PROS Passenger and cargo room, Smooth and refined ride, Lots of available features
CONS Sloppy transmission, Lots of hard plastic, Poor rear visibility
Traverse is the fourth seed to sprout from General Motor's lauded Lambda chassis. It joins stable mates Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook in the hotly contested midsize crossover-utility-vehicle segment--CUV for short.
CUVs suffer from bipolar personality disorder. They are part sport-utility vehicle part minivan. In essence they blend the best attributes of both into a package that's more contemporary and efficient. Left on the cutting-room floor are the ultimate space utility of minivans and the off-road ruggedness of true SUVs.
Traverse is a four-door wagon with single-piece tailgate. It can seat up to eight when equipped with second- and third-row bench seats. Twin second-row buckets are also available, but they limit passenger capacity to seven. Competitors include the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Veracruz, Kia Borrego, and Toyota Highlander.
Three models are offered: entry-level LS, mid-grade LT, and line-topping LTZ. All get either front- or all-wheel drive. Sole powertrain is a 3.6-liter V6 that mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. In LS and LT models the engine makes 281 horsepower. LTZ's get a dual exhaust system that ups power output to 288. When properly equipped, Traverse has a maximum towing capacity of 5200 pounds.
Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, stability and traction control, tire-pressure monitor, daytime running lights, and dual-front, front-side, and curtain-side airbags. A rear-view monitor is standard on LTZ, optional on others. Rear park assist is standard on LT and LTZ but not offered on the LS.
2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT
Base Price: $32,810
As-Tested Price: $35,940
Built in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Dual Skyscape Sunroof
Bose Speaker System
Engine: DOHC 3.6-liter V6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: all-wheel drive
The LS model lists for $28,255 and includes air conditioning, tilt-telescope steering wheel, cruise control, OnStar assistance system with one year service, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats with driver lumbar adjustment, center console, second-row adjustable split-folding seat, third-row split-folding seat, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, outside-temperature indicator, intermittent wipers, illuminated visor mirrors, rear defogger, rear wiper/washer, automatic headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, rear privacy glass, roof rails, and 245/70R17 tires.
The $30,810 adds eight-way power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, heated power mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators, trip computer, 255/65R18 tires, and alloy wheels
The LTZ lists for $39,025 and adds tri-zone automatic climate controls (including rear controls), navigation system with voice recognition and traffic information, leather upholstery, heated-cooled front seats, four-way power passenger seat, memory system (driver seat, mirrors), second-row adjustable captain chairs, Bose sound system, rear radio controls, Bluetooth cell-phone link, universal garage door opener, automatic day/night rearview mirror, remote engine start, heated washer fluid, power liftgate, and
All-wheel drive is a $2000 option on all models. Other options include power sunroof, DVD entertainment system with either single or dual screens, leather upholstery, second-row console, side steps, and roof rack. All models have a $735 destination charge and are built in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Get Up and Go Traverse features the same 3.6-liter V6 that's found in Enclave, Acadia, and Outlook. It's a smooth engine that is as refined as any powerplant in import competitors. From a standstill there's good initial pickup. Yet the six-speed transmission is constantly upshifting to save fuel, so if you want to keep up with stop-and-go traffic, you'll have to have a very heavy throttle foot.
On the highway, the free-revving engine gains some legs and provides good passing response--provided you're willing to put your foot to the floor as the transmission is reluctant to downshift.
The all-wheel-drive system seamlessly transfers power to the wheels with the most traction. On wet or snowy pavement, there's nary a slip from the front tires in hard acceleration as the all-wheel-drive system silently goes about its job.
Also on the plus side, the V6-six-speed combination is very frugal given the Traverse's 4500-pound curb weight. With EPA ratings of 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, Traverse matches up well to most competitors. In routine city driving expect to average about 17 mpg. Typical city/highway commuting will yield 18-19 mpg. On longer highway trips Traverse will easily average 23-24 mpg. Chevy says that the V6 will run fine on lest-costly regular-grade fuel.
Taken as a whole, the powertrain has the smoothness, verve, and economy to be class competitive, but the transmission needs a bit more refinement.
On the Road Though its contemporary silhouette does a good job of hiding its overall size, make no mistake, Traverse is a large vehicle. It has a wheelbase of 118.9 inches. That's larger than many full-size SUVs and the largest of any midsize CUV. Chevrolet engineers have made the most of the long wheelbase to provide a smooth and stable ride that's devoid of traditional SUV bounciness. Small bumps are well filtered and large bumps only register with a mild jolt. In addition, the long wheelbase helps quell oscillating body motions on scalloped surfaces.
NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2009 Chevrolet Traverse
|Front Impact, Driver ||5 Stars|
|Front Impact, Passenger ||5 Stars|
|Side Impact, Driver ||5 Stars|
|Side Impact, Rear Passenger ||5 Stars|
|Rollover Resistance ||4 Stars|
On the flip side, the long wheelbase and tall build keep Traverse from ever feeling nimble. Still, there's little body lean, the brakes are strong and sure, and the steering is nicely weighted and provides good feedback in turns. The tires also have a lot of grip. About the only handling deficiency when compared to midsize CUV competition is a large turning circle.
Thankfully, Traverse is a quiet vehicle. On the highway, there's little wind noise and almost no tire noise. The engine is subdued and has an expensive-sounding growl in hard acceleration.
Behind the Wheel Inside, Traverse is the model for modern simplicity. The contemporary design blends with quality materials to create an inviting yet very functional interior. Traverse has more hard plastic than its stable mates from GMC and Saturn, and that's slightly disappointing.
Gauges are backlit day or night and are easy to read. The instrument panel also features a large digital readout for trip-computer information. General Motor's corporate radio unit is among the best in the business in terms of ease of use and functionality. It's placed high in the dash and is easy to reach. Climate controls are a touch lower, but still clearly marked.
Front seats are armchair comfortable. Head and leg room are adult generous, meaning there's plenty of both. Tilt-telescope steering wheel and height adjustable seat make it easy for drivers of all sizes to get comfortable. Above-average forward visibility is balanced by a small back window and thick rear roof pillars.
Second-row seats are also quite comfortable although the seat bottoms lack contouring. Leg and head room are generous. The seat is also adjustable for and aft. Three adults can sit abreast thanks to a perfectly flat floor.
Third-row seats aren't the penalty box you'd expect. Two adults can ride in a modicum of comfort and three children will fit no problem. There's not a lot of room between the seat cushion and the floor, so adults will have to get used to riding "knees up." Getting back there is easy as the second-row seatbacks tip forward with the flip of a lever and then the entire seating unit folds forward flush with the front seats.
Both second- and third-row seats fold flat on top of themselves to create a flat load floor. With the rear seat up, cargo space is good, with it down, it's expansive. When both rows are folded flat, there is more than adequate room for hauling larger items. Load floor is a bit high, but it does conceal a few covered bins at the rear for hiding small items. Interior storage is excellent with large front-seat map pockets and a thoughtful cell-phone holder in the center console.
Bottom Line General Motors is often criticized for badge engineering and Traverse is proof of concept as it's only slightly different from Acadia and Outlook. However, that doesn't mean is isn't a good vehicle. In fact, its one of the best midsize crossover utilities on the market. Traverse and its stable mates offer adult-size passenger space, class-leading refinement and features, and contemporary style.
Price has always been Chevrolet's strong suit and the Traverse is no exception to that rule. While fully loaded LTZ can top $40,000, a nicely equipped LT can be had for around $35 grand--the starting point for many competitors. So, if you are in the market for a stylish people mover, why not head down to your local Chevy dealer for a test drive, Traverse just might surprise you.