A more family-friendly van with improved performance
Let’s be honest, minivans are generally ho-hum to review. They’re the family workhorse, not the wild stallion. But there are a few key features in Honda’s reworked Odyssey that elevate this hauler of families to another level in the automotive kingdom.
Though none of these attributes are pulse-raising, they are praiseworthy. First on my list is a brilliant little modification to the increasingly popular, and commensurately annoying, start-stop technology.
I generally deactivate this irritant – although it should be noted that several more dictatorial automobile manufacturers have eliminated that option – but Honda has a better solution. Once the vehicle is motionless, the driver can apply further pressure to the brake pedal to have the engine shutdown until the brake pedal is released.
This is a brilliant little twist on conventional systems that choose when – and usually at the most inopportune time – to shut-down the engine.
The beauty of Honda’s system is that it relinquishes control to the driver. Come to a fresh red, and if you choose to, stop the engine with a simple press on the brake pedal. It’ll fire-up again quickly and seamlessly when the brake is released.
Another feature I liked in this cavernous transporter is a feature, which Honda has labelled CabinWatch. An infrared camera in the roof-liner allows the driver to monitor what the young’uns are up to in the rear without twisting like a pretzel.
The CabinWatch image displayed on the 8.0-inch centrally-mounted touchscreen is sharp and bright both day and night.
A complementary feature referred to as CabinTalk allows the driver to communicate with those in the rear through the audio speakers, and through the infotainment system when headphones are in use by passengers.
A few cabin disappointments for me include the absence of a scroll wheel to enable easier audio selections and other functions that could be better managed with the use of a dial-type knob.
Honda recently returned a volume knob to the audio system, something which they had inexplicably jettisoned a couple years back.
Also on my list of “what were they thinking” is the weird button-selector controlling the transmission. Even after a week behind the wheel, I’m still having to purposely look at the arrangement to operate it, especially when trying to place the vehicle into Park. I predict that this enigma of a shifter will be gone within a year or two.
With some of the good and bad now on paper – or more realistically on-screen – it’s time to drive Honda’s conveyance of the urbane; and here’s where the greatest praise is earned.
Propelled by Honda’s venerable 3.5L V6 engine, now boosted to 280 horsepower, the Odyssey is no slouch in the left lane. Passing performance and acceleration off-the-line are both impressive, and all that one could ask for in daily kid-hauling duties.
In all but the Touring edition, the engine is backed-up by a 9-speed automatic transmission. My Touring tester, however, was equipped with Honda’s new in-house-developed 10-speed autobox.
The new transmission proved to be a fine partner to the re-energized power plant, delivering near-imperceptible shifts within normal driving parameters. Its seamless shifting contributes to the overall polished performance of the new Odyssey.
Cabin noise is well suppressed on all road surfaces while the supple suspension delivers a smooth, pleasing ride quality. Despite its considerable girth, the Odyssey is remarkably easy to drive, though parallel parking can prove to be a little tricky for those intimidated by size.
I’m surprised that self-park technology is missing in the Odyssey. This is definitely a vehicle that would benefit from such assistance.
Despite having to cope with one’s own parking skills, or lack thereof, the Odyssey is chalk-full of active and passive safety technology, depending somewhat on the trim level selected. And there’s six of them.
The Odyssey’s MSRP ranges from $34,890 to over $50,000. That’s a broad spread, however, typical buyers will likely land mid-point in the scale, which will net them the most popular and important features, including those mentioned early on in this review.
Perhaps of equal importance, it’ll also secure the handy HondaVac in-car vacuum system. I checked, and its stretchy hose will reach all the way to the front floor area. No excuses now for detritus of Cheerios and French fries.
Overall, I enjoyed the almost limousine-like 2018 Odyssey more than expected. No ho-hum here!
2018 Honda Odyssey Touring
Price as tested (before taxes): $52,171.50
Configuration: front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L V-6 / 10-speed automatic
Power/torque: 280 hp / 262 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 12.2, highway 10.6
Observed fuel-economy (L/100km): 12.8
Warranty (basic): 3 years / 80,000 km
Competitors: Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna
- Refined, powerful operation
- Roomy third-row seating
- Plenty of tech and useful features
- Non-intuitive pushbutton transmission
- Infotainment could use a scroll wheel/dial
- Second-row seats do not fold into floor