Modern Motoring: 6 takeaways from the 2018 Honda Odyssey

Honda has launched the fifth generation Odyssey minivan in a world that leans towards the SUV market. Given that there are so few minivan options available, some may see this as an odd move…the Nissan Quest is no longer, Mazda, Hyundai, Ford, Volkswagen and others have abandoned the van option. Really, it’s just Toyota’s Sienna, Chrysler’s Pacifica and Kia’s Sedona  that are left to compete with the Odyssey. Personally, I’d pick a minivan over an SUV if I had a few dependents in my life (no, my cats and guitars don’t count) for one primary reason; sliding doors…those wonderful sliding doors.
Honda thought it’d be a grand idea to have me spend a few days in Prince Edward Island to be one of the first to rack up a few hundred clicks on their new top-trim Touring offering and it would be rude if I said no.
With that, here are my takeaways and first impressions for the 2018 Honda Odyssey, complete with musical accompaniment:

A stronger engine
Theme song: Drive My Car by The Beatles

There’s an all-new 3.5L V6 motor offered that gives this living room on wheels 280 horsepower (up by 32 from the 2017) and 262 lb-ft. of torque (up 12 from the 2017.)
There’s a nine-speed automatic transmission all trim levels aside from the top end Touring trim, which sees a 10-speed gearbox. There are paddle shifters to play with but I doubt many drivers will utilize them and instead let the engine do the gear changing.
Fuel economy on the L/100km for city/highway/combined scale rate at  12.6/8.4/10.7 for the 9-speed and  12.2/8.5/10.6 for the 10-speed.
It’s Front Wheel Drive only across the board (would’ve liked an All-Wheel Drive option) but to combat that, Honda offers as Snow mode, which starts in second gear with a less aggressive throttle response to increase traction.
The 9-speed gearbox can tow up to 3,000 pounds and the 10-speed maxes out at 3,500 pounds, so those of you with small boats/trailers/etc are taken care of.
The Odyssey will take up to 73.8 litres of regular 87 octane as well.

On the road
Theme song: On the road again by Willie Nelson

My father’s third car (after a 1981 Datsun 210 in earwax beige) was a 1994 Plymouth Voyager because there was myself (16 at the time) and a younger sister (9 at the time) and a younger brother (7 at the time) and the 1987 Volvo 240 DL wagon didn’t have a third row for surly teenager Jay.  Being a practical man, my father bought it on practicality, clearly not on road feel (kinda crummy…sorry Plymouth)
The 2018 Odyssey, through my nearly 500 km’s of driving it, strangely (yet impressively) made me forget there were a few feet of car attached to the body.  It felt much more like a CR-V on the road than a full-sized minivan and it was only when parking it was I reminded of its larger size. Now I wasn’t zipping and weaving through traffic (come on, it’s PEI…there’s hardly any traffic to begin with!) but the times I did have to pass other vehicles and in downtown Charlottetown, it just didn’t have that big and bulky feel. 
Right foot input yields a fairly quick response to this 2,086 kg machine but push too hard and you’ll get a screaming engine as it sprints to 4,000-5,000 RPM’s.  In rural PEI, most roads are single lanes and there’s plenty of passing power but in an urban world, you probably won’t run past 6th gear.


The 10-speed gearbox fared well but with the spaced out gear ratios, some may experience slightly uncomfortable downshifts.
Also, there’s a new Active Shutter Grille for improved fuel efficiency when cruising, which’ll come in handy for drives from Mississauga to, say, PEI.
Handling is respectable and remember that the center of gravity is raised in any minivan so don’t be too aggressive on sharper turns. It’s not a sport-inspired drive feel but then again, it’s not meant to be.  There is, however, still a comfortable drive-feel to be experienced and it ranks as one of the better minivans on the market.
There’s a very cool “How Much Farther?” app that mimics a flight tracker so you’ll no longer have to answer the dreaded “are we there yet?” questions.

