The minivan segment continued to shed its reputation for boredom at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit: Not only was the Chrysler Pacifica named North American Utility Vehicle of the Year (beating out the Mazda CX-9 and Jaguar F-Pace), but Honda also introduced its own next-generation minivan. And to be clear, John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, is promising that the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey will overtake the Pacifica as the “quickest, most fuel-efficient” minivan in the segment.
The Odyssey will have first-in-segment family-friendly technologies as well, including the CabinWatch system. This ingenious technology relies on a camera mounted on the ceiling of the minivan, along with an 8-inch display-audio screen, to allow front-row occupants to keep an eye on those in the second and third rows. Notably, CabinWatch further features “night vision,” so that the system works when it’s dark outside, too.
The 2018 Odyssey also joins key rivals with a way for owners to transmit their voices over the vehicle’s audio speakers, ensuring messages to rear-row passengers come in loud and clear. Honda’s technology, called CabinTalk, additionally works with the wireless headphones for the Odyssey’s available rear-seat entertainment system.
About that system: It’s a fully connected setup that can work with Honda’s newly available in-vehicle Wi-Fi service, public Wi-Fi, or a user’s cellphone data plans. In any case, rear-seat passengers enjoy a 10.2-inch display screen, a Honda app for tracking road-trip progress, and access to third-party apps like PBS Kids, iHeartRadio and Spotify. A separate Honda CabinControl apps lets users rely on their smartphones to control the rear-seat entertainment system, rear-seat climate system and a Social Play List. The latter creates a sort of virtual jukebox stocked with songs from the passengers’ cellphones.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration also remain available.
Another first-in-class breakthrough comes with new Odyssey’s re-engineered Magic Slide second-row seat. At first glance, it looks like a typical 40/20/40-split bench. The difference here is that the small jump seat that makes up the middle “20” of the bench is completely removable. The remaining two seats slide both fore and aft, as expected, but also from side to side. It provides a major increase in versatility, with owners able to push the seats together for a “buddy” mode, separate them if passengers need their own personal space, and have them both to one side for easier access to the third row.
As for the driver and front passenger, their new seating choices now include both heating and ventilation, while a heated steering wheel also is new to the Odyssey options list.
To appeal to safety-minded customers, even more members of the 2018 Odyssey lineup will be offered with the Honda Sensing driver-assistance package. In fact, with that technology standard on the popular Odyssey EX trim and higher, Honda predicts that 95 percent of all models sold will come with Honda Sensing. That means owners will benefit from a collision-mitigation braking system, lane keeping assistance, road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control. Moreover, although it’s not technically part of the Honda Sensing bundle, all Odyssey trims with that bundle also get a blind spot information system, and a multi-angle rearview camera system is standard across the roster.
With all that plus a new body structure and available full LED headlights, Honda expects to earn a perfect five-star overall score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Top Safety Pick+ recognition from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Then there’s the body itself. An evolution of the current Odyssey’s “lightning bolt” beltline creates a floating-roof effect at the rear, thanks to hidden roof pillars. Up front the optional LED headlights are paired with standard active grille shutters and Honda’s latest “flying wing” grille. The flanks of the Odyssey also show some relatively dramatic sculpting that’s reminiscent of the “flame-surfaced” look of BMW’s past. Meanwhile, to live up to the promise of its sporty exterior, Honda has a new direct-injection V6 for the Odyssey, and it provides an extra 32 horsepower as compared with the engine in the current 2017 Odyssey. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard, with the segment’s first 10-speed automatic supplied for upper-trim Odyssey editions.
The 2018 Honda Odyssey is scheduled to reach dealerships this spring at a price that’s yet to be revealed.