By on July 14, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey Touring – Image: © Timothy CainThis is not a review. The 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring will be reviewed, by me, at some point in the near future.

But this part couldn’t wait. This is breaking news. This is an alert. This deserves a chyron.

The 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring’s 10-speed automatic transmission does not suck.

Admittedly, “not sucking” sounds like a low bar. And given the transmissions that have been utilized in minivans over the years, including the six-speed automatic in my own 2015 Honda Odyssey, improving upon past minivan transmissions isn’t a difficult task.

(Full disclosure: I haven’t yet spent time with the Toyota Sienna’s new eight-speed automatic. Maybe it’s exceptional.)

But expectations for the Odyssey’s 10-speed transmission were low, not just because it sends 280 horsepower to the front wheels of a minivan, but also because the gear count is so high.

I asked Chris Tonn for his opinion while he was driving the new Odyssey in Hawaii; he had nothing bad to say. I read other reviews; criticism of the 10-speed was essentially nonexistent.

I asked the gentlemen who dropped the Odyssey off in my driveway. “To be honest, I never noticed it.” Hmm. That’s very good news. I asked Mrs. Cain, who this week took over some of the 2018 Odyssey’s testing duties given her role as the primary 2015 Odyssey driver in our family. “I don’t know,” she said, never being one to miss a chance to point out a flubbed shift in our own Odyssey. “It’s fast.”

That it is.2018 Honda Odyssey 10 AT - Image: HondaHaving now spent plenty of time in the 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring, I too can say with great certainty that this 10-speed automatic does exactly what it’s supposed to do: make itself invisible.

In an MPV capable of hauling eight passengers in DVD-watching comfort, I don’t want to notice rapid DSG-like shifts. I don’t want to be made aware of the smoothness with which the 10-speed migrates slowly but surely from fifth into sixth. I don’t want to be cognizant of negotiations between ninth and tenth at highway speeds. I don’t want to hear the burbling crackle-and-pop downshifts I experienced in an AMG C43 Cabriolet two weeks ago. (Okay, that would actually be pretty cool.)

I don’t want to notice anything pertaining to the transmission at all.

The best minivan transmission will fade into the background. The best minivan transmission won’t even come out to take a bow. At the backstage after party, the best minivan transmission should already be in bed back at the hotel. The best minivan transmission is the stay-at-home defenceman without whom you could never win the Stanley Cup; the guy who gets traded away because his Corsi numbers were poor; the guy you miss terribly as your team struggles to make the playoffs the next year. I want my minivan transmission to disappear into forgotten Middle America, somewhere between Omaha and Wichita. The best minivan transmission is the senior Hill staffer who never leaks, who supplies exceptional briefs, and who repeatedly sees her boss elected to higher office all while never wrangling a glowing profile in the Wall Street Journal.

As I near the end of my week with the 2018 Honda Odyssey, its 10-speed automatic has, in fact, all but disappeared from view.

That’s not the way it usually works with minivan transmissions. “Catch it off guard by sneaking up behind it and tapping it on the shoulder with some throttle,” our former managing editor said of the Chrysler Pacifica last year, “it’s as likely to turn around and say hello as it is to kiss you with an enclosed fist.”

It’s not just minivans. That’s not the way it usually works with the best implementations of maxi-gear automatics, either. Even in their best implementations, such as in the C43 Cabriolet, too many gears is often too many gears with which to work.

Yet in the Honda Odyssey, which is both a minivan and the beneficiary of what’s surely an unnecessarily high number of gears, the transmission does exactly what it’s supposed to do.2018 Honda Odyssey shifter - Image: © Timothy CainUnfortunately, there’s still a problem. The shifter design, no fault of the 10-speed transmission itself, is both awful and it’s here to stay. Slow to react to inputs, unnecessarily convoluted, lacking the intuitive nature of traditional shifters, and just a bit farther away from the driver than it should be, the pushbutton affair is a letdown in an exceptional interior.