Interior
Theme song: Human Touch by Bruce Springsteen

Let’s start with what traditional Jay does not like, and that’s the absence of a gear shift lever. Similarly to Acura, the P R N D choices are all buttons, a move made to maximize space.  You’ll eventually get used to it and they’ve made reverse a button you pull instead of push so there are no accidental gear choices.
The 8” infotainment includes Apple Carplay and Android Auto (very cool) and like an iPhone, you can move order of tiles on the touchscreen to put your most used apps/tiles on the main screen.
Full marks for including a volume knob as well, Honda!
With seating for 8 (even the third row is good for 2 people thanks to the forward/backward motion of the middle row) there’s plenty of room for almost everything you and your family want to throw in the Odyssey.
Cargo space with the third row up is 929 L, behind the second row is 2,452 L and behind the front seats is a whopping 3,973 L, although the base model LX gives you 4,103L and all EX options give you 3,984 L.
The front seats are mostly comfortable but I would’ve liked to have seen more thigh support.
All trims but the base LX get a driver's seat with 12-way power adjustment including 4-way power lumbar support. All trims get heated front seats and a front passenger's seat with 4-way power adjustment.

The front doors have two levels of cubby/storage compartments and there’s a drawer that pulls out from the centre console for even more storage space.
Way at the back is a vacuum (not on the base trim) to help keep the car clean without lugging your own vacuum onto the driveway.
The top Touring trim sees CabinWatch, which is a ceiling mounted camera that shows what’s happening in rows two and three through the infotainment system and much better than turning to look backwards when driving forwards as well as CabinTalk, an in-car PA system that reduces the amount of yelling the parents have to do.
Select models (RES for Rear Entertainment System) have a screen that folds out for Blu-Ray/video options.
The Touring trim gets a 550-watt 11-speaker sound system (that sounds quite clear) while all others get a 150-watt 7-speaker system.

Pricing
Theme song: Money talks by AC/DC

The LX starts us off at $34,890 and highlights include 18” alloy wheels, remote start and push button start.
Next up is the EX at $38,090 that includes LED day runners, fog lamps, second row armrests and a few other goodies. Upgrade to the EX RES for only $1,500 extra.
The EX-L-RES comes in at $44,590 and throws in leather seats, parking sensors, a heated steering wheel and others. The EX-L Navi and you trade out the RES for navigation…so either you’ll want to entertain the kiddies or know where you’re going, all for the same price of $44,590.
At the top is the Touring, which has the 10 speed transmission, 19” wheels, handsfree power tailgate, wireless phone charging and plenty more. The price? $50,290. Is it a bit steep? Maybe…but Honda’s positioning the Odyssey as premium minivan and they’re certainly on the mark with everything that’s offered.


Magic Slide Seats
Theme song: Abracadabra by Steve Miller

This standard feature is quite impressive and will drastically reduce the bickering/touching/punching/hitting/poking/slapping/throwing of food and toys for your two middle seat occupants. 
Out of the box, the Odyssey comes with three individual seats in the second row. Simply remove the middle seat (it was so easy that I could do it by myself, which means anyone can do it) and the two remaining seats sit on a rail system, where both can be moved to five different seating positions.
If the kids are fighting, put them at opposite sides of the minivan. If they’re both watching something on their iPad and actually get along with each other, pull the seats next to each other.
Yes, the Stow N’ Go invention was really cool for hauling non-people but this innovation by Honda is even more impressive by helping increase the level of calmness for everyone inside.
Additionally, you can have the two seats to one side of the Odyssey for much easier access to the third row, which is great for the younger and older generation.

Saftey features
Theme song: Safety dance by Men Without Hats

Honda Sensing safety technology comes standard and includes the following:

Adaptive Cruise Control
Lane Keeping Assist System
Road Departure Mitigation
Forward Collision Warning
Lane Departure Warning
Collision Mitigation Braking System

The Lanewatch system shows up on all EX/EX-L trims and the Touring trim sees the Blind Spot Information System introduced.
I’m most impressed with the Honda Sensing being a standard feature and I’m confident that more manufacturers will have their own collection of standard safety features instead of having them as options.

The 2018 Odyssey looks good on the outside, continuing with their “lightning bolt” design along the rear side panels and hidden sliding rear door tracks and a new “floating” D-pillar design.
Pair that with the well-crafted and spacious interior and innovative tech and Honda has a strong offering in the small yet competitive minivan market. 
Even though SUV's are all the rage and most sedans are on a slow but sure deathwatch, those who love the smartness and practicality of sliding doors will keep the minivan world alive.

Enjoy the full gallery below: