Update: We've now driven the 2018 Honda Odyssey

Honda did not invent the minivan. The company didn’t get into that area of the people mover business until 1994, a full decade after the species was created by Chrysler, and didn’t zero in on a winning formula until its second generation in 1999.

But since then the Odyssey has set the pace in the shrinking minivan segment, particularly in terms of dynamics and package efficiencies. And with the introduction of generation five at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Honda makes a strong bid to keep the Odyssey at the front of the minivan pack.

Due in showrooms next spring (the current Odyssey will carry over as a 2017 model), the 2018 Odyssey will embody a major makeover, with updates in styling, structure, and powertrain, as well as innovations in interior packaging and expanded infotainment.

The gen five Odyssey seems a little lower and a little wider than the current version, giving it a more hunkered down, athletic look that suggests a sportier persona. LED headlights and taillamps brighten the redesigned front and rear while the side panels have been resculpted to present a fresh interpretation of the “lightning bolt” chrome trim that distinguishes the rear quarter of the current van. The design team cleverly disguised the rear door rails by integrating them into the beltline and the power rear hatch opens by swiping a foot beneath the rear bumper.

Sporty Persona

That visual impression—sportiness—is reinforced by upgraded structure, always the key element in athletic response—Honda claims a 44 percent improvement in chassis rigidity—and also by increased engine output. Propulsion will still be supplied by a 3.5-liter V-6, but with direct fuel injection and other refinements its output increases almost 13 percent, from 248 horsepower in the current Odyssey to 280, a net of 32 hp.

Honda will also enhance the Odyssey’s powertrain with the option of a new 10-speed automatic transmission, developed in-house by the company’s engineering staff. The standard gearbox continues to be a ZF 9-speed automatic.

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Although the Detroit show presentation was light on specs—curb weights, for example—Honda anticipates increased vigor in the 0-to-60 mph department, as well as best-in-class EPA fuel economy ratings. The current Odyssey is rated for 19 mpg city, 28 highway, and sprints to 60 in a little less than 8 seconds.

As you’d expect, there are extensive interior refinements—improved materials, more soft-touch surfaces, more small object stowage, and of course a vast cargo hold with the second and third row seats folded flat. Honda adds “Magic Slide” seats to the second row, with side-to-side adjustability that allows multiple configurations and also allows simple removal of the center section for easier rear seat access.

Cabin Watch feature

Other interior innovations include a new “cabin watch” feature, that allows the driver and front seat passenger (read: parents) to monitor what’s going on elsewhere in the cabin on the 8-inch center screen. And there’s also the “cabin talk” option, allowing those up front to communicate with those in the rear via the audio system speakers. The idea is to enhance family harmony with more conversation, but it’s likely that much of the conversation will be along the lines of “don’t make me come back there!”

And enhanced rear seat entertainment, with streaming video, makes front-to-rear seat conversation less likely. On the other hand, if the occupants actually do wish to converse, improved sound-deadening and standard noise cancellation will facilitate the parley.

Also: Check out all the latest news from the 2017 Detroit Auto Show

Safety is always of paramount importance in a family vehicle, and the Odyssey raises the ante in this department as well, making its Honda Sensing suite of driver assistance features standard in all but the basic LX trim level.

There will be six Odyssey trims for 2017. Besides LX, the lineup includes EX, SE, EX-L, Touring and, top of the line, Touring Elite. As always, 2017 pricing won’t be announced until the new van is about to reach showrooms next spring. The current Odyssey MSRP range starts at $30,450 and tops out at $45,925.


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