Preview: 2018 Honda Odyssey

The 2018 Honda Odyssey has been revealed to the world at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with a new engine and transmission and a reimagining of how families use their vehicles. But many of the important features remain. For example: yes, it still has a vacuum.

A new engine and transmission and a reimagining of how families use their vehicles.

Powertrain

Both a new engine and new transmission will make their first appearance. The engine is a 3.5L direct-injected and naturally aspirated V6 with variable cylinder management. It produces 280 horsepower, 32 more than the outgoing engine. Two transmissions will be available: a nine-speed automatic is standard, and a new 10-speed automatic will be available in the top-tier Touring trim, a Honda first.

Though it will be available only in front-wheel drive, the traction control system will have a special mode for snow driving, which is also made easier with a handling assist system and more powerful brakes. The new trailing arm rear suspension with a stabilizer bar not only goes a little further in improving handling but also frees up space in the rear for a larger cargo area.

Exterior

On the outside, the 2018 Odyssey receives Honda’s newest signature front grille along with available LED headlights and taillights. The doors are significantly more sculpted than the outgoing model, and the lightning-bolt window line that conceals the door track has been deepened and elongated along with the rearmost window, which extends further back and now ends just short of the D-pillar.

The body is constructed out of ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum, and magnesium, which gives it a 96-pound reduction in vehicle weight and a 44 percent increase in torsional rigidity – figures similar to those posted by Chrysler with the launch of the new Pacifica last year.

An active grille shutter is concealed under the front fascia to aid in improving fuel economy, though we won’t know exactly how much that and the new powertrain and weight reductions will help until testing figures arrive closer to the launch date.

Family-friendly features

Honda’s overriding design philosophy on the new Odyssey was that today’s families need more time to connect, which led design teams to focus on improving conversation ability between the first and third rows. They say their efforts have resulted in the quietest cabin in the class through their use of triple door seals, available acoustic front and side glass, and sound deadening materials under the floor, around the engine compartment, and under the fenders. Honda’s active sound control technology which further reduces engine noise is also standard.

There are two inter-cabin communication systems, one that’s entirely new and a second that’s new to Honda. The CabinTalk system is similar to Toyota’s EasySpeak feature in that it allows the driver to use the vehicle’s sound system to communicate to the second and third rows. In the Odyssey, this can be done through the speakers or through the headphones attached to the rear entertainment system. CabinWatch is a new idea that uses ceiling-mounted cameras to deliver a view of the second and third rows to the front-row infotainment screen. Night vision is included, so it works on those late-night hauls to visit the grandparents as well.

The Magic third-row seats remain and still work in the same way, by collapsing into a bin in the cargo area to create a flat load space behind the second row. Now, Honda has added what they’re dubbing Magic Slide second-row seats, which can move not only forward and backward but also from side to side. This allows for a wider variety of seating positions and enables easier access to the third row, even with two child seats installed in the second row. When one of the seats is in the centre position, it can move forward even more to give front-row occupants easier access to a child. It’s a single-hand control, and while I found it a bit heavy and cumbersome to move around, it’s still very useful and a stout competitor against Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go seats for families who don’t occasionally need a cargo van.

Those with little ones will also appreciate the stain-resistant leather on the first and second row seats in some higher trims, the grooveless lid on the centre console designed to avoid a build-up of crumbs and debris, and the available hands-free foot-activated power liftgate.

Connectivity

The volume knob has found its way back into the 2018 Odyssey along with an 8-inch infotainment system with new functionality and equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and available in-cabin 4G LTE Wi-Fi. The latter feature adds video screening capability to the rear entertainment system. It’s a single 10.2-inch screen mounted in the centre of the ceiling, unlike the Pacifica’s individual seatback screens, but Honda did replicate one thing about Chrysler’s system: the new “How Much Farther?” feature looks an awful lot like the “Are We There Yet?” app.

One intriguing new addition is the CabinControl app, which lets passengers use a smartphone to control the rear entertainment and temperature controls and send destinations to the navigation system. It also has a Social Play List function that allows up to eight family members to add songs, creating a virtual jukebox right in the car. (This will work well in some families but may cause friction in others!)

Safety

The Honda Sensing suite of safety features is standard in all 2018 Odysseys. This includes collision mitigation, lane-keep assist, road-departure mitigation, and active cruise control. New knee airbags for the driver and passenger will be added as well.

Built in America

Though its main competition, the Chrysler Pacifica, can boast that it’s made in Canada, customers who opt for the new Odyssey won’t have to wait for it to travel very far. This fourth generation of Odyssey to be manufactured exclusively in North America is set to be assembled in Lincoln, Alabama.

Pricing announcements will have to wait until closer to launch, but some Canadian timing details are known at this stage: media introductions are expected to take place in mid-spring with arrival in dealerships taking place at an undetermined later date.

Lots of new features – but yes, it still has a vacuum 1/9/2017 10:09:43 PM