Somewhere near the Colorado-Nebraska border, after nine straight hours in the driver’s seat, we finally take the wheel away from one of our crew on our long, overnight drive from Wisconsin to the Centennial State.
“I could not have done this in any other vehicle,” the relaxed driver declares as he surrenders the command seat for the resting comfort of a rear row in the all-new, fifth-generation ’18 Honda Odyssey minivan.
Indeed, the Odyssey’s ability to make short work of a long drive, thanks to its reliable lane-keeping assistance and dependable adaptive cruise control, is just one of the many attributes that elevated it onto the 2017 Wards 10 Best User Experiences list.
The Odyssey greets with some visual splash but then gets right down to business, easily and quickly pairing with phones and responding to voice commands controlling audio, climate, navigation and texting.
Editor Tom Murphy welcomes Honda’s move to a single, 8.0-in. (20.3-cm) capacitive touchscreen and a simple volume knob, all resting atop a stylishly executed center control panel.
“That one display with bright colors and crisp graphics is perfectly placed, slightly leaned back for better viewing, and appears to float above the instrument panel,” he says. “All the key functions are focused here in this central command console, but it’s not overwhelming.”
In the rear rows, passengers choose between personal space and cargo room via the laterally adjusting Magic Slide second-row seats, with positioning often dependent on whether the riders are awake and active or are leaning against the door catching 40 winks. The Odyssey offers seating for seven or eight passengers depending on configuration and trim level.
Honda makes communication from front to rear easy with Cabin Talk – we dub it the “Voice of God” – that gives the driver and front passenger a PA system to speak to those in the second and third rows via speakers or through headphones.
Cabin Talk is backed by the Odyssey’s Cabin Watch camera system, permitting the front row to “look” in on rear seat passengers and their activities via the center touch screen, which allows moving the camera angle and zooming via smartphone-like pinching and fingertip movements.
Odyssey options include Cabin Control, giving rear-row riders smartphone access to key controls and the ability to essentially program a group jukebox via a Social Playlist app. Video entertainment comes via disc or streaming service, displayed on a 10.2-in. (25.9-cm) flip-down viewing screen.
Our passengers often prefer the independence of streaming video programs or challenging each other in online games, using the Odyssey’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi system capable of supporting up to seven individual devices. Connectivity in the middle of nowhere while traveling is a bonus.
Put it all together and the Odyssey is an exceptional vehicle designed for many purposes well beyond simply ferrying the kids to school or soccer practice. Smart buyers not influenced by “soccer mom” syndrome will own this vehicle and love it for its connectivity, comfort and functionality.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger