Test Drive: 2018 Honda Odyssey

The minivan market continues to shrink as our tastes shift to less-practical, more-stylish crossovers and SUVs, but manufacturers are not sitting back when it comes to making awesome new vans. Honda’s all-new 2018 Odyssey is a fine example – they took something that was already great and improved it on many levels.

Honda has made vast, sweeping changes to the infotainment system and it’s all good.

The exterior styling is evolutionary, and I guess we didn’t make a big enough deal about disliking that weird kink in the side window trim line – it’s still there. Also, my opinion is that the whole side of the vehicle looks a bit overdone – was there some sort of body crease contest I missed out on? It now looks like there’s a floating roof in the rear pillar area (that’s just a visual trick of course) and the rear sliding door tracks are masterfully hidden under the rear glass.

The headlights, driving lights, and foglights are all LED and the new “bracket” LED taillight signature is very cool. My Touring trim van had handsome two-tone 19-inch rims with 235/55-sized tires.

Honda’s material choices and cabin details for the Odyssey have moved decidedly upscale – pretty much anywhere your hand falls is soft-touch; there’s ambient lighting for the footwells, the door handles, and the instrument bin; some nice stitching on the dash – and the simplified two-tone interior just looks great.

The heated steering wheel has all the controls you need without getting too complicated, and the heated and ventilated leather seats (yes, they still come with flip-up armrests) are delightful as short-range or road-trip thrones, offering up a perfect driving position.

Honda has made vast, sweeping changes to the infotainment system and it’s all good. First of all, it’s good riddance to the two-screen system that never quite made sense to me. We now have a delightfully simple and straightforward single touchscreen Display Audio System that manages the various functions – navigation, phone and vehicle settings, as well the awesome 550-watt 11-speaker sound system. It’s easy to swipe through the screens and the touch-responsiveness is top-notch. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available, and there’s a large wireless charging tray for your smartphone.

The automatic climate control system has three zones – two up front and one rear, which can be controlled from the front or the back seats.

Odysseys come well equipped in terms of driver-assistance technology, and this Touring trim is loaded. It had auto high-beams, forward collision warning and collision-mitigation braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, road-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a multi-angle rear-view camera, and parking sensors all around.

There’s also the HondaLink app which allows you to remotely lock or unlock, start your van and even check your fuel range.

You won’t find a shortage of places to put your stuff here. From the massive open bin at the base of the centre stack to a pull-out drawer with organizer at the bottom of the centre console to the bin under a sliding lid on top of the console, the Odyssey handled all our daily storage needs. We did miss the pull-out bin with cooling function from the previous-generation Odyssey.

Rear passengers gets in through power sliding doors – these can be controlled from the dash, from the second row using the handle or the button on the door pillar and the key fob. The second row has three seats – each is roomy and very comfortable, can slide forward and aft, and recline. The middle seatback can fold down to become a sort of console. Any or all of the three second row seats can be removed but only with difficulty as they are freaking heavy – Chrysler’s Stow ’N Go for the win here. Taking out the middle seat allows you to use the Magic Slide function, sliding the two remaining seats together, to one side or apart.

Access to the third row is easy. Simply pull the handle on either outboard second-row seat, and the seat pivots forward and then slides all the way up to the front seatback. The third row also has three seats, and they are roomy enough for adults.

Rear entertainment comes from a 10.2-inch screen, which can feed from various sources – the built-in Blu-ray player, and HDMI port or embedded streaming media apps. There are also some fun things for the kids to play with using the remote control (which gets its own storage pocket by the way – brilliant!) – the “How Much Farther?” app with its various backgrounds is fun. You can play the audio through the whole sound system, just the rear speakers, or the rear passengers can use headphones. The van comes with two pairs of wireless headphones and there are headphone plugs with volume controls for the third row.

The Touring trim has a Wi-Fi hotspot so there won’t be an issue with shutting your kids out and leaving them in the more-than-capable parenting hands of Netflix, YouTube, and the internet. A feature we absolutely loved was the CabinWatch. Tap the button on the screen and a fish-eye lens on the ceiling activates, instantly showing you all 6 of the rear seats and what their occupants are up to. It’s a great way to referee those “she hit me first” arguments. I called it the van nanny, until my friend Chris coined the term “the vanny”, which stuck. Honda, you’re welcome to use it. We also tried out the CabinTalk PA/intercom system, which amplifies your voice to the back and vice versa – it gets a bit echo-ey but it’s all great fun, especially when you’re doing a Darth Vader voice or evil laughs.

