Minivans are having a moment. The new Chrysler Pacifica has been conjoined with Google self-driving car project, Waymo. And now Honda, against all odds, has made its bestselling family hauler into a sleek and sexy beast.
OK, that’s probably an exaggeration. But at the 2017 Detroit auto show, the carmaker pulled the cover off the next generation of the Odyssey, according to the company the “most popular minivan with individual American car buyers for seven years running.”
Said John Mendel, American Honda’s Executive Vice-President: “This new Odyssey raises the stakes for family-friendly packaging, performance, and technology in the minivan segment. In all aspects of its design, the new Odyssey is made to keep every member of the family happy, no matter the seating position, no matter the destination.”
For the previous generation of the Odyssey, Honda adopted a radical window design — a “Z,” lightning bolt, or zigzag that brought in more light and view for third-row passengers. But the move was initially off putting to some Odyssey fans who were used to a boxier, more utilitarian vehicle.
The new minivan softens that feature, but according to Honda, makes use of it to solve a common complaint about minivan design: Why can’t the sliding-door tracks be better concealed?
“The Odyssey’s signature lightning bolt beltline now provides an even more elegant design element with the sliding door tracks hidden in the lower portion of the rear quarter windows,” the automaker said in statement.
Beyond that, the new Odyssey pushes the vehicle’s design even farther from the boxy minivan vibe of old, with a more suave and flowing exterior. In truth, it barely looks like a van anymore.
Insider, the overarching story is about technology. The powerplant has been upgraded, with the 3.5-litre V6 picking up over 30 horsepower. Owners will have the option to choose between a 9-speed or new 10-speed automatic transmission.
Infotainment options are abundant and organised around satisfying the entire family — understandable in a stalwart seven-passenger vehicle intended to serve everyone from the middle-aged to the not-yet-walking-or-talking.
Foes of all-touch interfaces for infotainment systems will be overjoyed that a “physical volume knob” is included, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the Odyssey’s eight-inch touchscreen setup. Honda is also joining the 4GLTE connectivity bandwagon.
The rear-seat entertainment options include a ten-inch screen and an interface through which occupants can access or stream a variety of media. Folks in the front seats can also use the system to talk to passengers in the second and third rows.
At this point, given that the next-gen Odyssey also has second-row seats that are highly reconfigurable and a host of driver-assist and semi-self-driving features, it might be time to say that the minivan is back — and not just back, but possibly on the way to being perfected.