What is it: Honda’s totally redesigned and rethought minivan with oodles of new tech features, the Odyssey takes the fight to the now-established Chrysler Pacifica.
Key Competitors: Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona
Base Price: $47,610 As-Tested Price: $47,610
Highlights: There’s still no better way to move people and their stuff than a minivan, and Honda’s latest top of the line Odyssey Elite adds family-friendly features like CabinWatch, a camera that lets the driver see second-row passengers, the HondaVac built-in vacuum and, for the driver, a stout 280-hp V6 coupled to a slick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission.
Our Opinions: To be fair, Honda was probably caught flat-footed by Chrysler’s home-run Pacifica minivan last year; the 2018 Odyssey was finalized at that point, amounting to what Honda figured was a competitive suite of incremental enhancements to its class-leading people mover.
Things like CabinWatch and CabinTalk, allowing the driver to see and speak to passengers via a camera/microphone, respectively, are cute ideas, but in real-world use with a couple of tweens they amounted to little more than a novelty, quickly forgotten — buyers with rear-facing infant seats will likely find it more useful, at least for a couple years. More useful are the improvements to Honda’s navigation/phone/radio interface, which operates via an intuitive and very responsive touch screen high on the center stack. All the controls are easy to find and operate, save for Honda/Acura’s strange pushbutton shifter design. No complaints about the 10-speed (!) automatic transmission to which it’s connected, though: Combined with the stout V6, the Odyssey Elite delivers power whenever it’s needed and still returned 26 mpg in mostly highway driving with four people, luggage and bikes aboard.
Against a similarly equipped Pacifica, though, Honda’s monochromatic interior design, frumpy styling and absence of disappearing second-row seats are glaring; Honda’s argument against stowable second-row seats is one of comfort vs. convenience, but neither I nor my kids found the Pacifica’s seating an issue even after hours in the vehicle; furthermore, when I owned a minivan myself, I used it as a pickup truck as often as I did a people mover. Hondas research may show its customers have different priorities, but interior convertability is key for buyers like me.
Furthermore, where’s the three-panel moonroof? The dual touchscreen rear-seat entertainment system? The brushed-metal accents and contrast seat piping? Adding insult, the Odyssey Elite is significantly more expensive than the better-equipped Chrysler.
It’s a good effort that should satisfy Honda loyalists, but it’s not enough to regain the “best minivan” crown in my book.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $47,610
As Tested Price: $47,610
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter SOHC V6, FWD, ten-speed automatic
Output: 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,593 lb
Fuel Economy: 19/28/22(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Nice upgrades to the competent Odyssey package
Cons: Chrysler Pacifica is a better minivan for less money