By on July 20, 2018

2018 Honda Odyssey Cape Tryon copy - Image: © Timothy Cain

The wind is gusting above 40 miles per hour on New Brunswick’s Northumberland shore. I’m standing beside an oversized ATV trailer, desperately trying to figure out how one of three ratchet straps holding an ATV snowblower to the trailer tore itself to shreds, launching the blower into the trailer’s front box.

It’s the kind of wind that limits one’s cognitive function. Though often guilty of running multiple trains of thought along one set of tracks, I realize as I stare at the shredded strap that virtually all of my brain activity is presently devoted to maintaining a semi-socially acceptable level of snot spray and, concurrently, keeping my shirt from blowing up neck-high, Marilyn Monroe-style.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a whirlwind journey that began by leaving work early with the digital handshake of a deal, ended in my driveway with the blower intact. Hours later, our new 2018 Honda Odyssey EX ATV tow vehicle – a replacement for the 2015 Odyssey EX we victimized for three years – opened its tailgate to reveal a cavernous cargo area and hauled a wide array of 4x4s, 2x4s, and cement blocks home from the lumber yard. “Pickup trucks don’t take this much stuff in one load,” the teenaged attendant said. That afternoon, the Odyssey was back to hustling children across Prince Edward Island, three rows of seating full.

Can a minivan be beaten at life?

ATV trailer snowblower - Image: © Timothy Cain

Admittedly, there were a handful of concerns that cropped up when we were considering swapping our Odyssey for a newer edition.

Would a nine-speed automatic, not the outstanding 10-speed from the Odyssey Touring, finally be an acceptable transmission?

Would the sharp decrease in internal storage cubbies be a sacrifice that, while trivial at first, becomes a major annoyance?

And would Honda Canada’s unwillingness to offer colour – white, black, grey, and silver only on the EX – dull our appreciation after the pleasure of our Obsidian Blue Odyssey?2018 Honda Odyssey with 2006 Honda Fit - Image: © Timothy CainOn the first count, it seems as though automakers, Honda at the very least, have ironed out the nine-speed’s rough spots. In fact, the nine-speed is exceptionally well mated to the 280-horsepower V6, serving up nicely timed shifts under hard throttle and operating at all other times in blissful oblivion. Fuel economy is slightly better than our ’15 Odyssey’s 23.5 mpg, albeit with an engine that’s still getting into its groove.

The lack of cabin storage is an odd quirk for a modern minivan. There’s still a vast center console and a very subdivided door panel, but the two large storage caverns ahead of the center console and a smaller one to the left of the steering wheel are gone. Granted, their disappearance is cancelled out to some degree by greater space for diaper bags to rest on the floor ahead of the center console.

Lunar Silver, meanwhile, has been a nice surprise. It stays visibly cleaner longer than the dark blue and has just a bit more life to it than a typical silver. I’d prefer the Touring’s 19-inch wheels, a roof that didn’t try to float, and less brightwork in the grille, but overall I’m much more on board with the design of the fifth-gen Odyssey than the fourth.

In a minivan, of course, form most definitely follows function. Our Odyssey is only a few weeks old but has already been tasked on multiple occasions with towing our Suzuki Kingquad 750 from our home in Margate, Prince Edward Island, to the trails in and around Brookvale. (Our Odyssey is rated to tow up to 3,000 pounds; the Touring is rated at 3,500.)

We spent an afternoon touring the Island’s north shore with seven aboard, including five adults. This new Odyssey copes far better than the old with the heavier payload. The improved structural stiffness and sharper steering are a boon to handling, too. Perhaps most buyers don’t record lap times at Laguna Seca or Watkins Glen, but blasting from the north to the south side of the Island on empty, twisty, rural roads is a major part of our existence.2018 Honda Odyssey Kool Breeze - © Timothy Cain

In all of these circumstances, we’ve been greatly impressed, going so far as to believe that the new van nearly embarrasses the old. That old van, mind you, carries great weight in the pre-owned marketplace. It held its value so well that at the 36-month juncture of a 48-month lease we received more on trade than our lease buy-out, which basically negated the increased cost of the newly leased van.

As for the ratchet straps, I was fortunate to have an extra in the storage box. Hours from home in Baie-Sainte-Anne, with intermittent cell service, darkness rapidly approaching, bowled over by the wind, and exhausted at the end of a work week, I was frazzled by the sight of my $900 Facebook Marketplace find resting unhinged at the front of the trailer. As my friend Jeff – who, like me, has fewer life skills than a rookie Cub Scout – hooked the rearmost part of the blower to the back of the trailer with our one surplus strap, I rearranged the front straps for greater security. We used the shredded strap’s leftovers to tie a thousand knots around the rear hookup, found a bungee to wrap around it as well, and Facetimed a trucker friend to ask for wise counsel.

