By on June 6, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Driver Front quarter

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.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid, Image: © Steph Willems

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.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid powertrain cutaway - Image: Acura

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. estimated 800 sales of the plug-in Pacifica in May, but there there are only 231 in stock at Chrysler stores, according to

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 and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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12 Comments on “Honda Is Considering An Odyssey Hybrid With Acura MDX Running Gear To Challenge The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid...”

  • avatar

    I’m actually surprised Toyota hasn’t offered this yet in the Sienna, since that van can already be had in AWD and they have a pretty robust Hybrid system in several other products. May be because the system would eat into the storage behind the third seat and/or effect the stow away third row.

    Also, I always wondered why they didn’t offer 6 captain chairs as an option versus the third row bench. I’m sure those could be made to stow away like the bench, similar to the second row Dodge/Chrysler products.

  • avatar

    I don’t know enough about the costs of building and integrating the tech into a vehicle, but I always wondered why the bigger people mover vehicles, like vans and crossovers haven’t all been offered in hybrid form. It seems like that would be the target market: a lot of errand running, stop and go, in town driving, with occasional highway driving. That’s what hybrids seem to be best at. The lower overall fuel usage should offset the higher cost of the hybrid over the (usually) long life that families have one a vehicle, no?

    Hybrid+AWD = money printer?

    • 0 avatar

      The batteries would take up room that isn’t easy to find in a van where buyers expect a low, flat floor, and like having seats that fold into the floor. The Pacifica Hybrid gives up the foldaway 2nd row seats and the storage compartments they fold into. The Sienna AWD loses its spare tire to make room for a driveshaft (which wouldn’t be needed if batteries supplied power to the rear wheels).

  • avatar

    I think a hybrid makes a lot of sense for cars like these. There is plenty of space for the batteries and they do likely see a lot of stop and go driving.

    It is worth noting that the Pacifica is a plug-in hybrid and supposedly goes about 30 mpg just in electricity. Of course, the large battery does cost more than the $1,500 difference you reference for the Acura.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Sounds like a good idea. Since Honda voids your powertrain warranty for towing with an Odyssey anyway (without about $500 in modifications), it shouldn’t matter much that the tow rating drops to 0.

  • avatar

    For a family hauler I think the accord hybrid drive train makes more sense.

  • avatar

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

    Sure can, most of the automotive world uses frugal vehicles as their primary means of family transport. I see many families of 4 in Focus-sized vehicles all over Europe.

    Not sure if what will likely be a $40k+ minivan qualifies as “frugal” regarless of the MPG.

  • avatar

    I’d be SHOCKED if, once Honda decided to hybridize the platform, they didn’t design the ENTIRE platform around the concept.

    Marketing may have chosen the MDX to do it first, but I’m sure every design decision for the overall platform was made with the ability to hybridize the Odyssey in mind. They may never decide to execute on it, but at this point it’s no doubt a small matter to make it all happen.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

    “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?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes! There are luxury minivans in other countries; the Estima is a Lexus in some places, and Mercedes-Benz has a V-Class luxury van that’s based on the Vito/Metris but with a much nicer interior and a dashboard that looks lifted from one of their sedans. A luxury van in North America would be nice too.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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