All-new 2018 Honda Odyssey aims for greater comfort, safety, features and style

Updated May 25th, 2018

2018 Honda Odyssey

2018 Honda Odyssey

What changes will make the 2018 Honda Odyssey different?

Everything, as befits the fully redesigned edition of Honda’s popular minivan. The first all-new Odyssey since model-year 2011, the ’18 amps up this family hauler’s blend of roominess, road manners, and rug-rat amenities. The styling is sleeker, the body structure lighter yet stronger. There’s more power, yet better mileage. Front seaters can now observe those in back on a video screen and speak to them through the Odyssey’s audio speakers – and even through their headphones.

This is the fifth-generation Odyssey – the original debuted for 1995 – and it enters a segment that’s been in decline for a decade as buyers flock to crossover SUVs. Once a 1.6-million-annual sales market with some 15 entries, today’s minivan class contains just five nameplates; sales totaled around 491,000 for 2016, a 6-percent decline from 2015. Nissan dropped its Quest minivan for model-year ’17, but other automakers recognize a loyal following for these remarkably versatile vehicles. The redesigned Odyssey faces the all-new Pacifica that Chrysler launched for model-year 2017. And Toyota gave its ’17 Sienna a new engine and plans to redesign it for model-year ’19.

Why should I buy a 2018?

Because it bundles all Honda has learned about the minivan and further widens its lead over the competition for driving enjoyment. It promises to maintain the brand’s high quality and resale ratings, and to continue appealing to upscale minivan buyers.

The wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) is unchanged, but the body is 0.7-inches narrower for better aerodynamics and the roofline is about an inch higher. Seating for up to eight remains. Honda’s redesign focuses on refinement, connectivity, and safety. Indeed, it addresses one of the outgoing Odyssey’s demerits by applying extensive sound-deadening, making this the quietest minivan on the market. And it equips every ’18 Odyssey, except the entry-level LX version, with autonomous emergency braking, a key driver assist not previously available on any Odyssey. The ’18 also gets you more flexible second-row seating, a more advanced suspension, and access to the first 10-speed automatic transmission in the class.

Like the ’17 Odyssey, the ’18 is front-wheel drive and powered by a strong V-6 engine. The model lineup begins with the entry level LX trim and ascends through EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi/RES (navigation and rear-entertainment systems), Touring, and Elite. Gone at launch is the SE model, which was essentially an EX-L sans leather upholstery. And in a welcome change, creation of the EX-L Navi/RES model enables you to equip an Odyssey with both an imbedded navigation system and a rear-seat video-entertainment system without having to move up to a Touring or Elite.

Should I wait for the 2019 model instead?

Probably not. It’ll be largely a rerun of the redesigned ’18, with perhaps a new color choice or two. But it is likely to cost more.

Is the 2018 styling different?

Yes, but consider it an evolution of the look introduced with the 2011 Odyssey. Alterations to the “flying-wing” grille are subtle, although Touring and Elite models are now available with LED headlamps versus the previous xenon units. The taillamps are larger and no longer horizontally linked by a red plastic strip. The reverse-tapered rear roof pillars return, but now they’re partially outlined in black for a trendy “floating pillar” look.

The biggest exterior change is along the body sides, which now have deeply sculpted wave forms. The aft beltline retains the distinctive but odd “lightning-bolt” drop-down introduced for 2011, but its angles are far less severe. And for the first time, the channels along which the sliding side doors open are hidden in the base of the rear windows rather than slicing through the rear fenders.

Wheels are again alloys on all models, but have a new look and increase an inch in diameter, to 19 inches on the Elite and to 18 inches on the other models. Exterior styling differences are modest; the LX’s mirrors and side sills are black instead of body-color, for example. All but the LX have fog lamps; they’re LEDs on Touring and Elite. The LX, which Honda says will account for only about 5 percent of sales, is also the only model on which the sliding side doors are not power operated.

The all-new cabin retains a light, airy feel, but looks and feels more sophisticated. That’s driven home by the dashboard, which has a soft-touch surface and a bright, easy-to-read digital-instrument cluster in place of round analog gauges. In a major departure, transmission gear selection is now controlled by center-console-mounted buttons rather than a traditional shift lever. Another big change: a single, central-dashboard screen replaces a redundant dual-screen setup. The rental-fleet-oriented LX model has a 5-inch display. The others get a high-def 8-incher mounted in the current tablet-type fashion rather than integrated into the dashboard face.

