2009 Chevrolet Traverse Review

2009 Chevrolet Traverse - Cross-Trainer.


Add the all-new 2009 Chevrolet Traverse to the growing number of vehicles built off General Motors' new Lambda architecture. It's a mid-size crossover (something between a truck-based sport utility vehicle and car-based station wagon), combining great interior room and seating up to eight with a potent, yet fuel-efficient V-6 engine. 

Other GM products with similar underpinnings include the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia launched in the 2007 model year.  Buick's Enclave crossover debuted in 2008. These are on-road intended vehicles not constructed for off-road mud slinging.  Traverse launched in the 2009 model year after making its world debut at the February 2008 Chicago Auto Show and hit Chevy dealers in the fall of 2008. Of the four, Traverse has the lowest starting price.

Ed Peper, North American Vice President of Chevrolet, pointed out during an interview at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show that Traverse's exterior sheet metal is unique when compared to GM's earlier trio of vehicles.  Traverse borrows visual cues (such as the front grille) from the newly updated 2008 Chevrolet Malibu sedan.  Even though Traverse is the last of the vehicles to launch, it most likely will prove the biggest seller thanks to Chevy's sheer dealer volume.

One twist with Traverse; it's assembled in Spring Hill Tennessee whereas the other three are built in Lansing, Michigan. Currently, Traverse is the only vehicle assembled in Spring Hill, a plant that for years churned out vehicles from GM's Saturn Division.  General Motors invested $600 million in the plant 40 miles south of Nashville to switch from Saturn cars to the 2009 Traverse. 

The sole Traverse powertrain is a state-of-the-art 3.6-liter V-6 cranking out 281 horsepower (288 on the up-level, dual- exhaust LTZ trim) and capable of towing an impressive 5,200 pounds.  That's in the range of  some ladder-on-frame  compact pickup trucks.  The V-6 engine includes direct injection technology (for more precise fuel-air mixture) and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Traverse is the first of the four GM mid-size crossovers with direct injection. Four trim levels are available (LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ) and all come with standard front wheel or available all wheel drive (a $2,000 extra).

While GM likes to market the five-door Traverse as a mid-size, dimensions, (its overall length measures 205 inches) and interior volume skew more towards full size. Fit and finish are fabulous no matter what size Traverse gets pegged.

In the past couple of years, Chevrolet has worked to upgrade interiors.  Traverse is no exception. No more garage-sale-like dashboards as our test traverse with a distinguished black hue with brush aluminum enhancements and tight construction created welcoming surroundings even in this non-luxury vehicle.

Chevy supplied a four-wheel-drive 2LT with a starting price of $35,515.   Bottom line was $41,885 including a $735 destination charge. Options including rear DVD player ($1,470), leather seating and front heated seats ($1,775), moon roof ($1,400) roof rack ($205) remote start ($260) and trailer hitch ($495) brought the bottom line up to $41,885.

The attractive instrument panel has two deep-set trapezoid-like windows.  Between the two is  a small analog fuel gauge and a digital display with green-blue backlighting featuring secondary gear shift indicator and exterior temperature.  The center column, with a Y-shaped theme enhanced by the brushed aluminum trim, includes the stereo/CD player (XM Satellite Radio hardware comes standard) at the top and ventilation controls below monitored by a clump of buttons. Also in the area are toggle-like switches for the rear wiper and optional front heated seats. An in-dash navigation system is included in LTZ models. A convenient, shallow, covered storage bin is located on top of the center dash (at the top of the "Y."). The glove box is big and spacious.  

The driver's door extended arm rest is home to power door locks, outside mirror and power window switches controlling all four side windows. The automatic transmission shifter is floor mounted.  Nearby is an arm rest that slides fore and aft to match the driver's personal comfort level. Also standard in all editions are cruise control, air conditioning and rear window defogger.  The steering wheel is leather wrapped except in the base LS where vinyl is standard. A second-row DVD player with ceiling fold-down screen is optional.

Need cup holders?  No problem.  In addition to the two inline holders in between the front bucket seats, the front doors also hold beverages while rear side doors sport two more.  Row number three boasts two additional.

Speaking of the rear-most row, three real-world adults can situate there in relative comfort. Thanks to theatre-type seating, row three is raised a bit from row two providing extra leg room so bent knees are pushing against throats.  Still, headroom accommodates those six-feet two inches. Vents below the third row help the flow so stagnant air doesn't become an issue.

When not in use, the 60/40 third row seatbacks fold flat in to the floor.  No need to remove the headrests since they also flip forward and flat. Cloth seating is standard in LS, and LT models.  Upgraded leather is standard in LTZ.

Our test drive 2LT included a two-seat second row with Captain's Chairs.  Access to the third row is made easy by a slide-and-up system where the second-row seat back folds forward and down while the seat cushion folds up accordion style.  Enough of an aisle is created between the door and seatback so even those not vying for a "Dancing with the Stars" audition can maneuver to row three. A three-seat second row comes standard in LS and 1LT (eight passenger capacity). Second-row Captain's Chairs come standard in 2LT and LTZ (seven-seat capacity).

Thoughtful nuances include a small blind-spot mirror (a 2LT exclusive) tucked into the corners of the exterior side view mirrors allowing drivers a better idea of what's lurking to the sides. Also built into the mirror housing are blinking turn signal indicators, making a driver's intension more visible to others on the road.  Great idea.

Outside, the lift gate (with standard wiper) opens up high enough so even those six-feet two inches can work freely when open.  A grab handle, built into the inside bottom of the door is in the right spot when the door is raised.  Also nearby is a power button allowing the door to shut automatically. Power lift gates are standard in 2LT and LTZ. The temporary spare tire gets stowed under the cargo area and twirls down when needed from a screw-system inside the region.

The fuel tank holds 22 gallons of regular unleaded fuel.  Fuel economy checks in at a respectable 17 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway with front wheel drive, and one mile per gallon less in both categories for all-wheel drive.  Thanks in part to the direct injection technology, fuel  readings are one mile better per gallon in the city, and two better on the highway than what a six-cylinder Mazda CX-9 (3.7-liter V-6, 275 horsepower)  three row crossover delivers. Other Traverse competitors include the new Ford Flex and Honda Pilot.

For a rather heavy 4,925-pound vehicle, Traverse's handling was nimble.  One of the few disappointments was a hesitation when punching the pedal for extra passing between 25 and 35 mph. The six-speed automatic transmission needs to be tweaked a bit. On the highway though, Traverse's ride was smooth and nicely quiet.

As with many new vehicles arriving at dealers in 2009, Traverse includes loads of standard safety equipment.  General Motors products, however, go one step better with standard OnStar, the in-vehicle communication system linking occupants with a 24-hour manned help center, not a confusing computer tutorial.  One push of the OnStar button, and a friendly human responds within seconds.  In addition, all Traverse trim levels include:  dual front airbags, driver and front passenger side impact air bags, daytime running lights, curtain air bags for all three rows, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control, StabiliTrac stability system and rear child safety locks.  Traverse is also covered by GM's  five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. No Traverse hybrid is available....yet.

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.