Honda Odyssey gets clever second row, more technology in 2018 model year

Honda's all-new 2018-model-year Odyssey launches with new technology, clever packaging, and a base price of USD29,990.

IHS Markit Perspective:

  • Significance: Honda's latest Odyssey minivan goes on sale in the United States in late May 2017. Honda has announced pricing and provided drive opportunities. The new minivan offers high levels of technology and clever packaging solutions, leapfrogging the Chrysler Pacifica in several attributes.
  • Implications: Honda has demonstrated strength in smart packaging solutions and a deep understanding of how to meet the needs of a family, from the subcompact HR-V to larger Pilot and new Odyssey.
  • Outlook: The 2018 Honda Odyssey, like the Chrysler Pacifica launched in 2016, evolves the minivan formula. It makes the latest safety technology available and its in-car technology, connectivity, and infotainment updates are tailored for family use. The Odyssey's improvements will keep it relevant and help Honda maintain make loyalty.

Honda's latest all-new Odyssey arrives at dealers in late May 2017, having debuted on the auto show circuit in January 2017. Ahead of the sales launch, Honda made the vehicle and product planners available to media and analysts, including IHS Markit.

As expected, the minivan brings several new features, evolving the people-hauling formula with more technology, improved accommodation, and enhanced functionality. Honda has innovatively addressed access to the third row - an enduring issue for minivans and three-row utility vehicles - by creating a reconfigurable second row. This approach will offer stiff competition to Chrysler's second-row stow-and-go functionality. Rather than making seats easy to remove, Honda's Magic Slide second row facilitates easier third-row access and flexibility for positioning second-row passengers.

The Magic Slide second-row seat is standard on the EX trim and above. The three-seat arrangement's removable centre seat is included as standard to provide the flexibility for eight-passenger capacity, although Honda expects most buyers to pull it out and never use it again. With that centre seat removed, the outboard seats slide laterally. Each seat has five selectable positions. Access to the third row can be made easier by sliding the outboard seats towards the middle. A centre walk-through can be created by leaving the two seats in their normal outboard positions, which also puts some distance between the two second-row passengers. In a situation Honda presumes will be used more by parents with younger children and infants, the two seats can be slid toward the centre and directly next to one another, enabling the front-row driver and passenger to reach children easier. In that position, the seats can also slide forward. Honda retains its third-row seat, which folds into the floor and out of the way when necessary.

(Image courtesy of Stephanie Brinley)

Not unlike Chrysler's Pacifica, the Odyssey has options for wifi and connectivity to support several passengers. Honda's Cabin Control app enables second- and third-row passengers to control various features, involving them in the trip and enabling control of HVAC from the phone. One of Cabin Control's most inviting features is the ability to create shared playlists. If a piece of music is on the phone connected to the Cabin Control app, it can be added to the Social Playlist, via the Cabin Control app, providing a fun feature for family trips. Chrysler's Pacifica also did a great job of adding in technology and connectivity but launched with the previous-generation UConnect, restricting it to 3G LTE wifi and excluding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Odyssey offers 4G LTE (and the phone projection systems), which can deliver a more robust and supportive wifi experience. The Odyssey gets a new, faster Display Audio command centre. Using a new Honda-developed, Android-based operating system, menus are intuitive and easily customisable. The new system offers an 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen interface and more powerful voice recognition. IHS Markit's first experience with the system upheld Honda's claims for ease of use, particularly the ability to set favorites and to easily access Cabin Watch and Cabin Talk. Cabin Watch is an infrared camera system by which the driver can see the second and third row on the display unit, enabling parents to keep an eye on children in the back. The camera has been positioned for viewing the face of an infant in a rear-facing child seat. Cabin Talk offers a choice of speaking through a microphone that pipes to the second and third row, rather than shouting to be heard, or over passengers' headsets when they are using the rear-seat entertainment system.

Honda's rear-seat entertainment system has been enhanced with streaming capability. Content can be streamed to the ceiling-mounted, 10.2-inch rear-entertainment screen through in-vehicle 4G LTE Wi-fi, public wi-fi, or a user's cellphone. The screen is placed for visibility by the second or third rows, with slight priority to the second. Honda product planners told us that most families will put older children in the third row. Research suggests such passengers are more likely to give their attention to brought-in devices, only occasionally checking out the ceiling screen. Additionally, not unlike a game available on Chrysler's Pacifica, Honda's Odyssey includes an app called "How Much Farther?", which can entertain children along the journey by keeping them updated and engaged in progress. Honda's Odyssey is designed to encourage family interaction and shared experiences, evidenced by the Social Playlist feature, the single large screen for video content, and the ability to stream from phone or tablet to the system, making it easy for passengers to share their content with the family as a whole.

