2018 Honda Odyssey Test Drive

by Heather Platt | Posted on Monday, September 11th, 2017

When it introduced its latest Pilot SUV, a rep from the company told me flat out that folks there think if someone needs a three-row vehicle, they should absolutely buy an Odyssey. The only reason they bother making the Pilot is that they know people have issues with minivans. It was an odd pitch, but not an altogether incorrect one.

2018 Honda Odyssey

The two share much of their DNA, but the Odyssey is less expensive, much roomier and a lot more functional. Sales generally run neck-and-neck, but the only big advantage that the Pilot brings to the table — other than slightly concealing your familial lot in life — is an optional all-wheel-drive system.

This year, however, there’s an all-new Odyssey, and it’s loaded with enough safety and entertainment features that if it starts snowing outside, you can just park and happily live in it until the thaw — or until your stash of juice boxes and Goldfish crackers runs out. It seems like Honda put more effort into this one vehicle than the rest of its lineup combined. And yes, it still has a lightning bolt on the side.

The zig-zagging window line is sleeker than last time around, as is the entire Odyssey, which has sculpted body sides and a “floating roof” like just about every new vehicle these days.

It’s also larger, yet lighter, than the old one, and it’s powered by the same lively 280 hp V6 as the Pilot, but comes with a new 10-speed automatic transmission in high end models. These include the Elite that I tested and had no problem getting my kids into with the promise of its Blu-ray-equipped widescreen entertainment system and Wi-Fi hotspot.

Lesser Odysseys, and the Pilot, use a 9-speed transmission that’s been criticized for being a little clunky, so you might think adding a gear would make things worse. It doesn’t. The 10-speed is flawless. You don’t even notice it’s hard at work keeping the engine in its sweet spot as much as is possible without 11 gears.

Despite being stuffed with all of the above, the Odyssey rides and handles better than any other minivan and will often have you forgetting you’re even in one. There’s none of the flexing and creaking that having two huge sliding door openings usually causes, and it feels big only when you’re trying to park it.

It is long, however, and has a big diaper butt hanging behind the rear wheels that is the unmistakable mark of a minivan, regardless of how stylish and modern the rest of it may be. But if you can deal with the shame, you will be rewarded for your bravery.

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