That’s not the only problem, either. This top-spec Honda Canada Touring trim Odyssey is equivalent to American Honda’s Odyssey Elite. In the U.S. market, only the $45,450 Odyssey Touring and $47,610 Elite get the 10-speed automatic. (In Canada, the 10-speed is reserved for the $52,115 Odyssey Touring.) All lesser Odysseys send power to the front wheels via a nine-speed automatic.

Lower trim levels aren’t typically blessed to be members of the press fleet, but past experience with the nine-speed in the Honda Pilot doesn’t promise a sunny forecast for the less costly Odysseys.

[Images: © Timothy Cain and Honda]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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56 Comments on “Minivan Transmissions Are Supposed to Suck; the 2018 Honda Odyssey’s 10-Speed Does Not...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    will TTAC be able to do a deep dive on this transaxle like we had for the 8HP, 9HP, and 10R80? I’m guessing Honda managed to fit 10 ratios in there without having to incorporate dog clutches.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      I like dogs. Dogs like minivans.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I suspect you’re right about the dog clutches.

      This *is* a Honda design, right, and not an extension of the dreaded 9-spd ZF?

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Wards says it’s 100% a Honda design.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          Ooooo, a 100% Honda design.

          Just like the original 4 speed auto for their V6 engines back in MY1998, or the 5 speed auto for their V6 engines starting in MY2002.

          Yeah. Just like that. Which means they’re absolute and utter junk, which won’t be picked up on until they’re dropping like Chrysler transmissions at 37K miles.

          And Honda will be telling its customers to go pound sand.

          Yeah, just like that.

          (Do I sound bitter? Do I sound like Honda owes me $5000? Good. I have been spreading my story since 2009.)

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Honda built other automatics that were reliable.

            Is this one based in any way on the ones you mentioned? Does it incorporate design faults that you’re aware of? Does it use faulty parts, is the assembly quality poor, are the components or is the design inferior in any way that you have specific knowledge of?

            Or is this a “my 1973 Torino had rust in 1976, so of course that is proof that 2017 Ford vehicles all SUCK” type thing?

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            @jalop1991: My 05 Oddy was so bad I only kept it to 28k miles – and it would have been fewer if my lemon suit against American Honda had settled more quickly.

            In my case, it was the power sliding doors. The 6 other things that failed didn’t count toward the case.

            I’m sympathetic to how you were treated, however. The dealer and area rep were umm, unhelpful.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            IIRC the problematic 4- and 5-speed boxes were still sliding-gear designs descending from the original Hondamatic.

            Presumably this 10 speed is a conventional planetary-gear automatic which is pretty well sorted out by now.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good thing I’m sitting down, because I’m shocked (and pleased) at this mini-review.

    “The best minivan transmission will fade into the background.”

    Quite true, and thankfully, my 09 Sedona’s 5-speed does just that. 100k miles, fluid changes every 25k, periodic towing, lots of city use… no problems.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Give this new 10 speed 6 years and 90,000 miles and we’ll see how great it is. If history repeats itself it won’t be so great.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I had the same thought. Given history color me a bit skeptical right now.

      • 0 avatar
        VW4motion

        I live here in Mormon country Utah, lots of offspring and lots of minivans. No joke another coworker with 4 kids just gave up on their Honda Odyssey with less than 90,000 miles due to electrical and transmission issues. Think it was a 2011-12. After spending over $6000 over the past two years and again $3400 on some transmission issue they decided to sell it for a used Toyota Sienna.

        Think this is the third person I know of out here in the past two years that did the same thing. Sold their Odyssey issue van for a Sienna.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          My counsel to anyone buying a minivan today would be Sienna, Pacifica, or don’t buy a minivan, in that order.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            So, history of the reliability of Honda minivans says don’t buy an all-new one, but the history of Chrysler minivans reliability says its good to go?

            Even with the **same** ZF 9 speed that most Odysseys use?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Odysseys used the 5/6 speed H5 and H6 in the model years he’s talking about.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            @JimZ correct, and the H5 was awful, just an awful mess of a transmission.

            If you’re going to pay a premium for what you believe is reliability shell out for the Sienna.

            If you insist on owning a new minivan and don’t want the Sienna, buy the Pacifica, you’re getting a great package.

