2018 Honda Odyssey First Review: The Best Family Car in the World
Price Range: $30,930 - $47,610 Price yours
Max Capacity: 8 passengers
Engine: 280-horsepower V6
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg combined
In Short: Honda raises yet another bar in yet another segment
We’re not really going out on a limb in calling the redesigned 2018 Honda Odyssey the best family car the world has ever seen. Frankly, it’s a declaration about as bold as just staring at the tree from a safe distance while seated in a sturdy lawn chair.
But this new one is almost something else entirely. It drives like a smaller vehicle, and with buttery smoothness. It’s quieter and more nicely appointed inside. And overall practicality has been taken to another level with a long list of clever new features and tech.
Not only is it packed with refinement and innovation, we’ve yet to identify any meaningful weaknesses. Granted we’ve only driven the top-line Odyssey Elite trim, and only on some of the most pleasant roads Hawaii’s Big Island has to offer, but any relative shortcomings that remain to be uncovered with extended exposure are likely to be accompanied by still more pleasant surprises.
Spoiler Alert: Minivans aren’t as small as the name might imply. You might have noticed they’re rather big and tall, in fact, neither of which does much for driving enjoyment. And while nobody ever bought a minivan for the fun of it, good steering and pedal feel and responsive manners improve the day-to-day driving experience of any vehicle. Nuanced driving satisfaction has long been a Honda hallmark, but the well-regarded outgoing Odyssey drives like a cargo van compared to this new one.
The 2018 Honda Odyssey is smooth off the line and glides through gears. On city streets and in parking lots it changes direction with the ease and willingness of a smaller vehicle, and stops in the same manner. On the highway it is quiet, comfortable and confidently controlled. It’s the best-driving minivan we’ve ever driven.
But it’s worth pointing out again that all of our time to this point has been spent in the best-of-the-best Odyssey Elite trim. In addition to lineup exclusives like wireless phone charging, heated and ventilated front seats and a 550-watt sound system, the Elite includes extra sound-deadening measures, larger wheels and a brilliant new 10-speed automatic transmission (also found in the Odyssey Touring) that’s as smart as it is smooth. While we’ve only driven what is likely the best-driving Odyssey of the bunch, however, we expect the Odyssey LX, EX and EX-L to be similarly, if not quite equally, impressive on the road. (We’ve found the 9-speed transmission in those versions to be good, not great, in the Honda Pilot SUV.)
Honda Sensing | New to Odyssey
All but the base-level Odyssey LX come equipped with the impressive Honda Sensing suite of driver assist and safety technologies. Our favorite features are the adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist functionalities, which can lighten both the mental and physical loads of longer-range highway driving. Adaptive cruise control watches the vehicle ahead and adjusts speed accordingly. Lane keeping assist helps with the constant little corrections required to steer a car straight down the highway. Collision mitigation braking and road departure mitigation aren’t as sexy until they save your bacon, but then they’re downright beautiful.
Magic Slide Seats | All-New
The Odyssey’s new Magic Slide seating system features outboard second-row seats that don’t only move up and back, but also side to side. Two friends can sit shoulder to shoulder without either of them having to sit on the hump, while feuding siblings can slide their seats to either side of the vehicle (this was the the preferred configuration for our 12- and 13-year-olds during the family portion of our evaluation). You can also slide a seat in toward the middle of the vehicle, and all the way forward, to open up extra-easy access to the third row. They might also be the most comfortable second-row seats in the segment. It’s a clever, well-executed solution that exemplifies the new Odyssey’s next-level practicality.
Other rear seating highlights include a roomy, three-person third row with improved outward visibility (good for combatting car sickness), and LATCH accommodations for up to five child safety seats.
Smartphone-Inspired Infotainment System | All-New
Honda’s all-new infotainment system features a tile-based user interface with tap, swipe, pinch and zoom functionality. You can organize the tiles however you like, and there’s a favorites bar into which you can put three tiles/apps for easy access at any time. In short, it’s as familiar as your smartphone. It’s also impressively responsive, an area in which some other such systems have fallen down. Swiping between screens is fast and smooth. Pinching and zooming, too. In combination with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, Honda’s new system hit all the right notes in our first couple days with it.
CabinWatch and CabinTalk | All-New
At the touch of a button the driver can broadcast his or her voice through the rear speakers and headsets to more clearly, safely and calmly convey the message of the moment. The Odyssey also offers an in-cabin camera that displays the action in back on the touchscreen up front (sibling harassment victims everywhere are hoping for an instant replay function that could help prove their cases in “he/she started it” debates). The camera is positioned in such a way that you can even see extra-little ones in their rear-facing car seats and confirm yet again, just to be sure, that your new bundle of joy is indeed still breathing.
