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.