2018 Honda ODYSSEY Elite – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

Minivans aren’t often objects of desire. Sure, they can be objects of affection, and we know many owners who swore they’d never own one who now swear they’d never drive anything else, but mostly they lie in the job title of family workhorse – destined to be covered in sweaty sports gear and crumbled cheerios. But maybe things have changed.

Is the new 2018 Honda Odyssey lust-worthy?

Well, it’s certainly handsome. Hard to believe, but the 2018 is the 5th generation of Honda’s people mover, with 2.5-million units sold it’s Honda’s 4th best-selling vehicle of all time. Impressive.

For its big 5, Honda continues to refine the look, adopting the brand’s “flying wing” front grille, set between LED headlights. The sporty front end carries around to the sides with the Odyssey’s signature lightning-bolt beltline and sculpted door panels that look fresh and aggressive. We also thought the Forest Mist Metallic (cool gray-green) on our tester was very tasteful.

Making our Odyssey look particularly roadworthy were the Elite’s unique 19-inch machine finished alloy wheels with gloss black insert. (All other models ride on 18-inch rims.)

While large, 3-row SUV’s like to show off rugged/cross any fjord (or Ford) type ground clearance, we like the Odyssey’s hunkered-down vibe. Not so aggressive that is scares the kids – but clean and modern – no apologies needing to be made for choosing this Minivan.

The Big Box Theory

Ok, you can get some envious eyeballs with the Odyssey’s lines, but a Minivan is a functional vehicle by nature. Inside is where the goods – and kids – must be delivered.

To that end, Honda has done some smart things, like putting stain-resistant leather in the first and second row seats and door trim, while employing black carpeting and seatbelts to help conceal stains. There’s even a new groove-less tambour (no relation to Jeffrey) lid, that resists the accumulation of crumbs and debris.

Sexy, no? Well, you hardly notice that stuff because there’s plenty of eye candy inside. The instrument panel follows Honda’s new angular design we’ve seen everywhere from the Civic up, and in the Odyssey, it looks mighty upscale with a full-color 7-inch Digital display. On the center console is a large tablet-like 8-inch touchscreen, featuring a Honda-developed Android-based operating system, giving you customizable app tiles, so you can set up screens to your taste.

This is just the start of a car-nucopia of connective tech that makes life easier. You can update the Display Audio operating system and rear entertainment system via 4G LTE, Wi-Fi or USB. There’s a very cool CabinWatch system that lets the front row monitor 2nd and 3rd row passengers (that’s you, kids) day and night through the 8-inch touchscreen display.

And when they’re not behaving CabinTalk lets you talk to them through second and third row speakers – or in the Elite model, even through the headphones of the entertainment system. Fun for adults! Probably not so much for munchkins.

Speaking of the info-tainment system, in back there’s a huge 10.2-inch SVGA monitor that can use 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, public Wi-Fi or the user’s cellphone data plan. The system even plays Blu-ray discs and features a new “How Much Farther?” app that let’s those in back track the trip’s progress. (Which in no way probably stops the whining….)

You can even download an app that lets you use your smartphone to control the rear entertainment system, rear climate control, and send destinations to the Navigation system. Cool.

Open the sliding side doors, and you’ll find that all this tech comes along with some of the smartest thinking you’ll find in seating configurations. Honda calls the 2nd row Magic Slide seats, with a self-named set of modes, including:

  • Easy Access mode – with the center seat removed, that allows for easy access to the third row even with one or two rear-facing child seats installed in the second row.
  • Wide mode – with the center seat removed and two outboard seats in their outer most positions, (helps to keep kids separated), and
  • Buddy mode – the opposite of Wide – with the center seat removed and two outboard seats abutting one another in the center of the vehicle.

We should note that the center 2nd row seat weighs a little over 30 pounds, which makes it easy to remove, but the outside seats are quite a bit heavier. If you do remove them, and fold down the third row, you have a massive cargo hold. Nothing beats the Big Box for carrying items.

Can it haul more than Kiddies?

Here’s the nicest surprise. Under the hood is a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter, V6 that you’ll find in several other Honda and Acura products. It’s a robust powerplant and really shows off its stuff with the Elite’s 10-Speed Automatic. (Lesser models use the new 9-speed automatic that debuted in the Pilot SUV.) Speaking of which, the transmission is activated by a row of pushbuttons that we first saw on the high-end Acura vehicles. In a Van, it makes a lot of sense – it clears up space, even though it’s not as intuitive as a lever at first.

With 10 cogs to choose from, the big Odyssey punches off the line with authority and a deep snarl from the exhaust. Paddle shifters let you enjoy your Formula 1 fantasy as you surprise sporty cars, trucks, and SUVs that get in your way.

Even with our lead-footed driving we still averaged just over 21 mpg around town. And with the long gearing the 10-speed gets you, along with an extremely quiet freeway cruise, we’d guess you should easily be able to hit the EPA’s 28 mpg highway estimate.

The Odyssey is more than just a straight-line rocket. The Elite’s 19-inch rims serve up a firm ride, but make up for it with surprising nimbleness, and the light, direct steering makes it easy to place the big van in traffic. If you’re looking for more comfort and a little less enthusiasm, the other model’s 18-inch wheels probably serve up a suppler ride. Your choice.

Will I have to bust the kid’s piggy banks to swing one?

Depends. Have the kids been good? Typical of Honda, you have a choice of Odyssey models, and they are all well-equipped. You just walk up the model ladder of available features and say “when” when it tops your budget.

It starts with the LX model at $29,990, and includes that powerful V6, multi-angle rearview camera, power front seats, 18-inch alloys, auto climate control, push button start, Bluetooth, USB, one-motion 60/40-split 3rd-row seat and 9-speed automatic transmission. Heck, this would have been the luxury model a few years ago!

Next up is the EX at $33,860, a bit of price jump, but you also get Honda Sensing, Cross traffic monitor, Blind Spot info system, Magic Slide 2nd row seats, 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HondaLink, remote engine start, smart entry, tri-zone climate control, auto high-beam headlights and more.

The EX-L gets you into plushness, with leather seats, moonroof, memory system etc., for $37,360. The Touring ratchets that up to $44,150, with hands-free tailgate, CabinWatch, rear entertainment system, hotspot capability, navigation, LED lights, the handy HondaVAC built-in vacuum cleaner, plus the impressive 10-speed automatic transmission.

Which finally gets you to our Elite model, which also adds heated and ventilated front seats, a wireless phone charger, 11-speaker, 550-watt audio system, rain-sensing wipers, multi-zone Audio, cool blue Ambient LED lighting and those butch-looking 19-inch wheels. Yours for $46,670.

The new Odyssey impresses on so many levels. Great looking, loads of cool, fun and convenient features, and a powerful, responsive driving experience.

Finally, a minivan you can get hot and bothered about!