            If you don’t want either of those then you’re either:

            a) overpaying for an Odyssey with a history of unreliability – buy the Sienna

            b) buying a very inferior, ugly as sin, and I believe now dead Nissan Quest – buy something else

            c) buying a leftover Town & Country – buy the Pacifica

            d) buying the poorly executed Kia Sedona, which has some serious flaws (but is luxurious) – buy something else

            e) you have abysmal credit but a FCA dealership can get you into a Dodge Journey – do this only if you have a real need for 7 seats

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            The Pacifica at least has the advantage of a long warranty being available on it.

  • avatar
    gasser

    The best part of this design is that it is easily adaptable to the new 14, 18 and 22 speed transmissions which will save .01 mpg, but cost $10K to repair.
    Where will this multispeed madness end?????

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      And is it really any better than the CVT which gives the choice of infinite variability between two fixed points?

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        I was going to say something along those same lines…at what point do so many different gears wind up blending into what amounts to a CVT (not that I’m a fan of CVTs, unless they have vastly improved since the last Altima I drove. Yikes).

        • 0 avatar
          xtoyota

          Now driving a 2017 CRV….CVT trans works great…no rubber band feel and great gas mileage

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Nissan takes a pretty lousy transmission type (CVT) and makes one that brings out the absolute worst qualities of one: sluggishness, droaning, uncertain reliability (I see freaking 2012 Altimas for cheap with not that many miles and a bad CVT).

          I didn’t know a CVT could be unobtrusive, smooth and quiet and, as Tim says about the 10 speed, fade into the background like its supposed to until I’d driven some later model Hondas.

          The Nissans, and the (then-new) Mercury Montego AWD CVT, I have driven are enough to make you swear them off, the Honda’s makes you forget it is one, unless you just hold the throttle to the floor at which point you’ll hear the engine revving with no pause for shifts. Its not rubber-band feeling, it doesn’t feel slow when you’re merging, and during normal driving (up to 80 MPH or so), it doesn’t make the engine droan and buzz like in a Nissan. Its a whole different experience.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Last-gen CR-V I had as a loaner had just a little bit of hanging revs. First time I drove a 9th-Gen Accord, it was simply like a conventional automatic, minus upshifts.

            (The K24 in that CR-V was a little underpowered for the vehicle, IMHO.)

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “And is it really any better than the CVT which gives the choice of infinite variability between two fixed points?”

        a planetary-gear auto can have way higher input torque capability than a CVT.

    • 0 avatar
      4x4

      Its interesting to watch that’s for sure. In large otr trucks a 13 speed is considered by many to be the sweet spot they don’t have far to catch up anymore.

  • avatar
    EX35

    and you only need to spend in excess of $45K for the “Elite” to get it.

  • avatar
    carguy

    So can we have the CR-V Si already with the 2.0t and this transmission?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Instead, their dashboard sucks

  • avatar
    thegamper

    When you do the review just don’t tell us how this is the driver’s choice for a minivan. I am so sick of hearing that marketing BS. Its a minivan and there is nothing joyful or driver centric about driving them compared with just about any “car”. Tell us about how happy it will make little kids and pets and how parents will love how placated the children are in its spacious cabin filled with screens and toys, etc.

    There have been several Honda Odyssey articles written in the last year on this site. Is there some sort of side advertising deal going on because you can only blow so much sunshine up a vehicle’s tailpipe before people start to wonder, especially when its a minivan that nobody is really interested in but for the fact that they have 3 or 4 kids that require occasional transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      I got a minivan because we wanted a minivan. I got a Honda Odyssey because I wanted a minivan that drove better than all the other minivans.

      The new Odyssey rides and handles — and accelerates — significantly better than the old Odyssey. It’s not remotely athletic by the standards of the Miata that’s also in my garage, but while keen drivers are willing to compromise when compromise is required, we don’t all want to entirely sacrifice superior dynamics.

      I was at a friend’s house on Canada Day with a bunch of people. We showed up in our Odyssey; three of my peers did so as well. These are guys who, like me, have fun cars in their garages and don’t want their minivans to drive like a bus.

