By on May 15, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Front Quarter

“Remember, you are in a minivan,” my better half commanded as I tapped the left-hand gearshift paddle, grabbing a lower gear to power out of the improbably banked corner on a mountain two-lane. The 19-inch Bridgestones squealed in protest as I pushed it a bit wide, just as the kid squealed from the third row over a funny movie.

What was I to do? It’s not like the roads Honda chose for this drive are the typical minivan haunts — namely suburban surface streets or long interstate slabs. There are no real suburbs on the big island of Hawai’i, and interstate drives would get quite wet after a couple of hours in any direction. So I pressed on, trailbraking as if I were hustling a much smaller car around an autocross course.

It’s indeed a minivan, but the new 2018 Honda Odyssey is surprisingly rewarding to drive. While the majority of miles racked up by any minivan undoubtedly result from a commute, either on city streets or the interstate, taking the long way home in this Odyssey won’t feel like punishment.

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Profile

Full disclosure: Honda flew my family and me to Hawaii and proceeded to stuff us full of food, all while allowing four pasty Ohioans to sunburn. Honda also provided sunblock, which we didn’t apply frequently enough.

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Front

It takes more than a few glances to distinguish this new Odyssey from its popular predecessor. Stand-out features include a floating D-pillar and hidden side door track. The hood is more sculpted than before, with slashes on either side of the power bulge mimicking the signature “lightning bolt” seen on the side doors. It’s handsome, inoffensive, and unmistakably an Odyssey.

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Rear Quarter

The interior is what matters most to any minivan shopper, and Honda spent a great deal of time making improvements to the experience for both the driver and passengers.

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Rear

Take the seats, for instance. While I’m on record as a fan of Chrysler’s second-row folding Stow ‘n Go seating, those seats aren’t the most comfortable on long drives. The kids don’t complain, but when I hauled my mother and my mother-in-law (yes, I’m a masochist) along with my kids to visit a mouse in a swamp last fall, those thinly padded seats became a topic of discussion.

2018 Honda Odyssey Magic Slide Seat Handle

Honda has taken a different tack with the second-row seating in the new Odyssey. While the seats need to be unlatched and lifted out for a big IKEA run, they offer significantly better support and comfort over the Chrysler option.

2018 Honda Odyssey Magic Slide Seat

The big news with these seats is a new Magic Slide feature, which allows for side-to-side sliding, as well as fore-and-aft. A third seat can be fitted in the middle, or removed. The outboard seats can be slid together if the kids are behaving, or apart to create a demilitarized zone. Both second-row seats can be pushed to one side of the vehicle to allow easier access to the third row, or to allow more legroom for rearmost passengers. As well, the center second-row seat can be moved forward, within reach the front seats, to allow better infant access for the parents sitting up front.

2018 Honda Odyssey Folding Rear Seats

The rear seat folds easily into the floor like every prior Odyssey. A single tug of a strap flips and folds the seats with ease.

2018 Honda Odyssey Third Row Access

Keeping an eye on those kids is easier with the CabinWatch rear-seat camera, which uses a roof-mounted lens to monitor any ongoing fight in the backseat. It works day or night, with an infrared night-vision mode giving a clear view of (hopefully) sleeping kids. The image can pan, tilt, or zoom with familiar pinch-to-zoom gestures on the dash-mounted 8-inch touchscreen.

2018 Honda Odyssey front seats

I rather enjoyed the optional CabinTalk feature — or, in the words of Honda’s Dan Tiet, the “Voice Of God” mode. It allows the driver to easily project their voice to the rear passengers, either through the rear speakers or over the wireless entertainment system headphones. My youngest has a habit of ignoring me once she’s selected a movie, and inevitably won’t listen to my requests for a bathroom break until we’re 20 miles past the last exit.

By breaking into the audio of her most recent viewing of Frozen, I can interrupt her enough to elicit a tear-filled response. Isn’t parenting all about creating little disappointments to avoid the big ones? I’m good at that.