Honda's adaptive driver assistance features are standard on most trim levels, covering 95% of Odyssey sales according to the automaker. This suite of technology includes collision-mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control. Based on our driving experience, the adaptive cruise control and combination of lane-keep assist and road-departure mitigation eases driving effort on longer drives, although the light pressure felt through the steering wheel as the system applies steering torque to hold the lane takes getting used to. A driver needs to adapt to the range and limitation of the system and to steer with it, rather than against it.

Fuel economy is essentially unchanged from the outgoing vehicle's (19/28/22 city/highway/combined mpg), although the updated 3.5-litre V6 delivers 280 hp, up 32 hp over the outgoing version. With the update, the Odyssey and Pilot are again using the same V6 engine. The extra power is a meaningful improvement in driving confidence. With gas prices holding relatively low, buyers may be more motivated by improved performance than better fuel economy. The Odyssey launches without a hybrid option and the company has not confirmed one. But Honda has promised to offer a hybrid system with the light-truck architecture and may ultimately provide one with the minivan.

The Odyssey's V6 is mated to a 9-speed automatic for most trim levels, though the top two (Touring and Elite) get Honda's first in-house developed and built 10-speed automatic transmission. Idle-stop (also known as stop-start) is incorporated with the 10-speed but not the 9-speed unit. Honda notes that this is the also the first application of a 10-speed for a front-drive vehicle. (GM and Ford have launched a jointly developed 10-speed automatic used in the rear-drive Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and the Ford F-150.) Honda provided only the 10-speed automatic option for our test drive; we found the transmission to be smooth and predictable.

Honda has also increased the use of sound-deadening materials, made Active Noise Control standard, upgraded the exterior glass, and provided triple-sealed doors.

The cabin therefore enables easy conversation across all rows. Convenience features new to the Odyssey include vented front seats, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a rear cross-traffic monitor, an electric parking brake, Qi wireless phone charging, and a multizone audio system. Systems that continue to be offered include the in-vehicle vacuum, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats and side mirrors, blind spot information, and three-zone automatic climate control.

Odyssey's pricing for the new model ranges from USD29,990 to USD46,670. The price rise at the low end is USD50 increase and at the top USD1,345. The raise reflects a higher level of equipment, including the 10-speed transmission, connectivity, and increased adaptive driver assist safety equipment.

Outlook and implications

The 2018 Honda Odyssey, like the Chrysler Pacifica launched in 2016, evolves the minivan formula. The latest in safety technology are available and in-car technology, connectivity, and infotainment updates are tailored for family use. The latest Odyssey bests the recently introduced Chrysler Pacifica on some technology points and these improvements will keep the vehicle relevant and are likely to contribute to positive ownership experiences, helping Honda build make loyalty.

IHS Markit expects the US mid-size minivan segment to exceed 500,000 units per annum through 2019 and then to enter an accelerating decline. By 2022, IHS Markit forecasts the segment will shrink to 2.4% of US sales, down from 3.1% in 2017 and 7.9% in 2000. Buyers are expected to shift to full-size crossover utility vehicles in line with a wider trend towards utility vehicles. While the shift to utility vehicles maintains pressure on the segment, its limited number of players (only five, dominated by Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda) provides an opportunity for high-margin vehicle sales. The Pacifica raised the bar on technology available in the segment in 2016 and Honda, as expected, pushes further in 2017.

IHS Markit loyalty data show that nearly 60% of Honda Odyssey buyers who returned to market between January and November 2016 (the most recent period for which data are available) bought an Odyssey or other Honda product (using the disposal methodology). Only 46% of Chrysler Town & Country owners remained with the Chrysler brand. The new Odyssey offers an improved experience at a reasonable price point for the feature set. The Odyssey is expected to provide about 7% of Honda brand sales over for the next few years and its improvements are likely to help maintain Honda brand loyalty among owners.

About this Article

The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends. Get a free trial.


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