      It’s no surprise to me, therefore, that with multiple Grand Caravan drivers and former owners in my own immediate family, all much prefer driving my van.

      But the best feature in the new van is how the seats slide across to create a changetable at a really nice height.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        Sorry, but having owned a last Gen Odyssey, I just have the opinion that there is zero reward in driving it. Maybe I somehow got a bum model but my dove heavily when braking, the suspension rebounded all over the place to the point where it was unstable when not laden with people and cargo and the steering was so boosted there was absolutely no feedback. Im just saying, its the difference between a gerbil and hamster when comparing driving dynamics with other vehicles in this class (meaning hypothetically, if I were blindfolded and put into one, not being familiar or having been in any of them for a quite some time, none would stand out as the superlative). It is about as rewarding to drive as a cargo van from Uhaul, its just not there. Its a tool, that does its job well.

        On a positive note, I was pleased at its highway fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      There is about 15 Honda Odyssey articles in the last 365 days, maybe more, lost count a bit. Only one of them apparently negative, but I didn’t read the story so perhaps it sang high praises but for this one item. Sorry, I just happen to notice all this Odyssey praise because I happened to have leased one and came away with a decidedly different impression than seems the consensus here and scratch my head at all the rainbows and unicorns that dance around Odysseys at this site.

      • 0 avatar
        Timothy Cain

        We shouldn’t do long-term updates on a long-term tester?

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          Just sayin Tim, its quite a love fest. Which in itself isn’t a bad thing. There are some great cars out there. There is even room to love a minivan in most of our hearts. I really just take issue with calling anything in the minivan segment “the driver’s choice” or other inferences along those lines. Having had a long term Odyssey tester myself in the form of a Black EX-L with RES, its just not there. Sort of like Nissan insisting in all its marketing that the Maxima is a 4DSC. You can call it that, put out dozens of commercials and ads, even plaster the moniker all over the vehicle. The sky is still blue, the Maxima is still a FWD CVT and the Odyssey is still a functional people mover whose driving dynamics are only special to those who have read one too many “The Odyssey is the driver’s choice in Minivans” review on the internet. My opinion, supported by a few years of ownership of the vehicle in question.

          • 0 avatar
            Timothy Cain

            So if cars in the subcompact class are generally slow and generally handle poorly, one can’t stand out as a superior vehicle because it’s not as slow and doesn’t handle as poorly?

            As car lovers, a big part of the fun in doing what we do is finding out that there are vehicles in every sector — whether it’s a Mazda 6 in the midsize class or a Ford Fiesta in the subcompact category or a Jaguar XJ in the large luxury class — that do a little bit more for the driver. Does it always make a difference in the marketplace? No. But people deserve to know, in addition to learning other things about a vehicle. The benefits of the Pacifica’s second-row Stow’N’Go vs. the benefits of the Honda’s MagicSlide. UConnect vs. Honda’s infotainment system. One bad shifter vs. another. Fuel economy. And the redeeming quality of an automatic transmission that finally isn’t worthy of criticism.

            But it is jaw-droppingly obvious when you back-to-back this Odyssey with a Sienna or Sedona or Grand Caravan that this vehicle is wildly more enjoyable to drive. And that may explain, in part, why Honda finds more retail buyers than any other minivan maker for its Odyssey. We’re not going to ignore on-road behaviour just because it can seat eight.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “jaw-droppingly obvious …that this vehicle is wildly more enjoyable to drive.”

            Oh Geez. You sure there’s no hyperbole there? I get it, you like your minivan, but I think you’ve inadvertently supported gamper’s point here.

            For perspective, C&D has an affinity for Honda and prioritizes driving dynamics to the point of awarding the win in a 3-row crossover comparo to a Mazda with an admittedly useless 3rd row, but here’s their take on how “wildly more enjoyable” the 2015 Odyssey is:

            “Its steering is more responsive than the others’ and its body stays flatter in corners, even if its handling numbers do trail the Kia’s and Toyota’s. But it’s not like the Odyssey is actually fun to drive. It’s just a little bit more so than things that are no fun at all.”