He told me to trust my gut and head home.

We did just that. Slowly. Methodically. Gingerly.

Minutes later, Jeff asked if I noticed, when the blower was temporarily much closer to the van’s tailgate, that we could’ve driven the 3.5 hours to Baie-Sainte-Anne sans trailer and simply shoved the 44x44x80 blower into the van.

“Yes, Jeff,” I shamefully admitted. “Yes, I did notice that.”

One might have assumed that as a card-carrying member of the United Minivan Owners protest party, I would have been more conscious of the Odyssey’s inherent capabilities.

[Images: Timothy Cain/TTAC]

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24 Comments on “Friday Night Adventures Prove Yet Again That Minivans Are the Best Vehicles the World Has Ever Known...”

  • avatar

    Reminds me of autocrossing days when a Honda Ridgeline would pull in with a trailer in tow. Unload his EM class Honda Civic and fire up the Honda generator. Talk about hook, line, and sinker!

  • avatar

    Nice to hear from you, Tim. Congrats on the new van, glad you’re enjoying it.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      That’s one big snowblower! With our minivan, the hard part is getting things like lawnmowers or snowblowers in and out of it since I don’t have a true ramp. Sofas and refrigerators are far easier to get in and out.

  • avatar

    This is a very timely post, as I am getting ready to pull a 1500 pound trailer with my ’11 Odyssey across 400 miles of interstate. I have to admit, the engine/transmission combo just doesn’t feel quite as capable as my Crown Vic, but we’ll see. It appears to have towed well in the past.

  • avatar

    I owned THREE minivans all at the same time, once. Just recently got rid of my 1996 Car of the Year Dodge Grand Caravan.

  • avatar

    “The improved structural stiffness and sharper steering are a boon to handling, too.”

    I’ve always wondered how auto journalists can feel a difference in structural stiffness. How do you do it? And how do you single out stiffness improvements versus things like brand new shocks, springs and bushings? I would think that those former elements make a much bigger impact on composure than any marginal % improvement in stiffness.

    But then again, I’ve never driven a brand new car, so what do I know :)

    • 0 avatar

      I used to think the same thing about mountain bike reviews, can they *really* tell if a wheel/axle/frame/etc has more flex than another?? gimme a break…

      But I think maybe yes they can, some of them anyway. I could certainly detect the difference in say a 2009 Subaru Legacy (flexy as heck) versus a 2009 Mazda 3 (torsionally VERY rigid).

      An easy example is to cause a “twisting” motion on the chassis, like when turning up onto a steep driveway ramp, as the vehicle weight is quickly shifted to diagonally opposed wheels. A floppy chassis design will cause even a new car to emit creaks and groans. Whereas a structurally stiff car feels more like it was machined from a single piece of billet and will never creak/groan.

      But with increased structural stiffness, things like shocks and bushings become a lot more obvious when they are degraded, as you say.

      • 0 avatar

        I used to use a ‘96 Grand Caravan in my transmission parts business and I can safely tell you how flexible those vans (or any van) are when loaded about double their weight carrying capacity with torque converter cores. It felt like the back end took about three seconds to catch up with the front end. But both vans we used were A604 (transmission rebuilding obviously wasn’t a concern) and we got over 300k miles on both with the 3.3 V6.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Perfect response.

      “an easy example is to cause a “twisting” motion on the chassis, like when turning up onto a steep driveway ramp, as the vehicle weight is quickly shifted to diagonally opposed wheels.”

  • avatar

    What does this mean: “a roof that didn’t try to float”

    I find myself continually intrigued by minivans (currently the Pacifica Hybrid has my attention). Oddly it is the women in my life who have been resistant. My only success in buying a van was when I was single, and bought a Transit.

    • 0 avatar

      He is referring to the small blacked out section of the D pillar that gives the illusion that the painted roof is disconnected from the lower half of the car, creating a floating look. It’s a popular trend these days, check out the newer Nissans. Subaru made a real floating roof on the 04-09 Legacy wagon without using cheater panels.

    • 0 avatar

      @srh: I have a similar story. When our kids were very young, my in-laws would let use their Caravan (yes, I’m ancient) occasionally. When my kids were about 10 and 7, about the time they get really busy with extracurricular activities, I suggested we get a van. My wife got a SUV instead.

      After my last Aztek got taken out by a deer, I finally bought myself a minivan and am loving it. This week alone, I transported four passengers, shuttled some mountain bikes, picked up a week’s worth of groceries and delivered a load of campfire wood.