Built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi | All-New
Pay a monthly fee for a built-in cellular data connection and you can turn the Odyssey into a Wi-Fi hotspot and stream video content to the rear seat entertainment system at the push of a button. Most such functionalities can also be run through most connected smartphones, but a built-in, always-on connection makes it even easier. In addition to a 10.2-inch high-resolution screen and DVD/Blu-ray player, the rear entertainment system features an HDMI input and wall-type power outlet that make it possible -- easy, even -- to play Xbox or PlayStation in back or stream programs from an AppleTV or Roku, for instance.
CabinControl App | All-New
The Odyssey’s new CabinControl app allows passengers to control the front audio system, rear entertainment system and rear climate control right from their smartphones (access is revocable, of course). Passengers can also look up a destination and send it to the vehicle’s navigation system, and everyone can send songs from their phone to a Social Playlist that’s something of a modern, mobile jukebox.
“How Much Farther?” | All-New
You know that flight tracker system on airplanes that shows you how far you’ve gone and how much farther you have to go? The new Odyssey features a similar system accessible via the rear-seat entertainment system. Tied into the vehicle’s navigation system, the “How Much Farther?” app counts down time and distance to the destination on an animated screen designed to inform/placate little ones in back.
Standout Sound System
Crisp highs and tight bass aren’t among the top priorities for most minivan shoppers, which is why most Odysseys will be fitted with a modest 150-watt, 7-speaker sound system. The Odyssey Elite, however, features an 11-speaker, 550-watt system that produces what must be the best sound quality we’ve heard in a minivan. Audio engineers love vehicles that offer a lot of interior space to work with, and it sounds like Honda’s group took full advantage of the Odyssey's cavernous cabin.
Digital Gauge Cluster
Digital gauge clusters are just starting to make their way to mainstream models, but vehicles with traditional analog arrangements are already beginning to feel dated by comparison. Combined with the big 8-inch touchscreen standard on all but the entry-level Odyssey LX trim, the Odyssey’s digitally enhanced forward panel makes Honda’s minivan feel more like what we were hoping to be driving in 2018.
Minivans and vacuum cleaners are both about as far from sexy as it gets, but put them together and you have one of the coolest car features on the planet. With the Odyssey’s built-in vacuum you can clean up spilled Goldfish crackers or accumulated debris whenever and wherever the need arises.
Final Initial Analysis
We haven’t even mentioned cool features like the capless fueling, tire-fill assist, hands-free tailgate, walk-away door lock, HondaLink and many others. The fact is, a rolling feature showcase like the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey takes many months and thousands of miles to work out entirely. But after a thoroughly captivating first impression, combined with Honda’s reputation for making some of the longest-lasting, most reliable vehicles on the road, we’re comfortable calling it the best minivan money can buy.
That’s the view from this sturdy lawn chair, anyway.
Photo Gallery: 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite
Numbers and Details
How much can the Odyssey tow? Which trim level should I buy? Can it really bring peace to our morning commute? Some of those questions can be answered below, others will require further research.
$30,930 (all prices listed here include $940 destination charge)
280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6
9-speed automatic transmission
Bluetooth and USB phone connectivity
Power driver’s seat
Auto climate control
Note: Honda says the LX will only account for about 5 percent of sales, and we’d steer you away from it. For an extra $4,000 the EX includes many more safety and convenience features, as you’ll see below.
Magic Slide second-row seats
8-inch touchscreen infotainment system
Honda Sensing suite of driver assist and safety technologies
Power sliding doors
Remote-sensing keyless entry with walk-away auto lock
Integrated second-row sunshades
Heated front seats
Leather seats and steering wheel
EX-L with Navigation and Rear Entertainment
Navigation system with voice recognition and digital traffic
10.2-inch rear entertainment screen with Blu-ray/DVD player, HDMI interface and built-in streaming apps
10-speed automatic transmission
Front and rear parking sensors
Built-in 4G LTE wireless capability
550-watt, 11-speaker premium audio system
Wireless phone charger
Blue ambient LED interior lighting
Ventilated (and heated) front seats
2018 Honda Odyssey Specs
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Transmission: 9-speed auto, 10-speed auto (Touring and Elite)
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg combined (19 city, 28 highway)
Towing Capacity: 3,000 lbs, 3,500 lbs (Touring and Elite)
Curb Weight: 4,353 lbs (LX) to 4,593 lbs (Elite)
Turning Diameter: 39.64 feet
Wheelbase: 118.1 inches
Length: 203.2 inches
Height: 68.3 inches
Width: 78.5 inches
The 2018 Honda Odyssey is the newest and hottest minivan on the market right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. The Chrysler Pacifica’s Stow ‘n’ Go seats can be very useful for some families -- there’s even a new plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica -- and the Toyota Sienna remains the only minivan available with all-wheel drive. Check out our Minivan Buyer’s Guide to become an instant expert on all your choices.
More New and Redesigned Models for 2018