2018 Honda Odyssey dash

The Odyssey’s entertainment system is vastly improved. Besides the ability to play Blu-Ray discs, built-in 4G LTE streaming content is available, including a PBS Kids app to play on the go.

Of course, everything needs an app these days, and Honda has obliged with the CabinControl application for Apple and Android. The app allows up to seven passengers to connect to the Odyssey to control rear entertainment, temperature and fan speed, and even select songs from their various phones to create a playlist for the entire van. Honda was careful to note that phones do not have the ability to change volume, so startling the driver with full-volume tunes isn’t a concern.

Honda Cabin Control App Screenshots

One feature worthy of being called brilliant is the ability for passengers to input navigation waypoints. Handing those responsibilities to a passenger is a great safety choice.

2018 Honda Odyssey gauges

Mechanically, the Odyssey has undergone some subtle changes that should make a big difference in both fuel economy and driving behavior. The 3.5-liter V6 is now fitted with direct fuel injection, adding 32 horsepower and 12 lb-ft of torque to last year’s model for a total of 280 hp and 262 lb-ft. The engine is mated to one of two new transmissions — either the ZF nine-speed automatic used in the Pilot, or an all-new Honda-built 10-speed in top trims.

I sampled the highest-spec Odyssey Elite, fitted with the 10-speed. Shifts were barely perceptible, and I never noticed any gear hunting as I cruised. While paddle shifters feel rather silly in a van, I used the feature a couple of times to induce engine braking on some steep descents.

Interestingly, Honda quotes identical fuel economy figures for both transmissions — 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. When pressed about these differences, Honda engineers noted the 10-speed allows for a wider spread of gear ratios, optimizing performance in all conditions. The top four gears in the Honda-built 10-speed are overdrive ratios.

Honda also paid significant attention to sound deadening in the new Odyssey. Most vans — the previous generation Odyssey included — tend to amplify road and wind noise due to the massive open cargo area. It’s basically one big subwoofer enclosure filled with people and dropped french fries. Honda added acoustic spray foam in various locations to block off hollow pillars and deaden road noises. On some trims, acoustic glass is added to further soak up the noise.

The other new-ish kid on the minivan block, of course, is Chrysler’s Pacifica, introduced last year and reviewed here a couple of times. Comparing the two yielded a couple of surprises. First, the church-like quietness of the new Odyssey’s cabin stands in stark contrast to the Pacifica. While the Chrysler improved upon the prior-generation Town & Country (currently in my stable), the Honda is a significant leap forward.

Another difference: the ride felt somewhat harsh in the new Odyssey. Upon reflection, I’d chalk it up to the 19-inch alloy wheels fitted to the Odyssey Elite trim I sampled, compared to the smaller 17-inch wheels (and correspondingly taller/softer tire sidewalls) fitted to my Pacifica tester. That extra rubber can help dull road imperfections.

Pricing seems to be in line with the market, starting at $30,930 (all prices including $940 destination charge) for the base LX trim, and $34,800 for the EX trim, which comes equipped with the full suite of Honda Sensing safety features, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane keeping assist. At $47,610, the Elite trim I sampled isn’t quite as budget friendly, but it comes packed with the 10-speed transmission, those 19-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, a wireless phone charging pad, and a stellar 11-speaker premium audio system.

While some manufacturers have abandoned the minivan segment, a few others soldier on building the best possible people movers. Chrysler fired the first salvo for a better, more premium box on wheels last year, and Honda has answered admirably with an improved, quieter, more fun-to-drive Odyssey.

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Driver Front quarter

[Images © 2017 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

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43 Comments on “2018 Honda Odyssey Elite First Drive – A Van For Drivers...”

  • avatar

    The side sculpting is a little gauche on first glance, but it really does visually reduce the mass of the big van, working in concert with the floating d-pillar, greenhouse kink, and large wheels. Combine all that with logically-designed front and rear fascias, this is one of the more handsome products Honda currently offers, IMO. It’s aggressive, but not too try-hard.