      They’re just too handy…

  • avatar

    I just got a 2019 this week. One of the forums turned me on to a glare-reducing screen protector for the infotainment console that should help with my biggest problem so far.

  • avatar

    It’s too bad that Nissan Motor Co. USA dropped the Quest. With 260hp/240tq and a well-matched CVT, it accelerates quickly and very smoothly. Much better than any 6-8-9 speed competitors transmission with a 3500 lb towing capacity it just works. Our ‘11 is close to 200k and I’m buying another used 2016/17 after the first of the year.

    For this family of six, it works!

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    With the exception of what Mazda made, there are NO minivans being sold in the United States at all. Carefully review the specifications of a short wheelbase Ford Econoline from 1975 and you’ll see that today’s minivans are within INCHES of that full-sized van. Minivans are not made. Fake labels are.

    • 0 avatar

      While I take your point that today’s minivans have grown as a class and only the longer wheelbase versions are in play these days (Growing up we had an ’86 SWB Aerostar and a ’92 LWB Aerostar), you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

      All class/size designations have changed over time. I’ve owned a ’65 Buick Wildcat (218″) and an ’87 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight (196″). Both were considered “full size” cars in their day despite the Olds being almost 2 feet shorter.

      Additionally, “full size van” as a USDM social construct specifically implies either a white work van, a summer camp transport with all-vinyl interior, or an aftermarket conversion van.

      That may make the designation a bit of a misnomer, but it doesn’t make it a “fake label”.

  • avatar

    Tim I can’t agree more. You wrote it to the point. This is the best vehicle the world has known. What a vehicle. Its a Car/miniVan/cargo Van/SUV/luxury SVU ride. Most importantly its super dependable.

    I just bought a used 2015 Touring. I owned a 1998 and a 2006 one before it.The 2006 was a new purchase. I put on 174K, it was good for another 50K but I decided to trade it for the 2015. I carried bricks, mulch, IKEA stuff, 4X4s, plants, hardwood floor tiles, patio stones….. you name it,it just did its duty. Driven twice to Key West from the DC area. Last time around it had 150K miles when we drove it to Florida. Never ever I had any trouble with it. Its a tank. I was a bit disappointed with the new one. It neither has fuel efficient motor nor a more powerful one( more torque). So I passed on this to buy a used 2015. I probably wait for Honda to put the 2.0T in this amazing automobile. Honda should make a larger one with 11 passenger option. Check the mercedes benz’s custome Sprinter

  • avatar
    The Gentle Grizzly

    I have a brand new 2018 Odyssey Elite. Plenty of punch. My pencil and paper gas mileage is consistently above factory / EPA numbers and, while far from a lead-foot I am not a slowpoke either. It’s comfortable for me. The instrument panel is a throwback to the Mitsubishi Cordia and Tredia, but I can look past that.

    One feature I would like to see Honda carry across to their entire line is the design of the center console. I am one of those who find consoles a needless appendage, and they seem to get bigger and bigger as time goes by. Due to short arms and legs, I drive with my legs somewhat akimbo. Most consoles chop into my right leg. The one on the Odyssey drops down to where the console is little more than a little storage tray down by the floor. Well-done, Honda! Knee room at last! Now, raise, or make narrower, the window button shelf, it all will be perfect.

    The only real fault I can find is with the radio. In short: it’s junk. Two main complaints: the touch screen responds when it darn well wants to, and the dealer said there is no fix. Three Chevys and two Dodges did not present this issue, so it is not me.

    The other complaint is the truly awful sound quality. The Elite has the (alleged) Premium radio, but sounds like something out of 1955. Back in those days of one speaker, the radios were engineered to emphasize the upper bass notes to make up for the one little speaker’s ability. Some radio stations threw in their own bass pre-emphasis as well. This worked great for a little 4×6 or 6×9 speaker. Today, with far better amplifiers, the better sound of FM, HD, Bluetooth streaming, and satellite service, this pre-emphasis is obsolete, and has been for almost 20 years. Yet, Honda has SO much upper bass pre-emphasis that most bass notes sound like the musician is thumping the bottom of an old steel wash-tub. Announcers sound like they are speaking through a cardboard carpet-roll tube. It’s AWFUL. Turning the bass adjustment all the way down doesn’t cure it, nor does fiddling about with the sub-woofer control.

    An otherwise excellent vehicle is spoiled by an amateurishly done radio setup. The Tahoe I traded in had a FAR superior radio, as does my 20087 Pontiac G6 convertible.

    Honda, you can do better. You DO do better in your Accord.

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