Honda Is Considering An Odyssey Hybrid With Acura MDX Running Gear To Challenge The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Can frugal transportation and family transportation coexist in a single package?

Lead Honda R&D engineer Tom Sladek indicated to Wards Auto at the Hawaiian launch of the all-new, fifth-generation, 2018 Honda Odyssey that Honda’s minivan could receive a hybrid powertrain in the future.

Presently, hybrid powertrains are available in a numerous three-row crossovers. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is presently launching a plug-in hybrid version of the new-last-year Chrysler Pacifica, as well.

“The electrification initiative is definitely coming, but on which products and which timing is not 100% clear yet,” Honda’s Sladek told Wards. If one such product is the Odyssey, we would expect to see improvements both in the Odyssey’s fuel economy and its performance.

And all-wheel drive?

The 2018 Honda Odyssey is a close relative of the Acura MDX. Production even takes place at the same Alabama assembly plant, though some MDX production is moving to Ohio to free up capacity for the Honda Pilot, Honda Ridgeline, and this new Odyssey.

The third-generation MDX recently became available in Sport Hybrid guise (and was recently tested by TTAC’s Steph Willems.) Horsepower increases by 31 to 321. Average fuel economy climbs from 22 miles per gallon to 27.

Says Honda’s Tom Sladek: “We just released the hybrid MDX so that powertrain could be considered in the future, although we can’t comment on particular plans.”

For the 2018 Honda Odyssey, driven by TTAC’s Chris Tonn in Hawaii, the installation of the MDX’s Sport Hybrid powertrain would represent an increase of 41 horsepower. Fuel economy in the Odyssey, like the core all-wheel-drive MDX, averages 22 miles per gallon.

Wards suggests an Odyssey Sport Hybrid — which likely wouldn’t maintain the Sport tagline at Honda — would offer more of an emphasis on fuel economy than its Acura cousin, presumably at the expense of some power.

While the Acura MDX in its current Sport Hybrid iteration connects a three-motor system to a 3.0-liter V6 and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the 2018 Honda Odyssey is a front-wheel-drive minivan with nine or ten-speed automatics. The ten-speed is only available in the top Touring and Touring Elite trims and does not alter the EPA mileage ratings for that pair of heaviest Odysseys.

But if Honda was serious about installing the MDX Sport Hybrid’s powertrain in the Odyssey, this would also be an indication that the Odyssey would finally offer an all-wheel-drive option. The MDX’s rear motors make the Sport Hybrid an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

At the moment, the only all-wheel-drive minivan on sale in the United States is the Toyota Sienna. Roughly one-quarter of the Siennas currently in stock are AWD models.

On the hybrid side, the Chrysler Pacifica’s ramp-up is only just getting going. HybridCars.com estimated 800 sales of the plug-in Pacifica in May, but there there are only 231 in stock at Chrysler stores, according to Cars.com.

If — and it is a big if — American Honda determines a Honda Odyssey Hybrid is in the company’s future, adopting Acura’s MDX pricing scheme wouldn’t hurt, either. Comparably equipped, Acura charges only $1,500 more for the Sport Hybrid than a regular MDX.

A high-power, all-wheel-drive Honda Odyssey for an extra $1,500? That’s too good to be true.

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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  • Asapuntz Asapuntz on Jun 06, 2017

    iirc, the Odyssey's weight created some transmission reliability issues for Honda - electric RWD could ease that?

  • Rocket Rocket on Jun 06, 2017

    "A high-power, all-wheel-drive Honda Odyssey for an extra $1,500? That’s too good to be true." I'm sure it IS too good to be true. The MDX Sport Hybrid's $1,500 premium is over the SH-AWD MDX, but SH-AWD is a $2,000 option. Meaning jumping from FWD to Super Hybrid AWD in the Odyssey would likely cost something closer to $3,500. I've opined for years that Acura should offer a more luxurious version of the Odyssey. Now would be the perfect opportunity to iron out that overwrought sheet metal and make an Acura sport van happen. Would you call that a VSX anyone?

    • See 1 previous
    • La834 La834 on Jun 10, 2017

      I'd like that too, but all of the manufacturers are dead set against offering a luxury brand minivan in the US. A Lexus van (which exists as an Estima in some countries) would do great here if marketed properly, as would a BMW van (with RWD or AWD!). Mercedes sells a V-Class in Europe that's based on the Vito/Metris but with much fancier trim and a different, more elegant dashboard.

  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
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