2009 Chevrolet Traverse Review

2009 Chevrolet Traverse - Kickin' CUV.


Perhaps Chevrolet was feeling a bit left out. With a vast lineup strangely void of a car-based sport-utility vehicle, the newest craze in SUVs second only to the hybrid, it was missing out on what was proving to be a real winner for siblings Buick, Saturn and GMC. Understandable that Chevy's version is the most affordable of the four versions and in my opinion it does a nice job of separating itself from the crowd.

With re-badging a necessity of today's automotive industry, it is heart-warming (though not quite a warm and fuzzy), that General Motors has stayed committed to differentiating re-badged vehicles in its stables. The Chevy Traverse is a good example of a shared platform and shell with just enough Chevy touches to make it not look like its cousins.

Traverse's cousins are the GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave. I have driven each of these car-based SUVs and each one has been impressive in its ride, performance and styling independent of the GM mother ship. This has not been a strong suit in years passed for the largest domestic automaker, so it is good to see progress with positive results.

If we start with styling, we are in fact starting with what I feel is the weakest part of the Traverse. This is not to say it is unattractive, in fact it is not - I think it looks just as good as just about 80 percent of the 8-passenger SUVs on the road. And that's where the debate comes in: Is sacrificing stylish, edgier looks important enough to either pay more money or settle for less interior room? Afterall, the base model Traverse at $28,000 is certainly a lot of vehicle for the money.

Traverse is available with a front-wheel-drive or 4WD configuration in three trims: 1LT, 2LT or top-line LTZ. I tested the top-line LTZ that based at $39,075. This is a far cry from the base price, but it comes with extras well worth the price of admission. While this is pushing the ceiling toward higher-rated and loftier near-luxury models, none of them deliver the 7- or 8-passenger room and power of the Traverse.

Traverse mimicks the stances of the very best raised wagons, otherwise known as the new car-based SUVs. Two really nice sporty touches that were part of my LTZ were the standard 20-inch machined aluminum wheels and the dual-exhaust with chrome tips. They may be small enhancements, but they resonate loudly on the otherwise static exterior lines.

Inside the cabin you will find big interior spaces with roomy first- and second-row seating. The Traverse is a people mover and the seats are designed to do it with comfort and utility in mind. My LTZ's leather interior was firm and stable, it felt more durable than plush but exhibiting a texture of quality nonetheless. Front row legroom is generous and an 8-way power adjustment for the driver, and 4-way power adjustment for the passenger, always managed to find the perfect position. Add to that the heated and cooled seats and there are plenty of reasons to want to be in the front row of the Traverse.

My passengers found the second row to be just as generous with legroom as the front, though they felt like they were sitting too close to the floor. You can have a bench or two captains chairs in the second row. My tester had the captains chairs with a highly convenient center console ($300 option).

The second row has what Chevy calls the 'Smart Glide' access to the third row. Just pull a lever and the second row seat glides forward allowing for easy access to the third row. Surprisingly, the third-row split bench had plenty of legroom for adults. More often than not, this area of the SUV is relegated to pre-teens - but not in the Traverse, another benefit for the buck.

Visibility for the driver is pretty good all around. The rear swept window adds some spunk to the style but does cost a bit of visibility. This was easily made up for on my LTZ with a standard rearview camera system and ultrasonic rear parking assist that alerts the driver of objects around the vehicle during reverse operation.

Adding to the roominess of my LTZ interior was an enormous Skyscrape Sunroof ($1,400 option) that practically ran the length of the interior. Helping ease the pain of any road was a standard navigation system with live traffic updates and a Bose audio system with XM Radio and CD player.

One of the selling points for the Traverse is the power it delivers from its V-6 engines. The LTZ features a 3.6-liter direct-inject V-6 mated to a 6-speed automatic. This engine will produce 281 hp or 288 hp depending on the FWD (17/24 mpg) or AWD (16/23 mpg) configuration My test model was the FWD and it handled great in the recent inclement sleet and snow we had in Chicagoland.

The 6-speed automatic shifted smoothly most of the time, though I noticed some rougher acceleration during heavier loads. Overall, it was quick from a dead stop and responsive entering and exiting at highway speeds. Traverse offers an extensive list of safety features, enough to land it a 2008 Top Safety Pick Award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Overall, Traverse is a solid car-based competitor that delivers good value interior space and power in comparison to others in the class. The third row is where it separates itself and it will win many families over.

John Stein

John Stein grew up in an extended family that valued the art of going fast. Spending plenty of weekends at U.S. 30 Drag Strip and Sante Fe Speedway, he fondly remembers the screaming machines and the flying mud that made those long-gone racing havens such special memories. With plenty of late nights spent ‘tinkering’ with cars throughout high school, he never anticipated his interest cars and his love for writing might find a common ground. After graduating from Eastern Illinois University in 1988, John started writing for the weekly Southtown Economist. So, when the Economist went to a daily in 1994, and needed an auto editor, John took the proverbial steering wheel. Featured weekly in the Sun-Times and its 17 suburban publications, as well as ELITE Magazine, John balances being the Automotive Editor for Sun-Time Media with being a husband and dad in Plainfield, Illinois.