  • avatar

    “hidden side door track”

    22 years after Chrysler figured out how to do it.

  • avatar

    Same engine, why two transmissions?

  • avatar

    Honda has mentioned a 10 speed AWD version.

    Just wait Chris! Then you can get the tires on both ends to howl.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Excellent minivan, Honda.

    I’m sure I’ll see this in the driveway of a relative’s house in about two years after their second Odyssey Elite lease ends. They’ve got some money to burn, but for the rest of us who cringe at spending $31-48K on a vehicle that doesn’t stir the viscera a bit, I would have a hard time finding any interest at all in a new minivan, even a class leader like this one.

    This is a utility box for children to destroy, so I’d rather save a lot of money on a depreciated Grand Caravan and let them continue to destroy that. Suffer the minor indignity of a cheap minivan over the newest bling box. Rent a new Pacifica for long road trips if the mileage or road noise of the used van worries me. A $17K 3-yo Dodge would leave enough to outright buy a nice used Miata or G37.

    • 0 avatar

      Our ’14 Odyssey looked new when we were done with the lease. So much so that the Toyota dealer bought it off of us (technically Honda Finance) to facilitate us buying their van. We were inside two weeks until the lease matured, so it saved us a little hassle, though not much money.

      Our kids were 3 when we leased it. It still looked and smelled relatively new when we traded it. It sold in two weeks. You don’t have to let the kids destroy the car. Granted, with it being a lease, the imperative is there to keep it looking new, but many people don’t.

      Now, the huge scratch in the side of my hated Cruze from one sons bike? Well, that’s probably going to cost me.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “You don’t have to let the kids destroy the car”

        I absolutely agree and our cars are examples of this. I was exaggerating a bit above. The core issue for me remains, though. I just don’t see minivans as desirable so I’d rather spend as little as possible.

    • 0 avatar

      I dont get this mindset, at all. Cars, particularly minivans, are not museum pieces.

      Does the wear and tear on the interior somehow mitigate the utility of the other features that make it superiour to a 17K Dodge Caravan. Quieter operation, better mileage, better acceleration, more safety features, better crash scores?

      Can always buy seat covers.

      We’ve had vans for 13 years now, and have generally used them up. The interiors look like hell, because kids need to eat on the way home from swim practice before they go to a birthday party, or whatever. Then take the seat out, and haul some 8 foot lumbar and plywood for a project. Gets a little scraped up there too.

      That’s what vans are made to do.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        See, I don’t understand why someone would pay so much for new appliance vehicle that is then going to have the interior turned to hell. I’m suggesting a 2-year old GC, not the 1993 Voyager heap in Murilee’s feature. It’s half the price of a new Odyssey. Or stretch to $22K for a 50K mile Sienna if you don’t trust the Dodge. But $34K for a new minivan? For a vehicle I have to buy but certainly don’t want to?

        That’s a terribly unsatisfying way to spend money from my view.

      • 0 avatar

        We’ve done those things with our purchased new but now 18 year old CRV. Interior still looks good b/c we kept it clean and taught the kids that the interior was not theirs to wreck. There is some wear on some of the cargo area plastic but the rest of the car continues to clean up well. Seats look new. We’ve had meals in the car and hauled the family dogs semi-regularly. I just keep it wiped down and vacuumed. Huge miles on our car too.

  • avatar

    I think for as long as I have been reading auto reviews the autojourno types have been referring to the Odyssey as the minivan for drivers.

    Back in 2011, needing a people hauler for my family of 5 and perhaps falling victim to the marketing tag line, I leased an Odyssey for my wife. Granted it was not my daily driver, but I drove it often enough, on long trips, twice from Michigan to Florida. But never once while behind the wheel did I feel like I was driving anything remotely geared toward drivers. In fact, I found the Ford Flex that we had just turned in immensely more satisfying to drive, dare I even say approaching the label of the driver’s “people mover”.

