2018 Honda Odyssey Review
Named either for a lengthy wandering or after a literary classic recounting an epic struggle to return home, the 2018 Honda Odyssey minivan helps to facilitate or resolve either situation in real life. This Honda van is ready to take a long road trip at a moment's notice, while its impressive levels of comfort, convenience, technology, and utility make getting back to the nest as painless as possible.
A favorite of American families, the Odyssey is redesigned for 2018, replacing a vehicle that dated to the 2011 model year. Highlights include a new platform shared with the Acura MDX and Honda Pilot, improved safety and infotainment systems, new powertrain, greater utility, and more.
For this review we evaluated a 2018 Odyssey Elite without any dealer-installed accessories. The price came to $47,610, including the $940 destination charge.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the redesigned 2018 Odyssey, it's helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this minivan and what they liked most and least about it.
Odyssey buyers are more often women, at 42% compared with 37% for the Minivan segment. They are slightly older in terms of median age (58 years vs. 55 years) and they are more affluent in terms of median annual household income ($128,409 vs. $106,290). J.D. Power data shows that 69% of Odyssey buyers are members of Gen X (those born 1965 to 1976) or the Baby Boomer (1946-1964) generation (vs. 54% for the segment).
Aside from the finding that Odyssey buyers are less likely to agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (50% compared with 37% of buyers in the segment), they diverge from the collective of minivan buyers in several ways.
First, Odyssey buyers are more likely to agree that quality (98% vs. 90%), low maintenance costs (96% vs. 91%), and fuel efficiency (66% vs. 58%) are important to them. Among Odyssey buyers, 69% strongly agree that reliability is their first consideration in choosing a vehicle, compared with 59% of all minivan buyers.
Additionally, performance is important to Odyssey buyers, with 44% strongly agreeing that they like a vehicle that offers responsive handling and powerful acceleration, compared with 33% of all minivan buyers. They are also less concerned about owning a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (52% vs. 57%), but are also less likely to agree that a vehicle is just a way of getting from place to place (41% vs. 50%).
Buyers say their favorite things about the previous-generation Odyssey were (in descending order) the storage and space, visibility and safety, driving dynamics, seats, and engine/transmission. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the previous Odyssey were (in descending order) the interior design, exterior styling, climate control system, infotainment system, and fuel economy.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the new 2018 Odyssey performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM
Instantly familiar, the 2018 Odyssey refines the minivan's previous themes with greater cohesion and a more sophisticated sense of style. Even the least expensive trim level, the LX, looks good thanks to attractive standard aluminum wheels, dark-tinted rear privacy glass, and nothing more than black door handles to give its affordable status away.
A sense of familiarity continues inside, where the driver and front passenger face a dashboard equipped with digital instrumentation and what at first appears to be a mish-mash of buttons, switches, and knobs but that ultimately proves to be logically arranged and intuitive to use.
Materials exude quality, even those clearly designed to take the abuse often suffered by minivans.
If you're at all familiar with the seating position in an Acura MDX or a Honda Pilot, you will immediately recognize the Odyssey's somewhat low but exceptionally supportive front chairs. People with longer legs may, however, wish for additional seat track travel. Honda may want to increase the range of adjustment for the inboard armrests, too.
Honda refers to the Odyssey's second-row chairs as "Magic Slide" seats. You can configure them a number of different ways for a variety of shuttling purposes. They supply plenty of legroom and thigh support, and the center section can be removed to create captain's chairs. All Odyssey trim levels except for the LX include triple-zone automatic climate control and sliding door window sunshades.
Climbing into the third-row seat is easy, even for adults. Once seated, grown-ups will be happy for extended periods of time, unless you try to simultaneously cram three of them in. That's not going to fly.
Climate Control System/Infotainment System
Climate Control System
Triple-zone climate control is standard on most versions of the 2018 Odyssey, helping to ensure comfort. The dashboard controls include large, legibly marked buttons and temperature switches that are not as easy to use as knobs. Heated and ventilated seats are available for the 2018 Odyssey, along with a heated steering wheel.
An evolution on current Honda infotainment themes, the Odyssey's system adds a volume knob but still lacks a tuning knob. Some progress is better than no progress.
Graphics are improved, as is the user experience. Large, colorful, touch-sensing tiles provide shortcuts to primary functions, and all displays make better use of available real estate on the 8-in. display screen. The system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection, provides an available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot with streaming video capability, and Honda installs USB ports in the first two rows of seats.
Three new related features debut for 2018. CabinWatch equips the interior with a camera that projects a view of the rear seating areas onto the infotainment display, helping parents to mediate arguments. CabinTalk allows the driver to speak to people sitting in the third-row seat, or kids wearing rear-seat entertainment headphones, without raising their voices. CabinControl is a smartphone app allowing Odyssey occupants to control various aspects of the environment, including a group Social Playlist function that transforms the minivan into a mobile jukebox of sorts.