There’s a good chance you’re using LATCH anchors to secure child seats if you’re shopping for an Odyssey – there are five sets of them. Who needs birth control?! Both second and third rows get side-window sunshades.

The power tailgate has hands-free access and opens to reveal a ton of room behind the third row. The third row’s Magic Seat splits 60/40 and can easily flip forward or better yet, completely disappear into the deep trunk well, which makes for a nice flat rear floor. Either way, there’s ample cargo space and we loved the flexibility of those rearmost seats in terms of configuring the trunk to our needs. With the rear row in use, you have 929 L of trunk space, but with the third row put away, that grows to 2,452 L. Should you be moving someone’s entire house or supplying a renovation project, you can take the second row out and have a truly van-like capacity of 3,973L. I’m still going to complain, even after all that flexibility. Those third-row seats need to be manually folded up or down, and for over $50,000, I’d like power-folding seats.

Got drinks? No problem – just use one of the 15(!) cupholders provided. Oh, were you looking to power up your devices and accessories? Yeah, that won’t be a problem here. There are three 12V plugs, three USB plugs, and a 115V household plug spread around the cabin. Well done, Honda.

The HondaVAC accessory in the trunk is excellent. It’s powerful, it’s convenient, and it is completely out of the way when packed up. And best of all, it’s no longer a Touring exclusive – it’s standard equipment in the EX trim and up.

The front-wheel-drive Odyssey is powered by a 3.5L V6 and gets a 10-speed automatic transmission. Honda has rated this combination at 12.2/8.5 (city/highway) L/100 km. We averaged 11.7 L/100 km over the course of two weeks, with plenty of freeway driving, the typical weekday commuting, and two highway drives.

There’s no shortage of power. The Odyssey jumps off the line and pulls hard all the way to redline if you ask it to. Passing, even at highway speeds, is no problem. As a matter of fact, when we had fresh snow, the Odyssey often struggled mightily for any kind of grip from a standing start, even with winter tires and in Snow mode. Toyota’s available all-wheel drive would make a difference here, although we never missed it when we owned an Odyssey. I found the auto stop-start feature (which you can turn off) to be quite rough on occasion when the vehicle was just sitting there parked.

The transmission is very smooth and quite intelligent. I found it did a good job at being in the right gear most of the time. It’s an unnecessary feature but it can be put into Sport mode where it will hold gears longer and make things feel a bit more responsive. You can also shift gears manually using the paddles if you want to pretend you’re on a track instead of on the way to your kids’ soccer practice. Honda’s Eco driving mode is here too, which worked just fine and never made the Odyssey feel sluggish.

As one would expect, the ride is wonderfully comfortable and soaks up absolutely anything. Handling has always been the Odyssey’s strong suit and this one didn’t disappoint. Of course, there’s nothing sporty about it, but it is surprisingly nimble for a vehicle this size and weight. Tipping the scales at 2,086 kg (4,599 lb), you’d expect a far less car-like disposition when you throw it at a curve or two, yet it almost felt playful – considering the mass you’re tossing about.

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The Touring trim gets acoustic front and rear door glass and we found this van to be serenely quiet at all speeds. Of course the visibility out is mostly awesome, but those third row tombstone headrests (which have to be up when the third row is in use) really get in the way of your view out of the back.

You can do a bit of towing too – the Touring trim is rated to tow up to 1,587 kg (3,500 lb) which is pretty decent.

WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. We used to have an Odyssey and loved everything about it. We only got rid of it because we no longer needed the room.

Honda’s new Odyssey is at the top of the class. It is smooth, quiet, powerful, and agile. It swallows up to eight people and all the cargo you can bring. It will handle a trip to Home Depot and let you bring sheets of plywood home although it would benefit from the flexibility of Stow ’N Go–type seats like Chrysler’s Pacifica. It has gone upscale in a big way inside and has been thoroughly modernized in terms of its driver assistance and passenger technology. And finally, it brings a brand-new transmission to the game. The Odyssey feels like it got all of Honda’s attention and if I was shopping for a minivan, this is the one I’d buy.

2018 Honda Odyssey Touring
Engine Displacement: 3.5L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Fuel Economy: 12.2/8.5/10.6 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 929/2,452/3,973 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st rows
2018 Honda Odyssey Touring
Base Price $50,290
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,725
Price as Tested $52,115
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.0
7 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
9 Comfort
9 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
9 Features
7 Value