The 2018 Honda Odyssey’s fifth-generation redesign looks a lot like the and boasts a similar footprint. Though it hasn’t grown in scale, the minivan is now stronger and smarter.
The 3.5-liter V-6 engine beneath the hood is now 32 horsepower stronger, bringing the peak output to a healthy 280 ponies thanks to the addition of direct injection technology and other tweaks, which makes for better acceleration, passing and hill-climbing. A new standard nine-speed transmission (or a 10-speed unit for Touring and Elite models) keeps the fuel economy in line with the previous generation at 22 mpg combined. That’s 19 mpg in the city and 28 highway mpg. I averaged 21.8 mpg during testing on our San Francisco home turf.
With so many gears, it seems the Odyssey is always shifting, but the changes are smooth and I almost never ran into a situation where it seemed to be “hunting” around for the right ratio.
Meanwhile, a redesigned rear suspension helps to better soak up bumps while also adding a helping of sure-footedness to the rear end, freeing up a bit of space for cargo and quieting the ride a bit. In fact, the Odyssey rides significantly quieter at highway speeds thanks also to additional sound damping material about the chassis, the optional acoustic side glass of the upper trim levels and 10-speed powertrain’s ability to cruise at very low RPMs.
As welcome as the performance bump may be, people tend not to buy minivans based on horsepower. Thankfully the 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite that I recently found myself piloting is also packed to the gills with family-friendly technologies and features that are sure to boost its already strong appeal.
Just aft of the driver’s seat and mounted to the ceiling is the new centerpiece for Honda’s child- and passenger-friendly technology: A new rear-seat entertainment system that swings down from the roof.
This 10.2-inch system can play video from a Blu-ray disc player on the front row, an HDMI input on the center console or from a variety of onboard media streaming apps such as PBS Kids. These apps are powered by the onboard 4G LTE data connection that is also used to connect up to seven portable Wi-Fi devices. The rear entertainment’s newest trick is an onboard app called “How much further?”, an animated ETA display that interfaces with the navigation to give kids a fun way to track trips. It’s a lot like the ‘s “Are we there yet?” app in function and scope.
Android devices (and soon iOS products) connected to Wi-Fi can take advantage of a new Cabin Control app that, well, gives passengers limited control of various in-cabin functions. Through the app, they can add and stream music through the audio system to a community playlist, adjust the rear-zone of the climate control system, search and suggest destinations for navigation or remotely control the rear entertainment. Of course, the driver has final say over volume, accepting the destinations and so forth, so the kids can’t get out of control.
To keep those portable devices charged there are up to three high-power (2.5A) USB ports scattered around the cabin, multiple 12-volt power points and a 110-volt inverter beneath the dashboard.
Tech for you too
In addition to the kid-friendly tech out back, there’s a new gamut of features and technologies up front to help keep moms and dads happy and safe while motoring along.
The focal point of most of these functions is a new infotainment system that — hallelujah! — now features a physical volume knob. The framework is still based on the Android operating system, but with new software on top and new hardware beneath. Honda tells me that it’s the company’s fastest and most responsive infotainment system yet. And after hours tinkering with it, I can confirm that it is indeed snappy.
Navigation duties are still handled by Garmin maps and routing software and you can still bring your own maps to the party with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay USB connectivity.