed handling lower trim lines, while upper grades receive an all-new 10-speed automatic — a first for the segment. Once plugged into Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management system, this gearbox takes normal and snow modes and capitalizes on them with an Agile Handling Assist feature that utilizes the far more powerful braking system for shorter stops.
Final mechanical and structural improvements on the Odyssey focus on a body that utilizes ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum, and magnesium to cut weight and reduce flex, as torsional rigidity reportedly jumps 44% over the outgoing model. Other fresh chassis upgrades include a highly-responsive dual-pinion electric power steering system, which features .44 fewer turns lock-to-lock for increased feedback and easier maneuverability at slow speeds.
There’s also a redesigned trailing arm suspension setup out back that is much stiffer and more compact than the old design, which both allows more ample cabin space and eliminates body roll. While we doubt many people will be putting the latest Odyssey in situations where finely honed suspension matters that much, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a few tuners turn these minivans into monsters as we wonder if Honda’s Odyssey has what it takes to outsell the Chrysler Pacifica.