    Minivans are many things, their utility is incredible. But it is a purpose built vehicle with driving dynamics low on the priority list. So, while you may have a minivan that drives better than other minivans, calling it anything that a “Driver” might be interested in for the love of driving is melarkey…..plain and simple.

    I will just add that my 2011 Odyssey had horrible driving dynamics in my opinion despite a half dozen auto publications proclaiming it the “driver’s” choice. But if you are looking at minivans, this tagline is just a consolation…”well at least I got the sportiest one”. Don’t bother, get the most comfortable, functional one for your needs. You will be happier.

    • 0 avatar

      Waiting for an Odyssey Si…

    • 0 avatar

      Agree – We have a 2014 Odyssey and its not appreciably better to drive than the 2004 Sienna we still have as a 3rd car for backup and hauling. IN fact, the extremely light steering of the 14 Ody makes it even less of a van for drivers.

      • 0 avatar

        Finally, someone not drinking the cool aid. Mine was first year of previous model generation I think. Steering was crazy boosted and I found the suspension incredibly bouncy, especially when unladen with people and cargo, when driving Dynamics should shine brightest one would think. Lot of gripes about that vehicle. One of the few cars I have bought or leased where I had buyers remorse. It did its job, just felt like I paid too much for too little plus mechanical demons.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, I remember when Consumer Reports first got their 2011 Odyssey they made a point to say it wasn’t nearly as sporty as the previous gen. But if you go back and look at all the “respected” car magazines, they all gave the same lazy “It’s still an Odyssey!” review designed to keep their advertisers in their good graces. They did the same thing when the crap 2012 Civic came out. And my personal fav, when Motor Trend had the “this redesigned Scion tC is so good it feels like it’s TWO generations newer!” article.

          It boggles the mind how people can’t tell the difference between scientific/instrumented testing and ad-driven hackneyed writing, but now in the age of alternative facts, I guess it’s not so surprising.

          • 0 avatar

            We still own a 2001 Odyssey EX that is my wife’s daily driver, so I only drive it on vacations and sometimes on the weekend. It’s not my favorite thing to drive, but for it’s size it drives and handles incredibly well and can still return 25mpg on the highway loaded to 6Klbs gross.

            I’ve heard that the newer Odyssey generations don’t drive/handle as well as ours does.

  • avatar

    Review sounds like PR like any manufacturer’s rep might spout.
    A free vacation for four to Hawaii can do that to an auto writer. Will have to see what an uncompensated reviewer will say.

    For price comparison:

    2018 list price
    LX 30930
    EX 34800
    ELITE 47610

    2017 from list price
    LX 29850
    EX 33000

    2017 price does not include destination charge $940

    Glancing over local ads, price from a local dealer for 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan SE is about $21-$23 thousand, after rebates. For SXT about $26-31k after rebates. Prices even lower if get dealer financing.

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica LX $26 thousand. Touring about $27K.

  • avatar

    We wanted to wait for this, but we leased a ’17 Sienna SE instead. Except for some quirks from Toyotas content/packaging, I’m liking our Sienna better than our ’14 Odyssey. I’m sure the ’18 Odyssey is great, but I’m not unhappy about not waiting for it. The flexibility of Hondas new seats and vastly improved entertainment system will be welcomed. I will welcome Mr. Cains impressions with the new Odyssey when he gets a chance, since many of his quibbles with the old van mirrored mine.

    When we were shopping in 2014, I said if you could combine the NVH refinements of the Toyota, with Chryslers steering and brakes and Hondas “can do” chassis, with the Quests interior refinement, it’d be the perfect van. The Sienna SE gets close to that, I hope they don’t ruin it in the next generation. With a 1 out of 10 take rate on the SE, I wonder if it will see another generation.

  • avatar

    Ok. Thats not really the dashboard is it?
    Its not a bad looking van overall but the INFOTAINMENT center console looks like a mock up for an April fools joke.
    IMO and its just that. The center stack is the one and only reason I would not buy this. I cant get past it however I am sure 200k others will very easily.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Full disclosure: Honda flew myself and my family to Hawaii and proceeded to stuff us full of food, all while allowing four pasty Ohioans to sunburn.”

