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Honda Odyssey’s strengths include seating flexibility, improved ride

Minivans are the most useful vehicles you can find for mom, pop and the kids. More than any conveyance, they accommodate people and their stuff in customized ways while delivering entertainment and car-like performance.

The 2018 Honda Odyssey elevates the family minivan to a lofty level of efficiency and comfort. It is an eight-passenger vehicle with a “Magic Slide” second row that accommodates three. A small seat in the middle can hold a rear-facing child seat and moves fore and aft so parents up front can check on the infant.

Outboard are two captain’s chairs that also move back and forth and flip forward for access to the third row. But remove the center seat, and the outboard seats can be effortlessly moved sideways as well, kept separate or pushed together to the right, left or middle for even easier access to the third row.

To keep tabs on the sprouts in back, the Odyssey incorporates CabinWatch, an overhead camera that focuses on the second and third rows and displays the view on the multi-purpose center screen up front. CabinTalk allows the parents to interrupt what the children are watching and listening to, much like an airline pilot’s stopping the entertainment for announcements. CabinControl enables control of onboard apps from a smartphone.

Other minivans incorporate dual rear-seat screens so passengers can independently watch different programs or movies. Honda opted for a single overhead screen to serve the second and third rows (and promote more family togetherness) which individual buyers may or may not like.

Honda put its best package forward — the Odyssey Elite — at the national press introduction on the big island of Hawaii. It was fully optioned with a suggested delivered price of a whopping $47,610, which is encroaching on luxury-car territory.

However, five other trim levels are available, starting with the base LX at $30,930 (including the $940 destination charge), so customers can pick and choose to fit budgets. Others are the EX ($34,800), EX-L with leather upholstery and other upgrades ($38,300), EX with navigation and rear entertainment ($40,300) and Touring ($45,450).

All Odysseys come equipped with Honda’s 280-horsepower V-6 engine, which delivers 262 pound-feet of torque and features cylinder deactivation for highway cruising as well as a stop-start system and a mode for improved fuel economy. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/28/22 mpg.

LX and EX models get the power to the front wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Elite models have an all-new 10-speed automatic with a manual shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

The Odyssey continues as an effortless performer with car-like handling, improved ride and fatigue-free long-distance cruising. For 2018, the experience is enhanced by a muted inside environment thanks to a host of sound-deadening materials. The main annoying sounds on a trip likely will come from the kids arguing.