2018 Honda Odyssey First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Honda Odyssey First Drive

Is the 2018 Honda Odyssey now the best minivan for new parents? We think so. Here's why.

Lego isn't likely to ever sell a toy kit of the 2018 Honda Odyssey. Unlike, say, the Batmobile, the Odyssey doesn't have machine guns or flame-shooting rocket propulsion, and it's unlikely to ever be featured in a Hollywood blockbuster movie. But if Lego Batman had kids, he'd undoubtedly appreciate having a Lego Odyssey on hand for the times he had to schlep his grubby bat pups to school. (Naturally, his Odyssey would be painted black, or very, very dark gray.)

The redesigned 2018 Honda Odyssey is an evolution of the prior-generation Odyssey, which Honda sold for the 2011 to 2017 model years. Essentially, Honda made everything a little bit better on the new van. It boasts more versatile seating, more power, sharper handling, sleeker styling, and plenty of new convenience and technology features.

2018 Honda Odyssey

The Features New Parents Will Love
Key to the appeal of the 2018 Odyssey is its new second-row seat design. As before, the setup is essentially two outboard seats with a removable center seat. Both seats still tilt or slide forward, but the big change for 2018 is a significantly greater range of sideways adjustment. By using an easy-to-grab release handle at the base of the seat, you can push either of the seats toward the center of the van (assuming the center seat is removed), creating enough space to allow step-through access to the third row. More importantly, this can be done even if there are child seats installed on either side of the second row.

You can also adjust the second-row seats in other new ways, such as: 1) push one outboard seat inward and then slide it forward to create a very wide walk-through to the third row; 2) slide the seats together and forward, making it easier for the front passengers to reach back to the rear passengers; 3) slide them outward to create a wider second-row center walkthrough and/or a more effective neutral zone between your warring kids.

Another feature our gadget-loving Caped Crusader would dig is the rear-seating video surveillance camera. Honda has installed a wide-angle video camera in the headliner above the second row that displays an image in the center touchscreen display. With it, you can easily see what Bruce Junior is up to. Sleeping? Playing games on his tablet? Picking his nose like a public works dig project? The big eye in the sky is watching. You can zoom in the camera's view by using a smartphonelike pinching motion on the touchscreen to get a specific view of a seat occupant, and it's worlds better than using a rearview mirror. We also like how the camera is positioned far enough back to see babies in rear-facing safety seats. Oh, and it has night-vision capability, too.

Should you feel the need to communicate to your rear passengers without yelling, you can use the Odyssey's new cabin intercom system. It picks up your voice from the Bluetooth microphone and broadcasts it through the rear speakers (plus the optional entertainment system's headphones, if they are being used). If your kids are being exceptionally snotty, we recommend yelling and using the intercom at the same time for full cathartic release.

2018 Honda Odyssey

It Drives Like a Honda, and It's Quiet
We have considered the Odyssey the best-driving minivan for some time. While no box on wheels is going to be truly sporty, the Odyssey has traditionally given its driver a sense of road through the steering and relatively taut suspension tuning. For the 2018 Odyssey, Honda developed a more sophisticated steering system and rear suspension. Along with a significantly stiffer body structure (compared to last year's van), the changes are meant to improve the Odyssey's precision and handling ability when going around turns. While we haven't had a chance to fully test the new van yet, our initial impression is favorable. From the driver's seat, the new Odyssey has an almost sedanlike feel to it and gives you confidence in its abilities should you need to make a sudden turn or lane change.

Powering the Odyssey is a revised 3.5-liter V6. It now produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, up from 248 hp and 250 lb-ft in last year's van. That power is put to the ground through one of two new automatic transmissions. There's a nine-speed automatic transmission for most Odysseys or, on the upper Odyssey trim levels, a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Having more gears in a minivan than a Porsche 911 might seem like overkill, and maybe it is. But compared to the previous six-speed automatic, these new transmissions help bring incremental improvements to the Odyssey's acceleration and fuel economy.

We estimate the Odyssey will zip to 60 mph in 7 seconds or less. If that proves true, the Odyssey would be the quickest van in its class. And from an efficiency standpoint, the extra horsepower is largely a bonus as estimated fuel economy is effectively the same as last year. Honda expects the 2018 Odyssey to get 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway) regardless of transmission. For the 10-speed auto, Honda adds an automatic engine stop-start feature that turns off the engine at stoplights to help you save gas. With it on, the engine restart seemed a little rough to us at times, but thankfully you can turn the system off if you don't like it.