    Thank you for disclosing this, but these circumstances cloud your independence as a journalist.

    It’s one thing to send you alone to North Carolina (for example) for a day or so, but sending the whole family on what for many people is a once-in-a-lifetime trip reeks of buying votes.

    I would have given this review more credibility if the few (two?) negative comments weren’t casually dismissed with easy explanations.

  • avatar

    So I assume this still has the Variable Cylinder Management?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      Yeah, did they fix VCM yet? My buddy just got his 2013 Ody back from the dealer…66K and it needed new rings on three cylinders. Burning oil and throwing codes.

      Now, Honda did the right thing and covered the repair 100%, but still. Major drivetrain work at 66K miles? That’s ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately I’ve seen plenty driving down the road with puffs of blue smoke coming from the tailpipe—seems to be going in and out of VCM mode.

  • avatar

    Add me to the list of people that think Honda providing reviewers with a free Hawaiian vacation for them and their entire family is taking the Free Stuff for “Journalists” thing WAY too far.

    I know it makes sense to let the reviewer check out a new minivan with their family, but Hawaii, FFS?

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. And, frankly, if this is what Honda hands out to a rather low-rung, internet website, I’m wondering what the big players like Car and Driver, Motor Trend, et al, get when reviewing Hondas. It’s definitely going to color any future reviews I read of Honda products, wherever they appear.

      While I’m grateful for the disclosure, I just can’t envision the recipient of an all-expenses-paid, family vacation to Hawaii giving anything but an A+ review for the product of the paying company, whoever it might be, especially if the recipient is interested in any future vacations (or maybe even employment).

      Lame as it might otherwise be, it’s why I appreciate that Consumer Reports gets their review vehicles from local dealerships.

      • 0 avatar

        To be fair to Chris, the Consumer Reports quick look they just put up is perhaps even more positive about the van – praising its handling, ride smoothness, quietness, and all the space and interior storage. Only quibbles they note is that the push button shifted takes some getting used to, the infotainment screen is a bit of a reach, and that the safety tech should be standard on the base trim.

      • 0 avatar

        CR, in an effort to be more timely, DOES show up for “First Drive” press junkets, although I do not think they accept all the freebies. (As in, I believe they paid their own way.)

        It’s only for their full tests that they buy the cars in question.

  • avatar

    I’m having a hard time getting past the way it looks. I know lots of people use minivans for hauling around 6 year olds, but that doesn’t mean it has to look like a 6 year old designed it. The Pacifica by contrast looks gorgeous, not just for a minivan, but for anything. (the inside is nice too). The Sienna is neither attractive nor its opposite; it’s just kinda there, like most 3 row crossovers (speaking of which, obligatory note that it’s alone amongst minivans for offering AWD).

    Functionally it’s a close call between the obvious top three (Honda, Chrysler, Toyota). I appreciate the comfort and flexibility of the new Odyssey’s 2nd row seats, but for me it’s not enough to make up for not folding into the floor and not having a huge underfloor storage compartment when the seats are in place. I do like the infotainment features and the powertrain is promising. I haven’t driven the old-but-frequently-updated Sienna yet in its again updated form; the old powertrain was already impressive. My instinctive ranking at the moment is (1) Pacifica (2) Sienna (3) Odyssey but it’s reeealy close.

    I’m awaiting an onboard vacuum cleaner shootout between the Honda and Chrysler. The Honda does still have a built-in vacuum, right?

  • avatar

    A fully paid trip for a family of 4 to Hawaii is worth ~5K or more. I dont blame the reviewer for taking the trip, not one bit.

    However, it’s definitely a pretty big comp.

    How many days/nights did they pay?

  • avatar

    The Pacifica Hybrid has more comfortable 2nd row seats than the standard Pacifica. They’re also removable (but not foldable) like the Odyssey. So if you want a Pacifica with more comfortable 2nd row seats, get the hybrid. I did. We’re loving it.

