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).