Customers Will Love Sideways Sliding Second-Row Seats
An all-new Honda Odyssey enters the rekindled battle for the minivan market to compete head-on with the new Chrysler Pacifica, which has breathed life into the segment.
With the 2018 Odyssey unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, Honda shows it has no intention of losing minivan share. The new Odyssey will go on sale this spring, and pricing has not been announced.
This is the fifth generation of a van that made its debut for the 1995 model year and became the thorn in Chrysler’s side. It was often the top-selling minivan nameplate, a distinction it would like to reclaim.
The 2018 model has gone for a more modern and sophisticated look with an interesting scallop on the hood and a hoodline that flows into the top of the headlamps. If you’re picky, you’ll notice that the vertical lines from the A-pillar to the hood are about an inch off from the lines that extend down into the headlamps. Similarly, the scallop accent line meets the grille and again is offset by about an inch.
Honda also retains its signature lightning bolt beltline, which drops at the back. Although it’s more refined and not as jarring, it’s a questionable design element to retain with each new generation. But we are pleased to see the sliding door tracks hidden in the lower portion of the rear quarter windows.
The van has C-shaped taillamps, a floating D-pillar, and larger wheels and tires than the outgoing model. It has a hands-free liftgate—a feature becoming more ubiquitous across the industry—and the rear hatch lifts surprisingly high for huge entry and reveals a deep storage gorge in the cargo hold.
The 3.5-liter direct-injection V-6 generates 280 horsepower, up by 32 hp, and is paired with a nine- or 10-speed automatic transmission, depending on the trim level. The efficiency of the powertrain package, as well as a new active shutter grille and a lighter and more aerodynamic vehicle overall, has Honda executives anticipating a top EPA fuel economy rating.
Some features are true standouts, such as the Magic Slide seats in the second row. Both seats slide to meet in the middle for easier access to the third row, even with two child seats still strapped in place. It’s so easy that even a small child could easily grab the bar and slide the seat forward before clambering in. Trim levels EX and above offer the option of a three-person second row without the Magic Slide seats.
The rear seats fold flat, but it must be done manually—no pushing a button and letting hydraulics do the work for you.
Less popular among passengers might be the decision to hang a single rear 10.2-inch entertainment screen from the ceiling for kids in the back rows to live-stream entertainment through Wi-Fi or cellphone data. Conversely, the Pacifica provides individual 10.0-inch screens in the second-row headrests for individual programming. Like FCA, Honda has an “Are we there yet?” app, so kids can gauge how much farther to grandma’s house.
Honda offers teens sitting in the back seat an alternative to the Disney movie playing on the universal screen; they can plug in their individual devices, put in the earphones, and use the 4G LTE Wi-Fi to tune out the rest of the world.
The Odyssey’s 8.0-inch touchscreen controls the infotainment system and can receive system updates. The CabinControl app lets you control key vehicles systems, audio, and rear entertainment systems with a smartphone. Everyone can talk and hear easily, thanks to the effort that was put into acoustics. More sound-deadening materials were used with the goal of creating the quietest cabin in the segment. CabinTalk is an in-vehicle PA system to talk to rear passengers through rear speakers and headphones. CabinWatch uses a camera to show on the touchscreen what is going on behind the front seats.
In terms of tech, the 2018 model will offer Honda Sensing, a suite of safety and advanced driver assist features, as standard equipment on most of the trim levels (EX and above).
The new Odyssey completes Honda’s overhaul of its light truck lineup, which includes the Pilot, HR-V, Ridgeline, and CR-V, all of which have been redone since 2015.