The LX again comes with seating for seven while other Odysseys accommodate up to eight via a removable center cushion in their second row. That second-row setup is Honda’s Magic Slide design. Remove the center section and you can slide the outboard seats apart or move them together, creating third-row pass-through options – even with two child seats in place. Separating them, of course, can also help regulate sibling quarrels. And the seat in the center position can also slide forward, putting the infant in that Chicco Keyfit 30 within easier reach of a front-seat occupant.

Honda’s noise-suppression efforts pay dividends in a soothing absence of road roar and wind rush. All models again have active noise cancellation, but there’s more physical sound deadening, as well. EX-L and above get an acoustically insulating windshield. The Elite adds insulated door glass, plus unique carpeting and fender liners.

Despite a body nearly an inch narrower (for better aerodynamics), room and comfort in the first two rows is exemplary. To retain as much cargo space as possible, Honda trimmed third-row legroom by a full 4 inches, but headroom remains generous and adults can still ride back there in reasonable comfort. (Touring and Elite versions have a third-row center folding armrest.)

Cargo room does decline, most noticeably behind the third row, where volume shrinks 14 percent. But there’s still 32.8 cubic feet back there, thanks in part to the usefully deep rear floor well into which the 60/40 split third row can be folded. The second-row seats accordion forward, but attaining maximum cargo volume requires their removal — which leaves behind mounting hardware that intrudes on the flat load floor. A power liftgate is standard starting with the EX-L model, while Touring and Elite have Odyssey’s first hands-free power liftgate, operated via foot activation below the bumper.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, but without altering the basic engineering design. Odyssey is again front-wheel-drive only. Toyota’s Sienna remains the only minivan available with all-wheel drive, although the ’18 Odyssey gains a driver-selectable snow mode to maximize slippery-surface traction. Honda reportedly has no plans to offer Odyssey with gas-electric hybrid power, ceding that technology to the just-introduced Pacifica plug-in hybrid.

A 3.5-liter V-6 remains the sole engine but internal modifications and introduction of direct fuel injection give it an additional 32 horsepower, for a total of 280. Torque increases by 12 pound-feet, to 262. The engine again features the automaker’s Variable Cylinder Management, which saves gas by shutting down two or three cylinders in low-demand cruising. Additionally, in Touring and Elite models, the engine automatically shuts off when the vehicle is stopped (accessories continue to run), then restarts instantly when the driver releases the brake pedal.

Gone is the previous Odyssey’s six-speed automatic transmission in favor of a nine-speed automatic or, on Touring and Elite models, a 10-speed automatic. Honda says the new transmissions translate to better mileage and more refined performance. Indeed, acceleration is more than sufficient for everyday driving and strong enough for worry-free merging or overtaking.

At cruising speeds, the 10-speed occasionally exhibits some indecisiveness about how many gears to shift down when you depress the throttle in a quest for quick passing response. Some of that woolliness can be mitigated by utilizing the manual-type gear control furnished by the steering-wheel shift paddles, a new-to-Odyssey feature standard with both transmissions.

The dual goals of improved performance and fuel economy are bolstered by an increased use of structural aluminum and magnesium that reduces curb weight by up to 96 pounds, depending on trim. The new architecture also results in a more rigid body shell, and that benefits ride and road manners.

Odyssey was already the best-handling minivan and the redesign brings even quicker steering response as well as improved cornering thanks to a new rear suspension. It also improves ride quality. This is still a firm-riding vehicle, in the Honda tradition. But gone is the sometimes too-stiff feel over bumps that was the outgoing Odyssey’s chief dynamic flaw.

Does fuel economy improve?

Yes, but very slightly, revealing how challenging it is to improve mileage that already was near the top of the minivan class. Honda’s work to reduce weight, to upgrade the powertrain, even to engineering aero-enhancing active grille shutters, results in a 1-mpg increase in highway fuel economy. And despite its extra gear ratio, the 10-speed automatic earns the same EPA ratings as the 9-speed.

Every 2018 Odyssey rates 19/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined. That easily beats the Kia Sedona, and is within 1-2 mpg of the Pacifica and the front-drive Sienna. The Pacifica hybrid is the clear segment leader. It rates 32 mpg city-highway combined overall, and 80 mpg-e, the EPA’s calculated gas-consumption equivalency when traveling on electric power alone, which it can do for 30 miles.

Does it have new features?

Yes, centered on safety and on upgraded connectivity to both the world outside the van and the people within.

