As we came in to land on Prince Edward Island at the end of May, we could see through the plane’s windows gorgeous, long and deserted beaches stretch out below us. It was almost hard to believe that in just a month or so they would be covered with vacationers – most of them families on their summer holidays.
Honda couldn’t have chosen a better spot to present us with the fifth generation of its family minivan.
The 2018 Honda Odyssey is an integral part of the Japanese manufacturer’s current strategy of focusing on its SUV and truck lineup, which began last year with the introduction of the HR-V, the Ridgeline and the Pilot and was followed up by the unveiling of the CR-V in the winter of 2017. The fact is that truck market segments make up close to 60% of total vehicle sales, and that percentage continues to grow.
So it is, then, that the 2018 model-year sees the automaker introduce a new generation of the Odyssey, designed with a philosophy of raising the sophistication level beyond what was offered with its predecessor. It still competes directly with the Toyota Sienna, the new Pacifica from Chrysler and also the Kia Sedona, too often neglected when considering this category of people movers. It also takes indirect aim at the Dodge Grand Caravan, the price tag of which sits nearly $10,000 lower.
That said, it’s clear the new Honda Odyssey is speaking to a slightly higher-end market; the LX version is priced at $34,890, the EX ranges between $38,090 and $44,590 and the Touring version tops out the lineup at $50,290. Honda explains the $2,000 increase over the previous year by pointing to the added value consumers get with the new model, which it estimates at between $4,000 and $6,000.
Highly evolved design-wise, the 2018 Honda Odyssey stands out thanks to lines that actually give it an element of sportiness. It sits lower to the ground and is wider than the previous model. The grille has grown more imposing, due in large part to clever integration of headlights and some judicious use of chrome.
Walk around to the back and you see that the hatchback is larger than before to make loading cargo even easier. Two other aerodynamic elements are worth mentioning: grille shutters that can be closed and a set of aerodynamic shields under the chassis.
A new 10-speed transmission box
The focus on greater sophistication in the 2018 Honda Odyssey also extends to technical and mechanical improvements, of which there are a substantial number. The 3.5L i-VTEC V6 with Variable Cylinder Management now delivers 280 hp instead of 248 hp previously, and the torque also climbs from 250 lb-ft to 262 lb-ft. Attached to this powertrain is a stop-start system that serves to reduce fuel consumption. What this means is that the increase in power comes without a rise in energy expenditure in comparison with the previous model.
And that transmission? Honda is offering the 10-speed version with steering-wheel paddle shifters in the Touring trim, while the other models get a 9-speed gearbox. Also, the manufacturer’s new Global Light Truck Platform is notable for its increased firmness and many sound insulation elements.
A tour of the island…
For those who are familiar with Prince Edward Island, we headed out from the provincial capital Charlottetown, a city rich in Victorian heritage and historical sites and where Canadian confederation was born in 1867, and drove eastward on Route 1 until we reached Bay Fortune near Souris. A stop at the restaurant and inn owned by renowned chef Michael Smith was in order, as much for the natural beauty of the spot as for the delicious food.
En route we quickly fell under the spell of the new 2018 Honda Odyssey and the driving experience it offered us. This included a winning combination of comfort, stability, performance and safety. In fact, I have to say that this minivan has rekindled my interest in a category that has lost much ground to SUVs in recent years. On a long trip with a lot of luggage and other cargo, or when transporting up to eight occupants, a minivan like this is simply unbeatable, as much for families as for older people. And as a business vehicle, it can also serve admirably as a small limousine.
For those who may question the performance capabilities of a vehicle equipped with a 10-speed transmission, we can only point out the smoothness with which it operates, due in part to the low RPMs of the engine and the quieter ride that entails. What’s more, it dutifully found the right gear whenever we needed to pass a vehicle or climb an ascent.
A pleasant environment
When considering the cabin and its layout, it’s important to mention the ease of access provided by the two sliding side doors as well as the new power rear hatchback. The power feature allows for quicker opening and closing of the hatchback and even for adjusting the height. Also worth pointing out is the great versatility of the seats – hats off in particular to the new Magic Slide system included in the second row, which allows passengers heading for the third row much easier access. The floor sits lower as well, making getting in and out of the Odyssey even easier.
The attention paid to detail inside the cabin also stands out in the 2018 edition of the Honda Odyssey. The well-designed dashboard is complemented by cleverly conceived storage spaces and a multitude of infotainment and safety electronic systems:
- Centrally placed 8-inch screen
- The CabinWatch module, which gives a view at all times of the rear-row passengers
- The CabinTalk module, which allows for communicating with rear-row occupants via a microphone and the vehicle’s loudspeakers
- 4G LTE Wi-Fi
- HondaLink connectivity system
- LaneWatch blind spot display
- Rear infotainment system with video streaming
- Applications for remote control of temperature, itineraries, etc.
True to its reputation
Always recognized for the quality of its conception and design, the Honda Odyssey is for 2018 now more sophisticated than before, and admirably fills the role of road companion for long journeys. And yet, the competition it now faces from the new Chrysler Pacifica is significant, especially as that model is offered in a hybrid version. It’s a bit of a shame that Honda did not see fit to offer an all-wheel drive version of its minivan.