          • 0 avatar
            Timothy Cain

            This is a 2018, 30-mile-fetch.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Which diminishes the hyperbole not one bit. You’ve gushed over the 2015 generation as well, and I doubt it’s suddenly become a Lotus with the 2018.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “For perspective, C&D has an affinity for Honda and prioritizes driving dynamics to the point of awarding the win in a 3-row crossover comparo to a Mazda with an admittedly useless 3rd row”

            and this, in a nutshell, is why automotive publications are irrelevant to the world at large. Automotive journalists care about things that nobody actually buying cars cares about.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “When you do the review just don’t tell us how this is the driver’s choice for a minivan.”

      especially since I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single Honda Odyssey being driven any faster than 10-15 mph *under* the speed limit. cripes, they could still be selling 4 speed transmissions in them and I doubt the average owner would notice.

      nobody buys a minivan for its driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    The transmission might be good, but if I were in the market for a minivan, that silly shifter combined with the Odyssey designers’ love of creases and saggy rearend would push me toward the also-competent Sienna, or the thirsty but more elegantly styled Sedona.

    Speaking of the Sienna, I haven’t driven one with the 8-speed, but I have sampled the new Highlander with that gearbox. Except for its reluctance to downshift at times, the Aisin 8-speed works fine.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    Any chance the 10-speed makes its way into the Pilot? The ZF 9-speed in our Pilot is a shambles.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      “The 10-speed will eventually find its way, Honda says, “to additional light-truck and car models in the future.””

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/03/2018-honda-odyssey-10-speed-automatic-only-touring-elite-trim-levels/

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      I met an engineer who worked on that 9 speed found in Honda, Acura, Jeep Cherokee and said stay away..don’t get any vehicle that uses it. Total, utter junk.

  • avatar
    tubacity

    Some recent TTAC reviews sound like pay to play reviews at other places. In case of Expenses Paid Vacation to the Big Island Odyssey Review for the Reviewer and Family, we know the TTAC reviewer received a free vacation. I sense a not so gradual slide toward the dark side in TTAC reviews.

    Recent comments on Chevy real people commercials note that even everyday people quickly speak in terms favorable to their sponsor once they know what the sponsor’s intent.

    TTAC reviewers are all above average and would catch on even more quickly to say favorable things about a car.

    Other forums have noted deficient build quality in the 2018 Odyssey.

    It is jaw droppingly obvious that my Honda has had far more mechanical problems than my Toyotas, or even Fords.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The six-speed in our 2014 Sienna is far from terrible. A critical factor is that it’s not reluctant to downshift when a lower gear is a better choice. I’ve driven too many vehicles that stubbornly resist downshifting. When it finally happens, it’s accompanied by a burst of engine noise and a pronounced lurch. All I notice in the Sienna is a bit more engine noise and a few more RPM on the tachometer.

  • avatar
    brn

    Minivan transmissions are supposed to suck? The 6-speed that was in the Dodge Caravan was pretty awesome. Hardly knew it was there.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I agree.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      If it is the same 6 speed that my rental V6 Journey has…it is pretty bad. Only 7,000 miles and it whines like crazy and downshifts with a loud bang. Utter junk and the car still smells new. Half the time it hunts between gears. It makes the V6 Pentastar seem inadequate. They need the 8 speed now.

  • avatar

    2008 MDX. The trans has, in 160k….
    One solenoid, magically not warranty, but not too expensive.
    Reprogrammed, warranty
    Change of ATF, also warranty.
    Just under warranty, the torque converter went out at 65k miles. Acura dealer replaced torque converter, and forgot transfer case gasket.. Job done twice, mess in driveway. Never use dealer again, as the Service Writer tried to convince me it was a $3000 out of warranty job. He relented when I literally showed him the fine print.

    At least I’m on ATF change #3 or #4 now with the new ATF.

    Still slams into 3rd gear hard occasionally, so we feather that shift. Always has……

    By comparison, my GM transmission 6L45 is buttah shifting but occasionally calls a committee to find a gear, something the Acura never does.


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