Honda aims to keep its best-selling minivan at the top amidst strong competition in the limited but loyal minivan market. Honda unveiled the redesigned 2018 Odyssey at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, hours after the Chrysler Pacifica minivan won 2016 Family Car of the Year.
It adopts the wide and low grille Honda calls flying wing, but it doesn’t look much different from the outgoing fourth-generation truckster. The most notable and welcome difference is the sliding door tracks were moved from the body and tucked discretely under the rear quarter window, like the Pacifica.
While the Odyssey isn’t as aggressively restyled as the crossoverish Pacifica, Honda's new seating configurations should easy family life. The Magic Slide second row seat allows for five different seating positions along a rail, and is easy to bypass for third-row passengers. Even with two rear-facing child safety seats attached, the middle seats can move forward far enough for passengers to access the third row from either door. Most of the seating options are optimized with the center seat removed, unless you need room for eight people.
The third row splits into 60/40 folding seats in the floor with a pull strap, and Honda assures us that 4” x 8” sheets of drywall can lay flat on the floor, but only by removing the middle row seats. Middle row seats do not fold flat into the floor like the Pacifica.
The fifth-generation Odyssey will feature Honda’s first ten-speed transmission, made in house and not by ZF, which manufactured the 9-speed transmission that had some initial problems in the Honda Pilot. The 9-speed is standard on the Odyssey. MPG figures were not released but Honda expects the Odyssey to lead the class, thanks in part to a 96-pound weight reduction and active grille shutters that reduce drag at cruising speed. Its front wheels are powered by a 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 engine that boosts horsepower to 280 from 248 in the outgoing model with the same sized engine.
Honda intends for the Odyssey to remain as a IIHS top safety pick plus with the suite of advanced safety driving features known as Honda Sensing. New convenience technology such as CabinWatch enables drivers to keep an eye on all passengers by an interior camera that projects onto the new 8-inch touchscreen in the center stack. Selective speaking is also granted between driver and passengers via system headphones, so little Johnny can nap while Suzie unloads her tween angst from the back. Integrated ceiling-mounted 10.2-inch screen entertains passengers while giving drivers a moment of calm on road trips.
The Odyssey is American-made in Alabama and Georgia, and is expected in dealer lots this spring. Pricing will be announced between now and then.