While there's no measurable fuel economy benefit to the 10-speed automatic, we like the way it moves through the gears. Though we have yet to drive a 2018 Odyssey with the nine-speed, we've driven the related Honda Pilot with the same transmission and found its shifting to be slow and clunky at times. The 10-speed auto in the Odyssey doesn't have any obvious shifting quirks. It downshifts quickly when you need it to and doesn't race up to the highest gear just for the sake of fuel economy.

That 10-speed also keeps the engine rpm low for cruising. Honda points out the V6 is only turning at 1,560 rpm at 70 mph, compared to 1,960 rpm with last year's six-speed van, a difference that helps make it impressively quiet at highway speeds. The new van has been engineered for improved sound reduction, including new sealing and noise-reducing foam for the body structure and active noise cancellation technology for all Odyssey trim levels. The Elite trim level also gets an extra dose of sound-insulating materials. We've only driven the Elite at rather sedate speeds, but in that configuration the Odyssey is luxury-sedan quiet. It's easy to talk to your rear passengers and helps keep you relaxed for long trips at highway speeds.

2018 Honda Odyssey

New Technology and New Dash Layout
The twin-screen setup of before is gone. In its place is a singular 8-inch center display screen that runs on an entirely new software system. It boasts modern graphics and fonts (the prior system was looking dated) and is impressively quick to respond to your finger touches and slides. It has app icons like a smartphone does, and you can customize their location to your liking. There's also a shortcut bar at the top for three of your favorites. Although some of the virtual buttons are small and hard to press while on the move, we like how this new Honda infotainment system works overall. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are both new this year.

Below the screen is Honda's latest push-button transmission shifter, plus a new climate control layout. Pleasingly, Honda has introduced physical buttons for commonly used features, such as the heated/ventilated seating and the main front and rear climate control menu. Other new tech goodies include wireless device charging, an independent 4G LTE connection for data streaming (via AT&T, subscription-based) and a new CabinControl smartphone app that allows rear passengers to operate certain functions, such as the climate controls and the entertainment system.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Still Getting the Job Done
In addition to all of its various improvements, the Odyssey is still great at being a minivan. The 2018 model's exterior dimensions are pretty much unchanged compared to last year, so it still seats up to eight passengers and has power-sliding doors on every version except the base trim level. There is plenty of room for hauling groceries, baby strollers and the like. Honda says the Odyssey can hold up to 155.8 cubic feet of cargo behind the first row, which is about 7 cubic feet more than before. That's enough room to fit two sheets of 4-by-8-foot plywood inside with a closed liftgate, but you have to completely remove the second-row seats to open up that space.

Other subtle improvements help out with the van's versatility. The power liftgate not only opens quicker than before and has a slightly wider opening, it offers hands-free operation and a programmable height feature. Although the third-row seat does not have power operation, the seats are lightweight, and you'll always be quicker doing it yourself compared to using a power-operated seat. And, yes, the Odyssey still has an available built-in vacuum cleaner mounted in the cargo area.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Pick Your Odyssey
The 2018 Honda Odyssey comes in six trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L Nav & Res, Touring and Elite. The LX is decently equipped, but the EX and above are what you'll want to consider if you can afford it. Essentially, the EX gets you truly useful features such as the power-sliding rear doors, keyless ignition and entry, sliding second-row seats, the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, heated seats and a bunch of driver safety aids, including blind-spot monitoring, frontal collision mitigation, and lane departure warning and intervention. The EX-L gets you leather upholstery, and the Nav & Res version includes navigation and a rear entertainment system. On the high end, the Touring and Elite include the 10-speed automatic and some additional convenience features, including the vacuum and rear-seating camera.

If the Odyssey isn't to your liking, there are other choices, of course. We do like the Chrysler Pacifica quite a bit, and it's still the best van for easily converting the cabin for hauling a lot of cargo. Kia's Sedona is in the mix, too, and maintains its appeal thanks to its crossoverlike styling and straightforward cabin design.

Overall, the 2018 Odyssey strikes us as the best pick for shoppers with young children or big families. The sliding second-row seats are truly useful, and the rear-seat camera system will give new parents some welcome peace of mind. And if you like to drive, the Odyssey's improved handling could very well make it the van to get as well.

Put it all together and you've probably got the minivan that Lego Batman would want to own, too.

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