2018 Honda Odyssey: Magical Seats and a 10-Speed Automatic
Despite the trend of families increasingly forsaking minivans in favor of three-row crossover SUVs, the minivan market is still sizable. So, at Honda, the Odyssey continues to be important, and it has been fully redesigned for 2018. For families sticking it out with minivans, the 2018 Odyssey promises more convenience, more versatility, and—most of all—more technology.
From the outside, the latest Odyssey doesn’t make much of a break from its predecessor. The current generation’s stepped beltline reappears, although it’s now further embellished with a downswept crease. Another hockey-stick-shaped character line appears on the lower body sides—a styling flourish that’s fast becoming a cliché. There also are new LED head- and taillights, and the grille now more closely resembles that of the Pilot and other recent Hondas.
Under the skin, the 2018 Odyssey rides on a new architecture shared with the Pilot and the Ridgeline pickup. A 3.5-liter V-6 remains the only engine offering, although output increases from 248 to 280 horsepower. The previous six-speed automatic has been jettisoned in favor of a nine-speed unit (as seen in the Pilot), while upper trim levels get a new, Honda-designed 10-speed automatic that makes its debut here. The additional ratios, combined with a claimed weight reduction of nearly 100 pounds, should nudge fuel economy in a positive direction, although EPA ratings are not yet available.
Previous versions of the Odyssey had a removable center section for the second-row seats, which allowed seating for three or separated chairs for two. The new Odyssey takes that versatility several steps beyond. First, the middle section can be positioned farther forward, to put a little one strapped into that spot within easier snot-wiping reach for Mom and Dad. With the center section removed, the outboard seats can be snugged up together, both sliding toward the center. That allows easier access to the third row, particularly with child seats in place, which prevent the seats from being able to fold and slide out of the way. For even better third-row access, either of the outboard seats can move over into the middle position, and the side-to-side positioning happens in increments. Honda’s trademark term for this multi-position second row is Magic Slide seats, and they’re standard on all models.
The new Odyssey also debuts several technologies for keeping tabs on and communicating with passengers in the rear two rows. The most intriguing is CabinWatch, in which an infrared camera—enabling the system to work both in darkness or daylight—located in the overhead rear-seat-entertainment system can provide the driver and front-seat passenger with a view of the goings-on in back. The image from the camera is projected on the dashboard’s central display screen, and pinch-and-zoom capability allows one to zero in on an individual rear-seat rider.
Communicating with headphones-wearing rear-seat passengers can be challenging, a situation the new CabinTalk system is designed to alleviate. With CabinTalk, the driver can speak into the microphone and be heard via the rear speakers or headphones plugged into the rear-seat entertainment system. That system, with a 10.2-inch screen, now can stream PBS Kids, iHeartRadio, and Spotify apps via a new 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection. A feature dubbed Social Playlist enables up to eight passengers to upload their music from their smartphones to the audio system—although, in some families, being forced to listen to someone else’s music would be tantamount to child abuse. An app called How Much Farther? allows passengers to see the time until a destination is reached, but it probably won’t completely eliminate that annoying question. Another app, CabinControl, lets users send a destination to the in-car navigation system as well as control the rear-seat climate control and the rear entertainment system.
Up front, the instrument cluster now houses a 7.0-inch color TFT screen, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen audio system (not available on the base LX) sees the very welcome return of a volume knob, as on the latest CR-V. The Odyssey also is the first recipient of a significant upgrade to Honda’s infotainment software, which is quicker to respond—we’ve found its current touchscreen system sluggish—and has additional features such as allowing users to drag and drop to customize which apps populate the shortcuts menu. Heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and wireless device charging are newly available. And of course the built-in HondaVac once again is on hand to help clean up messes.
The 2018 redesign also gives Honda a chance to catch the Odyssey up with the latest safety features, an area where the outgoing model had fallen behind. The Honda Sensing suite of active safety features is newly standard on all models except the base LX. Included are adaptive cruise control with automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and road-departure mitigation. Rear cross-traffic alert is another new addition. Forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring were previously available and reappear on the new model.
Further details of Honda’s latest Odyssey, which we don’t expect to cost much more than today’s $30,750 entry price, will be revealed closer to the new model’s on-sale date this spring.
Read more at Car & Driver.