Honda Is Considering An Odyssey Hybrid With Acura MDX Running Gear To Challenge The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Can frugal transportation and family transportation coexist in a single package?

Lead Honda R&D engineer Tom Sladek indicated to Wards Auto at the Hawaiian launch of the all-new, fifth-generation, 2018 Honda Odyssey that Honda’s minivan could receive a hybrid powertrain in the future.

Presently, hybrid powertrains are available in a numerous three-row crossovers. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is presently launching a plug-in hybrid version of the new-last-year Chrysler Pacifica, as well.

“The electrification initiative is definitely coming, but on which products and which timing is not 100% clear yet,” Honda’s Sladek told Wards. If one such product is the Odyssey, we would expect to see improvements both in the Odyssey’s fuel economy and its performance.

And all-wheel drive?

The 2018 Honda Odyssey is a close relative of the Acura MDX. Production even takes place at the same Alabama assembly plant, though some MDX production is moving to Ohio to free up capacity for the Honda Pilot, Honda Ridgeline, and this new Odyssey.

The third-generation MDX recently became available in Sport Hybrid guise (and was recently tested by TTAC’s Steph Willems.) Horsepower increases by 31 to 321. Average fuel economy climbs from 22 miles per gallon to 27.

Says Honda’s Tom Sladek: “We just released the hybrid MDX so that powertrain could be considered in the future, although we can’t comment on particular plans.”

For the 2018 Honda Odyssey, driven by TTAC’s Chris Tonn in Hawaii, the installation of the MDX’s Sport Hybrid powertrain would represent an increase of 41 horsepower. Fuel economy in the Odyssey, like the core all-wheel-drive MDX, averages 22 miles per gallon.

Wards suggests an Odyssey Sport Hybrid — which likely wouldn’t maintain the Sport tagline at Honda — would offer more of an emphasis on fuel economy than its Acura cousin, presumably at the expense of some power.

While the Acura MDX in its current Sport Hybrid iteration connects a three-motor system to a 3.0-liter V6 and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the 2018 Honda Odyssey is a front-wheel-drive minivan with nine or ten-speed automatics. The ten-speed is only available in the top Touring and Touring Elite trims and does not alter the EPA mileage ratings for that pair of heaviest Odysseys.

But if Honda was serious about installing the MDX Sport Hybrid’s powertrain in the Odyssey, this would also be an indication that the Odyssey would finally offer an all-wheel-drive option. The MDX’s rear motors make the Sport Hybrid an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

At the moment, the only all-wheel-drive minivan on sale in the United States is the Toyota Sienna. Roughly one-quarter of the Siennas currently in stock are AWD models.

On the hybrid side, the Chrysler Pacifica’s ramp-up is only just getting going. HybridCars.com estimated 800 sales of the plug-in Pacifica in May, but there there are only 231 in stock at Chrysler stores, according to Cars.com.

If — and it is a big if — American Honda determines a Honda Odyssey Hybrid is in the company’s future, adopting Acura’s MDX pricing scheme wouldn’t hurt, either. Comparably equipped, Acura charges only $1,500 more for the Sport Hybrid than a regular MDX.

A high-power, all-wheel-drive Honda Odyssey for an extra $1,500? That’s too good to be true.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *