2010 Chevrolet Traverse Expert Review:Autoblog
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.
At the Chicago Auto Show, Chevrolet rolled out the fourth and hopefully final member of its Lambda crossover family, the new Traverse. By the way, according to Chevrolet the proper pronunciation puts the emphasis on the second syllable. Like its Saturn, GMC and Buick siblings, the new Traverse is a full-size vehicle that is almost the same size as the Tahoe. That means it has seating for up to eight occupants, although three in the last row is a bit of a squeeze.
GM invited the media out to its Milford Proving Ground last week for a first drive of the Traverse, which of course we attended on your behalf. We had the chance to sample the big CUV in several different scenarios against what the marketing staff consider its main competitor, the Toyota Highlander. We ran the Chevy and Toyota back to back on the ride road, the skid pad, a lane change and slalom course and while towing a 4,200-lb boat. Check out how the Traverse fared after the jump.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
The new Traverse is the only member of the Lambda family not built at GM's Delta Township assembly plant in Lansing, MI. Once the company decided that future Saturns would primarily be re-badged Opels, the Spring Hill, TN plant that was once the home of GM's "different kind of car company" became available. The Traverse is the first non-Saturn vehicle ever built at Spring Hill and the first without a plastic body.
Unlike the 1980s and '90s, GM has finally learned how to give its platform-sharing vehicles distinctive looks that go beyond a different grille and taillights. Of course, within the confines of a CUV wagon body style there is only so much you can do, although Ford has managed to spin some even more distinctive looks from its platform stablemates. You couldn't tell by looking at them, for instance, that the Taurus X and Flex share the same architecture. If you squint, however, the same general profile shared by all of GM's Lambda CUVs is present and accounted for on the Traverse.
Nonetheless, Chevrolet designers have managed to incorporate themes of current bow-tie vehicles into this big wagon. The big twin-port grille inspired by the Malibu works well on the Traverse, giving it a smooth yet still aggressive look. Don Butler, Executive Director of Chevy Truck Marketing, highlighted the aerodynamics of the Traverse with a drag coefficient of 0.33 that's made possible by details like the full width front air dam. The lower edge of the air dam even has a bit of splitter, helping divert air around instead of under the vehicle.
Of course, what Butler neglected to mention was that vehicle drag has two components, the drag coefficient and the frontal area. No matter how low the Cd of the Traverse, a big high-riding crossover or SUV still has to move a lot of air out of the way. That said, every little bit helps. On the outside, GM at least put a lot of effort into the details, like 3.5mm door gaps that contribute to the CUVs quality appearance.
On the inside, the Traverse gets the full array of equipment people expect in modern vehicles, like side curtain airbags for the full length of the vehicle, including the third row. The dashboard design also carries over themes from the Malibu with a sweeping twin cockpit look. Unfortunately, the Traverse seems to have a lot more visible seams than its competitors and the quality of the plastics on these pre-production samples looks and feels less than stellar.
One new feature of the Traverse is blind spot mirrors. Rather than those expensive blind spot sensors being offered increasingly on other vehicles that flash a light in the mirror when another vehicle is in your blind spot, the Traverse has a small wide-angle mirror embedded in the outer top corner of the standard wing mirrors. The wide angle mirror gives you a good look at what's tucked in behind you.
Unlike the Highlander, the Traverse actually has some usable space behind its third-row seat. In a demonstration with the third-row seat up, Butler wasn't even able to put a single golf bag into the Toyota and close the hatch. The Traverse, meanwhile, is able to accommodate several suitcases or a couple of golf bags.
Where the Traverse really shines is its driving dynamics. This is the first Lambda CUV to get the direct injected version of GM's 3.6L V6. The new fuel delivery system boosts output from 270 hp/248 lb-ft up to 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Besides beefing up the mid-range torque and general responsiveness, the changes boost city mileage for the front-wheel-drive version from 16 to 17 mpg. The highway number, however, remains unchanged at 24 mpg. The numbers for the AWD version are 16 city/23 highway mpg.
The Traverse is available with 17-,18- and 20-inch wheel/tire combinations with the 17- and 20- inchers being unique to the Chevy. The suspension has been re-tuned for the new rolling stock and, compared to the Outlook we drove last year, the Traverse feels more responsive on the road. While the Outlook felt ponderous and heavy, the Traverse feels lighter on its feet. Running through a sweeping corner at 70 mph, it felt stable and tied down. Over rough pavement, the body felt solid and free of rattles. Bumps never unsettled the big wagon. By contrast, the Highlander felt more unsettled and the hood and front fenders were visibly quivering at high speeds.