Making Honda Sensing standard on all trims but the LX means 95 percent of 2018 Odyssey buyers will enjoy the benefits of the automaker’s laudable suite of driver assists. Honda Sensing includes automatic steering to correct lane wander or road departure; adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead at speeds above 20 mph or so; and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection. Its key component is autonomous emergency braking designed to stop the Odyssey to prevent a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. That last feature would qualify Honda Sensing-equipped 2018 Odysseys for the industry’s most coveted award, the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

As for infotainment, imbedded navigation is again reserved for Touring, elite, and the new EX-L Navi/RES models. But all ’18 Odysseys support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, enabling the dashboard screen to display app-based GPS mapping where there’s a cell signal. The automaker’s newest Display Audio system thankfully restores a conventional volume knob in place of the former finicky touch-sensitive slider.

Front-seaters can use the audio system to broadcast their voice to those in the rear via a new feature Honda calls CabinTalk. Pacifica and Sienna offer similar voice systems, but the ’18 Odyssey ups the nanny ante with CabinWatch. This mounts an interior camera that broadcasts to the center dashboard screen, allowing the driver and front passenger keep tabs on passengers in the rear. Infrared capability means you can view dozing riders without turning on cabin lights

EX-L Navi/RES, Touring, and Elite models come with Honda’s Advanced Rear Entertainment System. The system uses a ceiling-mounted 10.2-inch-diagonal video screen; gone is the Elite’s 16.2-inch screen. The 10.2-inch screen is of higher resolution, and the system enables second- and third-row passengers to stream video from their smartphones. PBS Kids, iHeart Radio, Spotify and more are available through in-vehicle 4G LTE WiFi. A new “How Much Farther?” app lets passengers track trip progress.

Standard on all but the LX is Honda’s CabinControl, which allows users to download an app and employ their smartphone to control the rear entertainment system, rear cabin heat and air conditioning, and send destinations to the embedded Honda navigation system. It also incorporates Social Play List, allowing up to eight family members to upload their music choices to the audio system via their smartphones.

All models have pushbutton ignition and a power driver’s seat; EX and above add a power lumbar and heated front seats. Exclusive to the Elite are heated-and-cooled front seats, a wireless phone charger, and blue ambient LED cabin lighting. Among other notable standard features starting with EX trim: high-beam headlights that automatically dim for oncoming traffic; automatic up/down windows on all doors; tri-zone automatic climate control. A power moonroof is included beginning with the EX-L, as are side mirrors with reverse-gear tilt-down. All but the LX have integrated second-row side-window sunshades; Touring and Elite get them for the third-row windows, too.

Paying particular attention to the family challenges of cleanup duty, Honda says the leather upholstery in EX-L and Touring models is particularly stain-resistant and teams with black carpeting and black seatbelts to better conceal dirt. The HondaVac in-vehicle vacuum-cleaner system returns for Touring and Elite models, but all ’18 Odyssey’s have a new grooveless tambour lid on the center console designed to resist accumulation of crumbs and debris.

How are 2018 prices be different?

They climb, but remain competitive, even while they also continue to track a few hundred dollars above base prices of rival minivans. That’s because Honda doesn’t offer stand-alone options, instead locking in specific sets of features for each trim grade. Optioned to match, most competitors come out priced more evenly.

Prices in this report include Honda’s destination fee, which remains $940 on the 2018 Odyssey. The ’18 Odyssey LX is priced at $30,930, the EX at $34,480, and the EX-L at $38,300.

The 2018 EX-L Navi/RES is priced at $40,300, less than $300 over the 2017 EX-L with rear-entertainment alone. The ’18 Odyssey Touring is priced at $45,090 and the Touring Elite at $47,610.

When does it come out?

Release date for the 2018 Honda Odyssey is mid-May 2017.

Best competitors

Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna

What change would make it better?

Honda seems to have addressed most of the outgoing Odyssey’s shortfalls. It’s toned down the lightning-bolt beltline and concealed the side door tracks. More power is always welcome, and the upgraded transmissions indeed translate to yet more powertrain refinement and the additional sound deadening to quieter cruising. Better bump absorption without compromising handling is another worthy goal met. The new dashboard and interior are steps forward, too. The safety of Honda Sensing for most owners is a big plus, certainly. And we’re happy to see Honda create an EX-L model that combines imbedded navigation with rear entertainment. It’s a sign Honda’s beginning to soften a policy that’s tended to force buyers up the price ladder to acquire desirable features.

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]