  • avatar

    All the current U.S. and Japanese mid size crossovers look like minivans anyways so why not buy the real deal that has some handling built in?

  • avatar

    To all of you criticizing our involvement in this Hawaii-based launch, I will have a response to you today to explain a few things.

    • 0 avatar

      Dont have to explain anything to me. I am just glad you guys got to review it.
      OEMs have events all the time and if you want folks to give their impression of it, its easier to bring them to you than your vehicle to them.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t blame you guys for sending somebody to the launch; after all, it’s an important product, and Hawaii is where the launch was being held. And having the family along for a minivan launch is reasonable too. I know you don’t have the money set aside to refuse the expense reimbursement (like CR does).

      My criticism is reserved mainly for Honda, who chose to nakedly bribe the reviewers in this fashion, many of which are certainly going to fail to note the free Hawaiian vacation for the entire family.

  • avatar

    Those seats seem awfully complicated for not a whole lot of benefit. I imagine removing them and then replacing them would be painful as well.

    No mention of the dreaded electronic shifter?

  • avatar

    @ Matt Foley’s comment on problems with the VCM – he may have personally had problems, but statistically, the Odyssey is one of the most likely vehicles to go 200,000 miles, so VCM isn’t statistically a problem. Our 2007 Odyssey is about to turn 150k miles, and VCM operates seamlessly. The only significant problem we have with it are binding sliding doors, which would require an expensive fix if we took them to a dealer. (Which is not to say that nothing has gone wrong with the van over the years, including a $1200 air conditioning repair last year, but the engine and transmission are going strong.) As to the multiple people talking about the middle seats that don’t stow, the Odyssey’s cargo area is spacious enough without moving the center seats that in three years, I’ve never even been tempted to move them. I really like the new Pacifica, especially the Hybrid, but I am also glad it has a worthy competitor in the Odyssey.

  • avatar

    While it didn’t hurt sales, the previous Odyssey looked like the designers were drunk when they started and ran out of time before they could fully fix the mistakes. This exterior is a big improvement.

  • avatar

    Our lease is ending, and my youngest is 3, so I’m their Huckleberry.

    My 2014 has been quite good, but I have some irritations. Of course some I asked for, as I traded a CX-9 and it’s wonderful performance and black leather S&M dungeon interior for sliding doors and newer tech. Without sliding doors we would never have gone to a van, but baby seats in city parking lots are impossible at without them.

    “One feature worthy of being called brilliant is the ability for passengers to input navigation waypoints. Handing those responsibilities to a passenger is a great safety choice.” Agreed. We have the EX-L with two front LCD screens, and it spreads functions across duplicate buttons (on the dash, LCD itself, little buttons behind the wheel, pushing the trip-odo button, etc.). We refer to it as the Lear-jet as it takes two people on a trip to handle the DVD player, wireless headphones, fade the podcast to the front for the adults, sync/unsync the rear temperature, and set/follow nav. Never mind the bluetooth and voice-text and frantically trying to swap the speakerphone to private-mode.

    Otherwise it’s been flawless. I’ve been hit once (Florida, where a very apologetic man was behind me in standstill traffic trying to get onto the island and his foot got exhausted/slipped. I shook his hand and assured him we were ok). I also pinged it off a sign and popped the right mirror loose, but it snapped back in. It gets 25+ mpg. It hauls full-size fluffy couches with the doors closed. The rear-camera monitor is huge. The lane-change side camera rules. It drags oil changes out near 10k miles.

    Next time no white paint, as it always looks like it’s been sprayed with a bug cannon. Oh, and getting the daft second-row seats back in their tracks requires a lot of swearing. If they grab the wrong thing it’s a total fight to get them to let go. Think metal velcro.

    Will I lease another? I’m leaning no. Buying is $marter, and the kids are doing their own thing more. It also barely fits in the garage.

    It’s hard to argue though that it does EVERYTHING a 7-pass vehicle should, safely and economically.

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