It was quicker, quieter, more fuel efficient, and less expensive, but the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey failed to win its first Car and Driver minivan comparison test.
The fifth-gen Odyssey is also the newest minivan redesign. The Toyota Sienna was updated for 2017 with a new powertrain but remains in large part the same minivan that arrived for the 2011 model year. The first Chrysler Pacifica minivan — aka the second Chrysler Pacifica — has been on sale for nearly a year and a half. The Kia Sedona, having lost its previous Car and Driver comparison test, was not deemed eligible for the test. Likewise, the Dodge Grand Caravan, while currently America’s top-selling minivan, was rendered ineligible by past performance.
With only three minivans in the test, all upper-crust examples of their specific nameplates, each contender finished on the platform. But lofty expectations for the all-new Odyssey failed to come to fruition, and the segment progenitor’s party trick produced a solid victory.
Stow’N’Go isn’t the only differentiator, however.
As always, it’s possible to poke holes in the winning argument, not just with Car and Driver but essentially any publication. (In a TTAC comparo last year, for instance, Matthew Guy and I both recommended the Mazda 3 to ourselves, but strongly suspected most buyers would prefer the Honda Civic.)
Car And Driver gives an extra point in its final score to the Pacifica for ride — 9 points for the Pacifica, 8 for the Odyssey, 7 for the Sienna —but complains about the Chrysler’s “floaty suspension,” saying the Pacifica, “has a bad habit of bouncing over undulations.” Meanwhile, the Odyssey’s “suspension does a better job of managing rough roads.”
Yet that scorekeeping contradiction doesn’t alter the results. You don’t need to be a Detroit homer to understand why the Chrysler Pacifica is a worthy victor. “The Pacifica seems like something you’d want to take care of,” Jeff Sabatini writes. “Its interior is nicer and appears to be better assembled, with more isolation from the outside world.” Indeed, while the Odyssey’s massive leap forward in infotainment and interior design brought Honda’s van way upmarket, there’s plenty of materials inside both the Odyssey and Sienna that feel decidedly industrial.
But in the Pacifica, Car and Driver says, “Fancy little touches abound, such as the piping around the seats, real stitching on the steering wheel, and anodized-metal dash inserts.”
And yes, then there’s the second-row Stow’N’Go seats. All three vans can be turned into pickup trucks, but the Pacifica can be turned into a pickup truck more easily and more quickly. For van drivers who don’t do that, the Odyssey’s Magic Slide second row enables far superior third-row ingress, particularly with child seats latched into the second row. But Car and Driver is “skeptical that such a feature would prove anywhere near as useful as the Pacifica’s Stow ’n Go system.”
Not factored into this comparison test is any thought of long-term value. The Odyssey was already the least expensive vehicle in the comparison as-tested, and also the cheapest (marginally) to fuel. But in Edmunds‘ 2016 Best Retained Value Awards, the Odyssey claimed segment leadership; no FCA van was even included in the honorable mentions. That was the Odyssey’s sixth win in six years of Edmunds‘ awards.
ALG flips the order of Car And Driver’s test results when it comes to residual value, placing the Sienna first, the Odyssey second, and the Pacifica third. After 60 months, KBB says, the 2017 Sienna is worth 33 percent of its value; the 2017 Pacifica just 26 percent.
Dollars and cents, of course, are only part of the equation. The Chrysler Pacifica that makes you feel good when it’s parked in your driveway. The Sienna, regardless of the points it earned for possessing the best engine, is an appliance. The Odyssey, no matter how well it fared for offering the best ride/handling balance, is just a tool for a job. The Chrysler Pacifica? “It’s the one we’d most like to live with,” Sabatini writes.
[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda, Toyota]