When we got over to the wet skid-pad to test the stability control, the Traverse was again clearly superior. The brake intervention of the stability control felt seamless and simply guided the vehicle where it was pointed. The Highlander seemed intent on slowing the vehicle and really only responded well to the first steering input. In a double lane change, it understeered heavily on the second steering input going back to the original lane. Like other Toyotas, the Highlander's stability control also had an annoying beep when active.
Moving over to dry pavement, the Traverse got through the double lane change with minimal body roll and drama. For a 5,000-lb wagon, the Traverse proved quite capable of changing direction quickly. The steering wasn't as lifeless as some other recent vehicles we've tried and even provided a hint of feedback. This is certainly not a sporting vehicle, but if you must drive a big crossover, it's better than most.
The final test was towing. Chevrolet had a Traverse and Highlander for us to drive, each with a 4,200-lb boat hooked up. The Chevrolet has a 5,200-lb tow rating, a 700-lb improvement over the other Lambdas, while the Toyota is rated at 5,000 lbs. Neither vehicle, however, has trailer sway control available. While the 5,000-lb rating of the Highlander seems impressive, there is actually a pretty significant limitation to this that was pointed out by a Chevrolet engineer. Buried in the owners manual of the Toyota is a warning not to exceed 45 mph when towing. No such restriction exists for the Chevrolet. Accelerating up a mild grade with the boat was possible with both vehicles, although the Chevrolet seemed to strain less. From 60 mph, both vehicles were able to slow to a stop without difficulty.
Overall the enhanced engine gives the Traverse added capability over its Lambda siblings, and in many ways it's superior to alternatives from other manufacturers. Its driving dynamics are very good for such a large and heavy vehicle, surprising even. The Traverse is the least expensive of the Lambda quartet and, for the moment, the most powerful. We'll reserve judgment on the fit and finish of the interior until production models appear this fall and we get one in the Autoblog Garage. Job 1 is currently scheduled for early September with an on-sale at the end of that same month. The big question, of course, is with gas above $4 a gallon, will there be enough of a demand for vehicles of this type to keep another assembly plant humming along?
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Excellent choice for hauling a family.
Chevy Traverse is a large crossover SUV. Benefitting from a strong unit-body structure, it makes big, clunky, truck-based SUVs practically obsolete, at least when it comes to moving people and cargo. More stylish than minivans and far more fuel and space efficient than truck-based SUVs, crossovers like the Traverse are excellent family vehicles.
The Chevy Traverse shares its powertrain and platform with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, and it offers seven- or eight-passenger capacity and plenty of cargo space. For years, buyers have sacrificed fuel economy and driving pleasure for size, ride height, and cargo capacity, but the Traverse offers a fine blend of all those traits.
On the road, the Traverse is surprisingly nimble. It handles more like a family sedan than like a big SUV. The steering is direct and responsive, if light, and the brakes are easy to modulate. The ride is comfortable and much more stable than that of large SUVs, which can often bound and lean. The Traverse is large, though, so it can be bulky in parking lot and parallel parking maneuvers.
Power is more than adequate. The Traverse comes with a 3.6-liter V6 that moves it ably from a stop and provides decent passing punch. It makes 281 horsepower, or 288 with the available dual exhaust system. The Traverse comes standard with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy numbers are better than those of most truck-type SUVs, but they're less than for the average family car. Given the Traverse's spacious interior and eight-passenger capacity, the fuel economy is quite good. Though no lightweight, the Traverse is significantly lighter than the Tahoe, allowing the Traverse to deliver superior fuel economy and handling.
Inside, the Traverse offers best-in-class space. The second- and third-row seats fold flat to open up a generous cargo area. Even with all the seats up, there is enough room behind the third row for a week's worth of groceries, and an available power liftgate makes it easy to access those groceries.
The controls are easy to reach and operate. Cloth or leather, the front seats are comfortable and supportive. Room in the first and second rows is plentiful, and the third row is bigger than most and is even useful for adults. The dashboard is attractive, but there's more obvious plastic inside than we'd like at this price point.
If you're coming out of a Chevy Tahoe or Dodge Durango, you'll be quite pleased with the Traverse. It's much more pleasant to drive than those vehicles, thanks to dramatically improved ride and handling. Plus, it gets better mileage and is more space efficient on the inside. In short, the Chevy Traverse is an excellent family vehicle.
For 2010, the only change is that a USB port is included with upgrade sound systems. Located in the center console, it connects portable music devices to the vehicle’s audio system and charges batteries of some hand-held items.
