After a successful 2009 model year debut, the 2010 five-door Chevrolet Traverse plays it smart by not messing too much with a good thing. Few changes adorn the versatile Traverse save for a new exterior color (your basic white) and USB ports available with the up-level sound system.
While marketed as a mid-size, Traverse has the people hauling characteristics of a full-size beast. Seven or eight folks can be mixed and matched inside. Chevy's three-row Traverse finds itself atop a popular curve in the automotive marketing sector. It sports the underpinnings of a car-based, uni-body frame (not a truck-based ladder-frame platform) for improved handling and fuel economy. While truck-based SUVs like the Jeep Commander and Ford Expedition enjoyed a following not long ago, "crossover' entries like Traverse (and its General Motors' siblings) are gaining traction even in fickle times. Traverse made its public debut at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show.
Traverse was the last of the four 'large' mid-size crossovers to arrive from GM's Lambda platform (GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook crossovers debuted in 2007 while the Buick Enclave bowed in 2008) measuring a healthy 205 inches in length. Chevy's Traverse is the only one built in Spring Hill, Tenn. outside Nashville; the rest are assembled at a newer GM plant near Lansing, Mich. General Motors invested $600 million to convert the Spring Hill plant from solely Saturn cars to Traverse. With GM discontinuing its Saturn Division by the end of 2010, the number of in-house brands offering these well-built, nicely interiored crossovers will once again be whittled down to three. Traverse features the lowest starting price and with Chevrolet's superior number of dealer outlets, promises to be the best selling. Other large crossover competitors include the Mazda CX-9, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT.
Three trim levels return for 2010, LS, LT (subdivided into 1LT and 2LT) and up-level LTZ. Front wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available for an extra two grand. The sole powertrain is an advanced, direct-injection V-6 which GM likes to boast delivers the fuel economy of a V-6 with the power of some V-8s. Direct fuel injection precisely delivers the precise amount of fuel-air mix (with little to no waste) into each cylinder. Horsepower is an impressive 288 and front-wheel variants deliver 17 miles per gallon in city travel and 24 mpg highway. Despite the advances in the engine technology, regular unleaded fuel (not more expensive premium) is used to fill the 22-gallon tank. A six-speed, electronically-controlled automatic transmission also helps squeeze more from a gallon when compared to a four- or five-speed automatic. No manual transmission is available.
Our test LT Traverse with front-wheel drive listed for $31,745. The only two options were a backup rearview camera ($450) and heavy-duty trailer package ($525) for a bottom line of $33,495 after factoring in a $775 destination charge.
Standard in all trims is XM Satellite radio (with three months of free subscription) and six-speaker AM/FM/compact disc player with MP3 capabilities. Other notable standard features are climate control functions for the second row, rear window defroster and cruise control. A second-row DVD entertainment system is optional in LT and LTZ trims while an in-dash navigation system is optional in 2LT and LTZ trims. Optional in up- level LTZ and 2LT is a 10-speaker sound system with USB ports. Sunroofs are optional in LT and LTZ.
The creatively-designed instrument panel illuminates with blue-green backlighting at night. Two independent, trapezoid-shaped deep-set analog gauges flank a small fuel gauge with a digital message window at the top. Front wipers monitor from the turn signal stalk (mounted on the manually-adjustable tilt-telescoping steering column) while the rear blade activates from a toggle switch towards the bottom of the dashboard center stack. Above are three easy to grab dials monitoring ventilation functions which themselves are below the sound system. Atop is a handy storage compartment with pop-up cover meshing nicely with the overall design. Brushed aluminum accents form a "Y" design that branches out from the center stack.
Seating is theatre style so the third row is higher than the second. My six-foot frame fit in row three without knocking my noggin on the ceiling, a nice touch for a normally cramped area. With the third row prone, a couple of golf bags can fit behind adding to versatility. Second row seats incorporate a 60/40 bench split in LS and LT trims. These seats easily slide forward as the cushion folds upward, providing a decent entry way into row three. Second row captain chairs are optional in LT and standard in LTZ. The third row features a manually folding 60/40 bench and when not in use, seatbacks fold flat into the floor. Three adults easy fit in row two and for short trips can squeeze into the back stretch. No power folding seats are available in row three. Cloth seating comes standard in LS and LT while leather appointed seating is an LTZ staple.
Drivers enjoy a high seating position and a great view of the road in front and to the sides thanks to generous window dimensions. Rear side doors open wide enough for easy entry into row two or three. Grab handles are found on some interior pillars, none on the ceiling. Why not both locations for those less mobile needing a lift? If a large glove box fits your lifestyle, Traverse delivers with a non-sectioned storage design.
Between the front bucket seats are the floor mounted six-speed automatic transmission and dual , in-line cup holders along with a deep storage bin (capable of handling a laptop computer) reaching to the floor. Beverage holders are also molded into each side door. Cruise control functions are mounted onto the steering wheel at 3 o'clock while redundant stereo controls are found at 9 o'clock. Seats are supportive, not overly soft and keep drivers tucked in. Brakes are not overly sensitive with enough play to feel comfortable.
A power rear hatch door is standard in 2LT and top-level LTZ. Up level LTZ also features dual exhaust while other trims sport a single version. Seventeen-inch all-season tires come standard in LS while 18-inch varieties are the LT norm. H-rated 20-inch rubber adorns LTZ. A great touch are small, square blind spot concaves tucked into the outside upper corners of the relatively large side view mirrors. This provides a quick visual sweep of anything tagging along close to the vehicle's sides. In front, a honeycomb grille gets sliced in half with a horizontal bar with Chevy bow tie logo front and center. The five-sided rear window has an arrowhead design.
Safety features include daytime running lights, traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, frontal and side-impact air bags for driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags for all three rows. A rear parking assist, which sends an audible 'beep' out when in reverse and approaching an object, comes standard in LT and LTZ trims. Of course, as with just about every GM vehicle, one year of OnStar service comes standard. OnStar is GM's easy-to-use, in-vehicle communication system linking occupants with a 24-hour manned center. No tutorials or pre-programmed robot voices. Push a button located on the rear view mirror to connect with a real live person for emergencies or directions.
Traverse sports GM's five-year 100,000-mile powertrain warranty which is transferable to subsequent owners, adding to the resale value.
Traverse's advanced V-6 combines fuel efficiency and smoothness. It was never designed to challenge a Camaro from a standing start especially when carrying seven passengers. However, if three rows are needed for family and room behind the last row is a must for stuff, Traverse and its siblings are a must try. It's a well thought out vehicle.