I recently had the chance to review a $50,000 Honda Odyssey. OK, so it wasn’t exactly $50,000, it was like $47,000 or $48,000. But you add in taxes, and the title fee, and the dealership doc fee, and the registration fee, and whatever other fees your local municipality can come up with, and you’re over $50,000 when you walk out the door.
For a minivan.
I had to find out exactly what you get when you spend $50,000 on a minivan, so I borrowed a 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite from a viewer in Orange County, California. I think this particular viewer was shocked when I contacted him; it seems he emailed me on a bit of a lark, and he was surprised when I — a guy who reviewed a Ferrari F40 and a Porsche 918 Spyder last year — emailed to ask if I could review his minivan. But it’s not just any minivan: The Odyssey Elite is the top-end trim level, and I just had to know what’s inside a van that costs fifty grand.
And so I borrowed it from this viewer, and I found out.
The first thing I learned when I got inside the $50,000 minivan and started playing with everything is that minivans have improved almost hilariously since I was a kid in the 1990s and early 2000s and it was considered a big deal when vans got a second sliding door. The amount of technology is truly staggering — and the whole experience left me walking away thinking: This is only $50,000?
Let’s start with CabinWatch. Your kids are screaming in the back seat, and you want to turn around and see what’s got them so riled up. But you don’t want to take your eyes off the road. So there’s CabinWatch: a camera that you can bring up on the infotainment screen, which allows you to monitor the rear seats and even zoom in wherever you want. No more turning around to see which kid is doing the hitting, or the spilling, or the touching.
But you still have to turn around to tell them to knock it off, right? Ehh … no. There’s also CabinTalk. CabinTalk is a microphone system with a speaker in the rear of the van; activate it and you can whisper while you’re driving down the street and your third-row passengers will hear you perfectly. No more yelling at your kids to knock it off. Now you can yell into a microphone.
And it goes so far beyond that stuff. The second-row seats don’t just move forward and backward — you can move them side-to-side. Uninstalling the middle seat in the second row takes 10 seconds. Dropping the third row takes three seconds. There are something like 15 cupholders inside the van, and four different ways to open the power-sliding doors. The infotainment system is so laughably configurable that you can set it to give you the time as if you’re in Nuuk, Greenland — and you can set the automatic headlights and ambient interior lighting at different sensitivities, so one can turn on at the first hint of dusk and the other can wait to turn on until it’s fully dark. And, of course, there’s the HondaVac: a built-in vacuum cleaner inside the cargo area that can reach all the way to the front if you need it to. It has attachments. It’s incredibly easy to operate.
All of this is absolutely amazing, and the 2018 Odyssey Elite is certainly the most practical car I’ve ever driven, personally. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the most exciting: It drives like you’d expect a minivan to, with better acceleration than you might expect, but the typical body roll and the numb steering and the high center of mass. It’s no sports car, or even a fun car, even though it has a relatively stout 280 horsepower.
Still, that’s not why you buy an Odyssey. And you don’t buy it for the interior materials, either — surprisingly, they’re not all that nice, especially for fifty grand. But they’re durable. And the Odyssey is practical, and simple, and convenient. It may just be the most practical, and simple, and convenient vehicle in the entire car industry.
Yes, it’s still $50,000. For a minivan. But it’s a completely new world from the minivans I rode in when I was a kid. And if you’re a parent with a couple of children, I strongly suspect that no matter how much you love driving, no matter how much you prefer the look of an SUV, no matter how much you swear you won’t end up in a minivan … you’ll watch my video about the Odyssey and you’ll be just a little jealous. Those features are really, really nice. Find a Honda Odyssey for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.