The 2010 Chevrolet Traverse is offered in LS, LT, and LTZ trim levels, each with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). LS and LT models have a 281-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Dual exhaust boosts power in LTZ models to 288 horsepower.
The Traverse LS FWD ($29,224) and LS AWD ($31,224) come with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, four-way manually adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, three-passenger split-folding second-row seat, three-passenger split-folding third-row seat, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, XM satellite radio, automatic headlights, roof rails, one year of OnStar assistance, and P245/70R17 tires on steel wheels. Traverse 1LT FWD ($31,745) and 1LT AWD ($33,745) models add an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, heated power mirrors with turn signals, a trip computer, rear park assist, and P255/65R18 tires on alloy wheels. Traverse 2LT FWD ($34,325) and 2LT AWD ($36,325) models get three-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, second-row captain's chairs for seven-passenger seating, Bose 10-speaker audio system with subwoofer, rear radio controls, rearview camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, a power rear liftgate and other features.
The Traverse LTZ FWD ($37,985) and LTZ AWD ($39,985) have leather upholstery, rearview camera, heated and cooled front seats, four-way power front passenger seat, memory for the driver's seat and mirrors, P255/55R20 tires on alloy wheels and numerous additional features.
Options include the navigation system ($1,890), which comes with the Bose sound system and a rearview camera; leather upholstery ($1,775); remote engine starting ($265). Other options include a Cargo Convenience package ($130) with a rear cargo cover and cargo net; Trailering package ($525) with a heavy-duty engine cooler and a trailer hitch; two-panel sunroof ($1,400) with a fixed rear panel; a DVD rear entertainment system ($2,430) that includes the Bose sound system, rear audio controls, and a 110-volt outlet; a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system ($2,010); chrome side steps ($635).
Safety features include dual front airbags, torso-protecting front side airbags, head-protecting side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitor, traction control and electronic stability control with rollover mitigation. Rear park assist and a rearview camera are optional.
Chevrolet says the Traverse is bigger than midsize truck-based SUVs such as the Chevy Trailblazer and is only slightly shorter than a Chevy Tahoe full-size SUV. The Traverse shares its architecture with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. Though large, the Traverse has a soft, sleek, modern appearance.
Up front, the Traverse features an attractive version of Chevrolet's split grille. The headlights start next to the grille and wrap around the front fenders. Horizontal fog lights mirror the headlights about six inches lower. A black air dam below the grille gives the front end a dark lower face. A peak at the center of the hood continues down through the grille and fascia, adding a touch of character.
From the side, the Traverse appears to have short overhangs for an SUV. The window line rises to the rear and that angle increases at the rear windows. A character line is located about a third of the way up each door, and the black front fascia is picked up along the sides by black plastic over the rocker panels. Large wheels and tires keep everything in proportion. Up top, the Traverse has black roof rails and an available two-panel sunroof with a fixed rear panel and an opening front panel.
At the rear, the Traverse features dark tailgate glass that dips down toward the center. The tailgate lifts up and does not have a separate opening glass. The center peak from the front is repeated here, as is the black lower fascia treatment. The total design is well thought out, smooth and stylish.
Inside, the Chevy Traverse makes great use of its best-in-class space. Cloth or leather, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, with lots of head and leg room.
The second-row bench seat fits three adults easily and there is plenty of head and leg room. For greater comfort, buyers can opt for second-row captain's chairs; and a second-row center console is available in the LTZ model.
The third row is easy to access because the second row tilts and slides forward. With the second-row captain's chairs, there is a handy walkthrough to the third row. Three children can ride comfortably in the third row, and there is also enough head and leg room for two adults to fit back there. Adults won't be comfortable during long trips, though, because of the low height of the seat cushions.
In terms of cargo space, the Traverse has more room behind the third-row seat (24.4 cubic feet) than any midsize SUV, and GM provides a handy, though shallow, under-floor bin. With the second and third rows folded down, cargo volume is an impressive 116.4 cubic feet, near the top of the class and almost eight cubic feet more than in the full-size Tahoe. Those two rear rows fold easily, each with the flick of a lever, creating a nearly flat load floor. A strap on each section of the split third-row bench makes it easy to pull the seatbacks upright from the tailgate area. An available power rear liftgate also eases access to the cargo area.
Getting in and out is easy because the Traverse sits lower than traditional truck-based SUVs. Still, the driver is perched higher than in a car and therefore has a clear view of the road ahead. Visibility to the front is generally good, but the Traverse is bigger than it feels, so it can be tough to see over the driver's right shoulder and objects immediately behind might be hidden from view. With this in mind, it makes sense to get the rearview camera. Not only does it add an element of safety, helping avoid the tragic mistake of backing over a child, it also proves to be highly useful in everyday parking situations, making maneuvering in tight quarters easier and quicker.