Another feature of this infotainment system is a breadcrumb function for the navigation system. Ideal for situations in which a driver is traveling in unfamiliar territory, this helps you to backtrack to where you began your odyssey, no pun intended.
Storage and Space
Storage space is generous, even for a minivan, and while the Odyssey's second-row seats must be physically removed to maximize cargo space, their "Magic Slide" flexibility is worth the trade-off unless you regularly require maximum cargo space.
Behind the third-row seat, the Odyssey provides 32.8 cu. ft. of space measured from the floor of the trunk well to the roof. Realistically, you'll use about half of it. Otherwise, stuff will tumble out every time you open the tailgate.
Flip the third-row "Magic Seat" into the trunk well and you've got a substantial 86.6 cu. ft. of cargo space. To put that into perspective, midsize SUVs offer that much room but can only carry two people at the same time instead of five.
Remove and store the heavy and balky second-row seats and the Odyssey's maximum volume measures 140.7 cu. ft. That's more than a full-size SUV can provide.
Visibility and Safety
Forward visibility is excellent, thanks in part to door-mounted side mirrors that help to maximize the size of the side windows. The mirrors themselves are large, and Honda includes a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert on all versions of the van except for the base LX trim.
Buyers of the Odyssey LX also miss out on Honda Sensing, which is the company's suite of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies. Standard on EX trim and higher, Honda Sensing includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, a lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist system, and a road-departure prevention system.
Where the Odyssey could use improvement is with regard to its HondaLink subscription service offerings. Honda can't match other car companies in terms of safe teen driver systems, such as speed, curfew, and boundary alerts. Also, Honda doesn't offer a rear-seat reminder system similar to selected General Motors vehicles and the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder.
As this review is written, the new Odyssey has not been subjected to crash testing by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, it is built on a newer version of the company's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) vehicle architecture, so it should improve over the previous model, which already performed well.
A new 3.5-liter V-6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission debut in the 2018 Odyssey, powering the front wheels and delivering 280 horsepower along with 262 lb.-ft. of torque. This is a smooth-revving, powerful engine, and though the 10-speed automatic has a plethora of gear ratios from which to choose, during my testing it always selected the right one.
Equipped with Eco and Sport modes, in addition to the default Normal setting, the transmission's only potential flaw is that it allowed the Odyssey to gather too much speed on some downhill sections of road, requiring the driver to ride the brakes.
Some people might also take issue with the transmission controls, a collection of buttons and switches located on the dashboard. At first, it appears that it would be easy to accidentally use them while driving, but they are in a separate location from the infotainment, radio, and climate controls. Nevertheless, this is why temperature adjustment knobs rather than switches would be a better solution, to further distinguish and differentiate them from the transmission controls.
Honda equips the new Odyssey with cylinder-deactivation technology, and the top trims have automatic engine start/stop. These features, in combination with direct fuel injection and the 10-speed automatic transmission, are expected to provide an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in combined driving.
During testing, the Odyssey returned 21.4 mpg on the official loop, with just one person aboard. At the end of a week of suburban shuttling and several longer highway trips, the result was 22.2 mpg.
In addition to its robust powertrain, the 2018 Odyssey exhibits enjoyable driving dynamics. Dare I call it fun? Yes.
Though it sits on the same platform as the Honda Pilot, the Odyssey is wider and lower to the ground, giving it a secure and planted feel that can elude the SUV. Thanks to its lower center of gravity and superior 55:45 front-to-rear weight distribution, the Odyssey is also more adept than the Pilot at cornering, and when equipped with the Elite trim's larger 19-in. aluminum wheels, canyon carving is even a credible claim on the resume. Not that you're going to drive it that way.
Honda's typical attention to refinement and detail is evident in the silky, responsive steering. Additionally, the new Odyssey is quieter inside, especially in Elite trim, which receives acoustic glass for the front door and sliding door windows. And the new vehicle architecture imbues the Odyssey with a newfound sensation of solidity.
Where Honda can improve this minivan is with regard to the braking system. Pedal modulation and feel are excellent. The brakes themselves need an upgrade. On testing day, I evaluated the Odyssey during early morning hours with temperatures in the high 50s, yet fade was evident while descending a twisty mountain road from nearly 2,000 feet of elevation to sea level. In heat, with lots of passengers aboard, I can only deduce that tackling such an assignment would require care.
While the redesigned 2018 Honda Odyssey doesn't match all minivan competitors in terms of features, functions, and powertrain choices, it sets class standards in most other ways. You might wish to shop around if you regularly require use of maximum cargo capacity (Chrysler or Kia), or if you're intrigued by the idea of owning a plug-in hybrid minivan (Chrysler). Otherwise, the new Odyssey is ready to tackle any assignment.
American Honda Motor Company supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 Honda Odyssey review.