Honda spoke excitedly about the inclusion of an all-new, Honda-designed 10-speed automatic in the 2018 Honda Odyssey lineup when the van debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit two months ago. Along with a higher-powered 3.5-liter V6 and a standard 10-speed automatic from the Pilot, Honda made clear that the 10-speed would be reserved for “upper grades.”
Now we know precisely how high up the Odyssey food chain you must climb to obtain the minivan world’s first-ever 10-speed.
And it’s quite high.
American Honda began building the new 10-speed at Honda Precision Parts of Georgia just yesterday. In Georgia.
The dawn of 10-speed production at the Tallapoosa plant occurred thanks to Honda’s $100 million investment in the facility. Honda is also pouring $49 million into the automaker’s transmission plant in Russells Point, Ohio. Combined, the two factories assemble nearly 1.4 million transmissions annually.
— KathyatHonda (@KathyatHonda) March 6, 2017
The 10-speed will eventually find its way, Honda says, “to additional light-truck and car models in the future.” But the early application in the upper reaches of one model line is a typical Honda strategy. Just think back seven years to the arrival of the fourth-generation Honda Odyssey, when the current van’s six-speed automatic — no paragon of shift quality, as this 2015 Odyssey EX owner can attest — was reserved for the Touring and Touring Elite trims. Even in 2017, year two for the third-generation Honda Pilot, a six-speed automatic is standard across the affordable sections of the lineup while the nine-speed is fitted to the Pilot Touring and Elite variants.
Likewise, American Honda spokesperson Davis Adams confirmed to TTAC that, “Initial application [of the Odyssey’s 10-speed automatic] is to Touring and Elite models.”
Based on the outgoing Odyssey’s model structure, the $43,695 Touring is 43-percent more expensive than the basic Odyssey LX, which, to be fair, will now feature a presumably more economical nine-speed automatic for MY2018. That’s a $12,905 leap at the moment, bypassing the EX, SE, EX-L, EX-L RES, and EX-L Navi. The Touring Elite is priced at $46,265.
Honda promised “top-in-class” fuel economy for the 2018 Odyssey, surely excluding the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid from the “class.” There are no EPA ratings available, so we don’t yet know whether the 9- and 10-speed Odysseys will achieve class-leading fuel consumption figures. The Odyssey already ranks among the class leaders, and Honda says the new Odyssey will be lighter and more aerodynamic.
Conventional Chrysler Pacificas are rated at 19 miles per gallon city, 28 on the highway, just ahead of the 19/27 Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, the latter of which now features an eight-speed automatic. The Nissan Quest, which is not readily available to consumers, is rated at 20 mpg city and 27 highway.
U.S. sales of minivans have been in decline since August, seven consecutive months. So far this year, minivan volume is down 21 percent, in part because of a predictable 18-percent drop in Odyssey volume as Honda prepares to transition.
But minivan volume at every other competing brand — Chrysler, Dodge, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota — is also lower this year than last.