• Nov 13th 2008 at 12:00PM
  • 41

2009 Chevy Traverse LT – Click above for high-res image gallery

After months of reviewing only family-oriented transportation, this particular blogger began a streak of judging high-horsepower sports coupes. It's damn near impossible to complain about something with more power than anyone should ever need, but after a while my family got tired of trying to shoehorn five-year-old twins into the cramped back seat of a coupe. That's why we were most relieved to see that the 2009 Chevy Traverse was ready for a run in the Autoblog Garage.

The Traverse is the latest though maybe not last Lambda crossover, and since it dons General Motors' high volume Bow Tie badging, it's likely the most significant, as well. It is GM's least expensive eight-passenger crossover while also carrying the distinction of being the most efficient and most powerful Lambda. Does that make the Traverse the best of GM's Lambda litter? We took on the massive people hauler for a week to find out for ourselves.

Photos copyright ©2008 Chris Shunk/Weblogs, Inc.

Our option-free Silver Ice Metallic Chevy Traverse LT carried a MSRP of $31,545. The LT is one trim level above the bone-stock LS, yet includes standard features like a power drivers seat, upgraded information center and leather wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls. Every Traverse also includes standard features like a 288-hp direct-inject V6, six-speed automatic and six airbags.

The exterior of the new Traverse looks quite a bit like the Buick Enclave, GM's top-of-the-line Lambda-based CUV, in that it shares a D-Pillar, lift gate and a similarly shaped front grille. From 50 feet away, the Traverse appears to be a mild-mannered mid-sized crossover, but closer inspection shows that this 5,000-pound vehicle is actually huge. In fact, at 205 inches stem to stern, the Traverse is roughly the same size as the full-size Chevy Tahoe SUV. Massive P255/65R18 tires give the Traverse the look of a traditional body-on-frame SUV, but a uni-body structure and efficient V6 engine help this eight-seater achieve best-in-class efficiency.

GM's 3.6L V6 engine gets a thorough makeover under the hood of the Traverse, with a higher compression ratio of 11.3:1 and direct injection for improved power and economy. The end result is a horsepower bump from 275 in the Enclave to 288 in the Traverse. The most noticeable difference comes in torque, though, as the Traverse packs 270 lb-ft, which is 19 lb-ft more than the Enclave. Where the Enclave felt heavy at takeoff, the Traverse is more sprightly and you can feel the difference in the mid-range of the torque band and when passing on the freeway. The direct-inject engine also provides excellent fuel economy with EPA numbers of 17 around town and 24 on the highway. We managed 20.4 mpg in mixed driving, which is impressive considering the Traverse's sheer heft.

Another area in which Chevy engineers improved the Traverse versus it's in-family competition was by infusing it with more engaging driving characteristics. The chassis feels tighter than the Enclave's and exhibits less body roll than its more expensive sibling. Of course, we're still talking about a 5,000-lb, eight-passenger vehicle, so we didn't feel excited enough to set up a slalom course in the mall parking lot. We did, however, appreciate how the Traverse drove on extended trips with the family in tow. Speaking of towing, while we didn't pull anything during our review, fellow Autoblogger Sam Abuelsamid was able to tow a 4,200-lb boat with relative ease during a preview drive of the Traverse at the Milford Proving Grounds. This CUV's added grunt and 3.16 axle enables owners to pull up to 5,200 lbs without much hassle, which is also best-in-class in this segment.

The Traverse looks good enough and handles itself well on the open road, but the real charm of this eight passenger crossover lies on the inside. Our LT1 tester didn't have frills like navigation or a DVD player, but it did pack plenty of functionality and enough room to render a U-Haul obsolete. Step into the cabin of the Traverse and the first thing you notice is the huge, comfy captain's chair. At 240 lbs, I almost get lost in this thing, so someone of less substantial dimensions may feel a bit overmatched behind the wheel.

GM has done an exemplary job of creating an appealing, easy to read instrument panel with soft green lighting that really sticks out at night. We're still not big fans of the positioning of the redundant controls on the steering wheel, as our palms kept inadvertently hitting buttons that change the channel on the radio each time we needed to make a sharp turn.

The second and third rows of the Traverse are big, and even adults can get reasonably comfortable in the way back bench. It was also nice that we could fit copious amounts of groceries behind the third row, which is damn near impossible with much of the competition. Flip down the second and third row and you've got tons of space to haul just about anything. The Traverse swallowed a 52-inch LCD whole during its time with us and had room left over to accommodate a surround sound system. Try doing that in a Tahoe without physically removing seats from the cabin.

The Traverse doesn't have the sex appeal of its big bro' Buick Enclave, or competition like the Ford Flex for that matter, but it has the flexibility, efficiency and affordability to draw plenty of families into a local Chevy dealer. It's one of the very few crossovers on the market that delivers seating for eight, huge amounts of cargo space and fuel economy that easily bests that of body-on-frame SUVs from yesteryear. As a matter of fact, we question the need for GM to offer the Tahoe Two-Mode Hybrid given the fact that the Traverse has far superior interior packaging, better road manners, similar fuel economy and a price tag that is $20,000 less.

Photos copyright ©2008 Chris Shunk/Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago

      The thing is this could cannibalize sales from the Enclave the only hot Buick right now.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It was Car and Driver magizine for their November issue, not Motor Trend.
      • 6 Years Ago

      I hope and pray that I never have the need to carry 7 passengers with me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      There's one of these at the dealership next door to my house. I'm not much of an SUV guy, but I think these things actually look pretty sharp.
      • 6 Years Ago
      that cluster setup looks very audi cloned.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just drove one of these, too -- a loaded FWD LTZ model that stickered at over $41K. I like the Lambdas -- I like their interior packaging and I think they ride nicely -- but $41K for a loaded Traverse, when you can get the substantially nicer-looking Enclave (sticking with GM, just for the sake of the argument here) for that kind of money, is nuts.

