First drive: The all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey is full of features for families

The all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey
The all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey –Honda

The Honda Odyssey is all-new for 2018, and while it may not be the coolest of vehicles on the road, minivans hold their own for a couple of reasons: They easily accommodate the kids and their friends, they just as easily convert to carrying cargo, and they have features like rear-seat entertainment systems that keep passengers entertained throughout the whole road trip.

Power for the new Odyssey comes from a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque paired to one of two available transmissions. The LX, EX, and EX-L trims have a nine-speed automatic transmission while the Touring and Elite trims get an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s only one extra gear, but the new 10-speed provides a sublimely smooth drive experience with shifts the driver won’t feel or hear.

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Despite being a larger vehicle, the Odyssey is a spirited drive. Acceleration is strong, making for effortless merges on the highway. The engine is also quiet, which is a huge bonus with a car full of kids. (They can make plenty of noise on their own, right?) Honda can’t quiet down the brood, but it can ensure a comfortable interior that keeps outside noises from adding to the mix.

In addition to keeping engine noise muted, Honda worked to make the cabin as quiet as possible. This comes through numerous small touches like triple-sealed doors, upgraded exterior glass, and extra sound-deadening materials. It worked. Conversation from front to third row is easy, and low volume is rarely an issue.

There’s also CabinTalk, a unique feature that lets the driver talk to the second and third row through the rearseat entertainment headphones. In the top Elite trim, voices from the front seat come right through the car speakers, too, so there’s no way the kids can claim they didn’t hear what mom or dad said.

The entertainment system features a ceiling-mounted 10.2-inch screen that plays DVDs and Blu-ray discs as well as stream videos through the Odyssey’s available Wi-Fi 4G LTE connection. It can also connect to the internet through public Wi-Fi or a smartphone. When the kids tire of watching their favorite videos, there’s the How Much Farther? app, so they can see how close they are without having to ask every five seconds.

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The all-new Odyssey also features Magic Slide second-row seats to make loading up the family a little easier. First, the center seat slides forward to put a child within easy reach of front-seat occupants. With that seat removed, the outboard seats slide left and right to provide quick, easy access to the elusive third row. If that still isn’t enough room, then Super mode gives even easier third-row access by sliding and tilting second-row seats forward so even adults can climb in back.

Wide Mode takes things in the other direction. With the middle seat removed, the outboard seats can be pushed away from each other to make a nice path down the center of the vehicle. Not only does this give easy third row access, but it also makes sure the kids have their own space. Lastly, there’s Buddy mode, where the two outboard seats can be pushed right next to each other in the center of the vehicle. The Odyssey’s seating can be configured to fit a family’s needs — even when those needs change from one stop to the next.

The Odyssey elevates the trusty family minivan by adding increased flexibility, a smooth new powertrain, and family-friendly features. Six available trim levels start with the base Odyssey LX priced from $29,990 and top out with the Odyssey Elite at $46,670. You can find the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey at dealerships now.