Up front, the driver is surrounded by an attractively designed dashboard that has nice graining but uses more hard plastics than customers might expect for a vehicle in this price range. The instrument cluster has two deep-set pods with electroluminescent gauges on a black background. It's easy to read and never washes out in bright sunlight.
The center stack features a navigation screen or the radio, plus the climate controls. All of the controls are clearly marked and easy to reach. The radio has an audio input jack but no iPod interface. Models equipped with the navigation system and rearview camera show the camera's image on the navigation screen. The rearview camera is available without the navigation screen, in which case a smaller image is shown on the rearview mirror. We've found this type of setup of little use. In a messy Chicago winter, the camera lens became speckled with dirt and salt, making the image hard to see in the rearview mirror. A larger image on the navigation screen would have been easier to see and more helpful. We recommend the full navigation screen with the rearview camera system.
There is plenty of storage for small items throughout the cabin. The front center console has a deep bin on the bottom and another shallow bin on top. The top section slides forward and back to act as an adjustable armrest. There are cup and bottle holders galore, including two on the center console, one in each front door, and two in each rear door.
For years, buyers have sacrificed fuel economy and driving pleasure for size, ride height, and cargo capacity. Now, you can have it all, or at least most of it. Riding a 118.9-inch wheelbase and measuring about 201 inches in length, the Chevy Traverse is among the largest in the midsize SUV class, and it approaches the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe in overall size. It is also among the heaviest midsize SUVs, but it weighs 600 pounds less than the Tahoe. That's a big difference, and less weight means better fuel economy, handling and braking.
Anyone coming out of a full-size SUV or a truck-based midsize SUV will find the Traverse much more pleasant to drive. Despite its two-and-a-half ton curb weight, the Traverse is surprisingly nimble. It handles more like a family sedan than a Chevy Tahoe. While the steering is somewhat light, it is direct and responsive, not flaccid and slow like in the Tahoe, Yukon and Suburban.
The ride is comfortable and stable, and it lacks the floppiness and bounding common in truck-based SUVs. The Traverse does not pound over bumps, even with the available 20-inch wheels. The brakes are easy to modulate and provide worry-free emergency stops.
Still, the Traverse sits fairly high and weighs a lot, so occupants notice some head toss in turns and the highway ride is less stable than in a family sedan or a smaller, sportier crossover. The overall size also makes it somewhat bulky in parking lot and parallel parking maneuvers.
Power comes from GM's dual-overhead cam 3.6-liter V6, which makes 281 horsepower. In the LTZ, the engine has dual exhaust, which raises output to 288 horsepower. Coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, the V6 motivates the Traverse quite ably. Throttle response is predictable and smooth. Shifts are also smooth, but the transmission is sometimes too willing to shift to the next gear, leaving you wanting more power when you need it for passing or hills.
The 3.6-liter V6 also provides better fuel economy than you'll get in most truck-based SUVs. EPA fuel economy ratings for front-drive models are 17 mpg city and 24 highway. With all-wheel drive, those numbers drop to 16/23 mpg.
Towing capacity is 5,200 pounds, which means light boats, or maybe a car on a trailer. Truck-based SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe or TrailBlazer, Explorer or Expedition, Nissan Armada, or Toyota Sequoia can tow up to 9,000 pounds, making them better for towing bigger boats, heavier car trailers and enclosed trailers. Given the Traverse's pleasant road manners and efficient use of interior space, the extra towing capacity is the main reason to buy one of those larger truck-based alternatives.
The Chevy Traverse is an excellent family vehicles and is reasonably priced. If you're buying a family mover, these vehicles are more stylish than a minivan and more practical and efficient than a truck-based SUV. In fact, they make truck-based SUVs practically unnecessary for anyone who doesn't need the extra towing capacity.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Chicago.
Chevy Traverse LS ($29,224), AWD ($31,224); LT ($31,745), AWD ($33,745); LTZ FWD ($37,985), AWD ($39,985).
Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Options As Tested
leather upholstery ($1,775); 2LT Package ($2,580) includes tri-zone climate control w rear controls, Bose 10-speaker audio, power liftgate, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rearview camera, second-row captain's chairs for 7-passenger seating; rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,445) includes XM NavTraffic, USB port; trailering package ($525); dual SkyScape sunroof ($1,400); remote engine starting ($260).
Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD ($33,745).
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