The Honda Odyssey Is Already A Great Family Mover and Could Get Major Update in ’16

What changes will make it different?

Hang on to your hats, folks, because there are big changes ahead for this highly rated minivan. Nevertheless, it’s still a matter of conjecture as to whether the all-new sixth generation will appear as a 2016 or ’17 model year. This is far and away the best vehicle of its kind in the U.S. auto market, but the time has come to bring it up to date. The exterior and the interior will see the biggest refinements. Some elements of the mechanics could remain, as the Odyssey still drives better than anything else in its class. It isn’t easy for most of us to get excited about a minivan, but if you are shopping for one, this should be at the top of your list.

Why should I wait for the 2016?

We’re sitting on the fence here, primarily because the 2015 model is just so good. Nevertheless, there’s always room for improvement with any brand. If you don’t have an urgent need for a new minivan right now, wait and see what model-year ’16 brings.

Should I buy a 2015 model instead?

If you sorely need a minivan right now, this is your best bet. The Honda minivan has been with us since 1994, and it’s never been better than it is now. The next version is expected to be radically different, so if you really like the model-year ’15 offering, we suggest getting one. This vehicle is always in high demand as a pre-owned model as well, so you’ll get a reasonable trade-in deal if you later decide you want a model-year 2016 or ’17 version.

Will the styling be different?

Everything we are hearing points to a major redesign. While models like the Honda Pilot tend to evolve over time, the model-year ’16 Odyssey is expected to be different in every way, except that it will remain a three-row, five-door minivan. We’re guessing it will be modern, stylish and about as aggressive-looking as befits a practical family vehicle. Remember how radically different the Civic was when the eighth generation was launched in 2006? We could be looking at the same type of deal here.

Any mechanical changes?

It seems unlikely that with such a massive redesign, the mechanicals will remain largely as they are, even though the underpinnings in model-year 2015 version are just a little short of excellent. The 3.5-liter V-6 is good at its job and delivers 248 horsepower and 250 pounds per foot of torque, but a newer version of something similar is likely to be installed along with the manufacturer’s latest efficient automatic transmission. The model-year ’15 offering already drives and rides better than any of the competition, so Honda faces a challenge in one-upping itself.

Will fuel economy improve?

This minivan is already considerably more economical than its competitors, but the Japanese auto giant will still try to improve on the current EPA certified figures of 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. A smaller, lighter engine, coupled with a seven-, eight- or even nine-speed automatic transmission, should ensure even better gas mileage.

Will it have new features?

If you have the money to spend, you can already have just about every feature and gadget imaginable. That isn’t to say that the base LX model doesn’t have plenty of standard features, because it does. The model-year 2015 entry-level Odyssey includes air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, two gigabytes of audio storage, USB audio connectivity, a rearview camera and an eight-inch TFT information display. The next model should build on this, and it could also include a number of cutting-edge safety features that are starting to appear throughout the rest of the manufacturer’s range.

How will 2016 prices be different?

This is difficult to predict since the model-year ’15 version is fairly expensive compared to the competition. It isn’t that the vehicle isn’t worth the money—it’s just that minivan buyers are generally families that are on a tight budget. Though it would be great to see Honda keep the prices the same, an increase can’t be ruled out.

When will it come out?

In all likelihood, by the end of ’15 or even early in 2016.

Best competitors

Mercedes Sprinter passenger van, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT, Toyota Sienna

What change would make it better?

Such a question seems a little unfair here. Nevertheless, the looks are somewhat bland and dated, though that can be said of most minivans. Even though function is the primary objective in the minivan game, a stunning, cutting-edge redesign of the exterior would really elevate the model-year ’16 Odyssey. A more a-la-carte approach to available options would also be beneficial. At the moment, you have to buy the next model up in the range if you want more features, which often means you’re paying for things you don’t need or want.

Quick hit

There are artists’ renderings across the Internet predicting what the all-new Odyssey will look like on the outside. If they are even halfway accurate, Honda will launch the first minivan that can be considered “cool.” Such a development would change the entire minivan market.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]