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2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

Entry Price: $29,990

Price as Tested: $47,610

This week’s we’re driving the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey minivan, with seven or eight passenger seating starting an entry of just $29,990 for the base LX model.

For 2018, it’s now in its fifth generation with all-new features, powerful V6 engine. Major changes are many. Important new features include a new trail-arm suspension, first-ever Honda passenger and driver-knee airbags, more quiet cabin, top passenger and cargo space, wider rear tailgate that allows 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet placement with seats removed/ down, 4G WiFi, more powerful engine and a new 10-speed automatic transmission.

If you start with the “entry” Odyssey LX, you’ll receive most all of the modern-day safety equipment, air conditioning, ABS brakes, rear camera, power controls everywhere, some high-tech features and driving aids that control stopping and traction. Those who desire a quality family transporter need to take notice. Now if you move up one notch to the EX model at $33,860, (which I highly recommend), Honda really ups the ante with a bevy of higher-tech safety features and amenities unavailable on LE.

The Odyssey models then move up progressively with more features ala EX-L at $37,360, Touring at $44,510 and then our top line tester Elite which comes in at $45,670. Add the $940 delivery, and you end up at our Odyssey’s $47,610 final retail tally. (Check your dealer for any incentives.)

Built in Lincoln, Alabama, everything Honda charges extra for on the lower-level models comes standard on the Elite, including a top-tier driver safety system that not only lets you know when to brake when necessary, the forward collision mitigation will actually help stop your Odyssey in a tough situation. I highly recommend an Elite Odyssey if you can afford it as the Honda Safety Sensing package also adds adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, lane keep-assist and road-departure mitigation.

Outwardly, the new Odyssey is a great looking minivan that adheres to Honda’s “Lightning Bolt” design philosophy. Complimenting the new outward dynamic lines is the interior, which is very passenger-friendly with special Easy B-Slide second row seats that make third-row access non-cumbersome. A new infotainment system and electrical platform is just another of this minivan’s complete upgrade that includes all of today’s top Bluetooth and Smartphone bells and whistles. Perhaps Odyssey’s top feature is driving manners, be it on the freeway or country road. All Odysseys come with a powerful 3.5-liter V6 producing 280-horsepower, and 262 lb. ft. of torque. Expect 19-mpg city and 28-mpg highway as a new generation 10-speed automatic overdrive transmission (yes, a 10 speed) is now standard in the Touring and Elite line. How important is the 10-speed? Well, the last Honda Odyssey we drove came with a 248-horsepower 3.5-V6 and a six-speed automatic, and it delivered the same 19 city and 28 highway numbers. Presto to today, and you have an additional 32 horsepower under your right foot as Odyssey 2018 generates the same fuel mileage numbers.

This powertrain is very peppy and when you mat the throttle to pass or merge, it sounds like a Honda race inspired V6 thanks to its throaty sound. Underneath, the new suspension coupled to great traction, high quality 19-inch Bridgestone Turanza tires on machine alloy wheels make this Odyssey a fun van to drive that looks just as good. The LE, EX and EX-L models rely on a nine-speed automatic, with identical EPA ratings. The main nine-speed difference results in a 500 less lb. tow capacity.

Our Elite model came standard with the top line 11-speaker, surround sound stereo with rear-seat entertainment movie system that can impress even the most finicky of entertainment fans. The Blu-Ray DVD movie system with wireless headsets, available for the rear passengers, is outstanding and a nice option when traveling with the children. The navigation is a Garmin design that works well with voice recognition amongst its top features. I’d love to talk about the leather interior a bit more, but I’ll leave that and the other 50 Odyssey Elite features to your dealer as the sales associates are waiting to explain them all in detail.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 118.1, 4,593 lb. curb weight, 3,500 lb. tow capacity (3,000 lb. capacity with nine-speed automatic), from 32.8 to a massive 155.7 cu ft. of cargo space, 39.6 ft. turn capacity and a 19.5-gallon fuel tank. Safety ratings from government crash testing also come in at Five Stars.

Overall, there’s lots to cheer about with this new Honda Odyssey minivan as it offers everything that is good in a modern minivan and then some. From the new roomy interior for seven or eight passengers to the magic slide second row and 60/40 fold down third row seat, it’s the best minivan I’ve driven this year.

Likes: New design, great interior, expansive cargo, power, fuel economy.

Dislikes: For maximum cargo, you have to remove the second row seats.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.)