      Also annoying: the panel fits for the doors and main IP trim didn't line up well. On the driver's side, there was a pretty good gap even with the door closed, while on the passenger side, there was less of a gap, but the panels didn't align nicely, so the "wraparound" look the Chevy goes for was screwed. Not what I want to see for $41K. The Traverse is just redundant, in my opinion.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Go sit in an Acura MDX. The Japanese made a name for themselves with thin body panel gaps and tight interiors, so I would expect one of their luxury brand's current top SUVs to represent them well. The dashboard-to-door panel gap is wide enough to stick my whole thumb into with the doors closed, on both sides! This was in a showroom model I sat in, so I know first hand. The Lambda SUVs are much tighter, although I've only sat in the other 3 so far.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Chevy Traverse is a best looking car than Ford Flex. I saw a Ford Flex one Sunday in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, this is one the uggliest car in North America today.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I believe it was Motor Trend that did SUV test a few months ago. Traverse came in 5th out of 6, and it is the newest of the bunch. Needless to say Pilot won.

      They also said that leather in Traverse reminded them of elephant skin.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That was C&D that loved the Pilot, not MT.

        If you read the fine print about C&D's scoring, it really doesn't make sense.

        They score about 30 different aspects - arbitrarily scaled and weighted - and sum the total.

        For a test about utility, cargo space and fuel economy being worth a potential 5 points each (out of a possible 270). Meanwhile, styling is worth a potential 20 points. A $6000 price difference is worth 3 points. "Gotta have it", which is as muddled as it sounds, is worth 25 pts.

        The short answer is weigh their rankings on an individual basis and throw out their conclusions.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Thank God MT stepped in to tell us how great the Pilot is. I had almost begun to think for myself.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Needless to say the Pilot won the MT test because the Subaru Forester did.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Traverse isn't anything special simply because it's nothing but a rehashed Outlook/Acadia/Enclave, but the Pilot should have ranked down there with it, because it's not a good redesign.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ Dan

        Consumers also read those magazines to help them tell which cars to buy. Its all well and good that you read all that, and frankly i appreciate that cuz it is flawed. Its just that the average reader (unfortunately, doesn't really read things thoroughly (which is a whole other pet peeve)) sees the Number 6 in front of this and the number 1 in front of the pilot and draws the Conclusion that 1 is better than 6 so the pilot must be better.

        It kills the American industry. Automobiles are a large investment and people listen to these magazines, which are unfortunately very bias (good or bad).

      • 6 Years Ago
      The Honda Pilot is not what the press says it it is. I have found it to be of questionable quality, loud, and has really bad fuel economy.

      After reading this review, and having spent a week in a Buick Enclave when my Pilot was in the shop I can tell you that I really wish I would have bought one of the GM's (Enclave, Traverse, Acadia, or Saturn) as they have more room, are quieter, better road manners, and better economy ( I got 24 mpg at 80 mph average in SoCal, can't do that in my Pilot) and has to be better quality as in the last six months my Pilot has been in the shop four times.

      When will the media stop with its Japanese bias!
        • 6 Years Ago
        you should have done your research before you jumped on the Pilot, which is also the ugliest of the bunch in it's class

        The Traverse should have been the Trailblazer back in early 2000, and that would have been the best at that time,
        now it's just the wrong time with the downturn in the economy
      • 6 Years Ago
      Heh, I hauled a 52" LCD in my Mazda3 hatchback (and I was still able to drive with a fair bit of ease even being 6'1"), so the fact you can do it in an 8 passenger vehicle isn't much to brag about. Still, nice to know you don't have to pull the seats.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Meh I've put big ole TVs in my Suburban, No need to fold down or remove any seats, there's enough room behind the third row ;).

        I'm a domestic fan, but I can't love Traverse (or any Lambda) They're too wedge-shaped for me and they're wrong-wheel drive. If I was forced into a crossover, I'd opt for the Flex, which at least has a slick exterior design.

        That said this is hardly a replacement for my Suburban.
        • 6 Years Ago
        There is no replacement for Suburban, and there never will be. Ford tried with the Excursion and it failed. Suburban has a 70+ year history and it's such a niche vehicle that nothing will replace it. It's huge and it's not for everyone. But for those you drive them, nothing can replace it. I basically learned to drive in a Suburban and I love them. I just can't justify it for driving just myself, much less afford to drive it for just myself.

        GM isn't going to go away, and neither is the Suburban.
        • 6 Years Ago
        RWD is not going to turn a 5,000 8-seater into a sports car. Why does it matter which wheels are driven? You worried about losing grip accelerating out of the Corkscrew?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I love Chevy, but I would never get this. I have never said this about any Chevy except for the Aveo- it looks bad. The only thing I hate about lambdas is the plastic at the bottom, and the GMC and this have it bad. The towing, fuel economy and power is good, but seeing how good the Traverse's specs are, I just think that type of quality should have been added to the 3 Lambdas, and a Chevy Counterpart should have never been made.

      I hope it sells well, though.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I think I would have skipped the Outlook and the Acadia and concentrated on the Enclave and the Traverse. This way there would be less redundancy with a "luxury" version and a more economical version. This is one of GM's biggest problems, too much redundancy. But the lambda platform is yielding some best in class results.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I am actually very impressed with the review of this vehicle. If I was in the market for a large cross-over SUV, this would probably be my first choice, and I'm usually a Ford guy. Also, my brother's girlfriend drive's a Honda Pilot, and that vehicle is NOT very impressive.
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