The Honda Odyssey has set its sights high for 2018, challenging the Chrysler Pacifica for king of the minivan mountain. I’ve spent time in both, and folks, we have a horserace.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these family movers, but this week we’ll take a look at the 2018 Odyssey. First and most importantly, the Odyssey is a safe, 8-passenger vehicle that earns top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. More on that later.

The Odyssey comes in six trims: LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L NR, Touring and Elite. My test van this week was the Elite trim that had an MSRP of $46,670.

With a long list of convenience and technology features, the Odyssey makes it so much easier for parents on the go to keep up with what’s going on in the back seats.

Honda’s CabinWatch feature displays a live video feed of the second- and third-row seats, which means no more chiropractic visits after a day bobble-heading towards the back seat to fuss at the kids. The video is also infrared, so darkness is no cover for a misbehaving junior.

CabinTalk accentuates CabinWatch with a microphone that amplifies the driver’s voice through the speaker system, or even through the rear seat entertainment system’s headphones. Turn the volume up and you can get their attention right now.

Using a downloadable app, users can also control the rear entertainment system, rear cabin climate and send destinations to the navigation system using Honda’s new CabinControl system.

Honda engineers also put extra effort into making the cabin quiet – they call it a “conversational cabin” – which gives the Odyssey the quietest cabin in the class.

Meanwhile, functionality is the hallmark of any minivan, and the Odyssey comes with bunches. The second-row seats, for example, are in three separate pieces. If you fold the middle seat down, it’s becomes a drink holder for the adults in row two. Or, take the middle seat out all together and you’ve got a captain’s chair setup that makes it super easy to access row three.

I climbed back into the third row and found plenty of room for my 6-foot-1 frame. The third-row folds down into a cavernous hold below the rear deck. Raise the third-row seats and you’ve got a huge storage cavity. The remarkable thing is that the seats in my test vehicle weren’t powered, but they were still very easy to use.

Headroom is actually taller in the middle row (39.1 inches), and surprisingly nearly as tall in row three (38.3 inches) as it is in the front row (38.7 inches).

Cargo volume in the Odyssey is 38.6 cubic feet behind the third row (up slightly from the previous model), and behind the second row it’s 91 cubic feet (down from the previous model). But the big news is that when you fold all the seats down, cargo room increases from 148.5 cubic feet in the old Odyssey to 155.8 cubic feet in the 2018 model.

The bottom line, the Odyssey is roomy as all get-out, with a healthy dose of practicality included. There’s even a vacuum cleaner stowed in the side wall behind row three. I tried it and it works nearly as well as the big ones at the car wash. An available hands-free power tailgate has foot activation.

In-vehicle connectivity includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The display audio system is Android-based and works on an 8-inch touchscreen. Volume control is via a knob, but channel selection still requires touching or swiping the screen.

Powering the Odyssey is a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 mated to either a 9-speed or 10-speed automatic transmission (touring and elite trims get the 10-speed). I was really impressed with the responsiveness of this powertrain, which has 32 more horses than the previous mode. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that the Odyssey is the quickest minivan on the market.

The Odyssey also wins a “Top Safety Pick” award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with the top mark of “good” in every category. And for parents of little ones, the IIHS even added a “plus” to the good score for how easy it is to install and use child seats.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

Engine:

3.5-liter V6

Horsepower/Torque:

280/262 lb.-ft.

Transmission:

10-speed automatic (or 9-speed automatic)

MSRP:

$46,670 plus freight

EPA mileage estimates:

19 mpg city/28 mpg highway/22 mpg combined

Estimated highway range:

546 miles