General Motors hopes to satisfy the needs and wants of both minivan and SUV buyers with the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse CUV. The crossover that debuted last year at the Chicago Auto Show has 10 cup holders, seating for 7, a potent direct injected V6, optional 4 wheel drive, third row seating and promises return on average 20 miles per gallon. Starting at just under $30,000 the Traverse is an attractable package that offers the amenities of a minivan with the outward appearance of an SUV.
The large grill is the first thing that you see on the Traverse and it is distinctly Chevrolet. The opening is cut in half by a horizontal bar that displays a bowtie front and center. The piece is almost identical to the grill of the Chevrolet Malibu and hints at a possible design theme for the future.
The headlights are large and like the Malibu, sweep back into the fenders integrating the amber side markers into the unit. The side mirrors are sharp and stylish. Their slender shape and sharp edges give them a very modern feel. This is highlighted by the series of LEDs that make up the integrated turn signal. A forward thinking idea is the side mirrors that incorporate even smaller mirrors to eliminate blind spots.
The Chevrolet Traverse has a very slanted front windshield, but unlike a minivan does not continue to slope down at the hood. Instead the hood runs almost parallel with the ground and continues forward to a very elegant point. The crease in the center adds rigidity to the large sheet of metal and disappears by the time it crosses in between the windshield squirters.
When looking down the side of the Traverse you will notice a slight bulge above the rear wheel. It is like the vehicle wants to have shape, it wants to have curves, but it must be conservative enough to be a family car. This bump also causes the large uninterrupted glass surface to turn up towards the back of the vehicle giving the profile a sense of motion even when sitting still.
Our Traverse came with large 18 inch six spoke wheels that looked like they were machined from a giant ingot. The six lug nuts and over sized tread blocks on the tires make the Traverse look like a classic American made Chevy truck.
From behind the Traverse has a bubble butt. It is big round and in your face. The tailgate is made from a large curved sheet of metal that can be opened and closed from a distance thanks to the button on the key fob. At the lower part of the tailgate you will find the door handle with one touch opening button and integrated back up camera. The exhaust on the LT is hidden, while the LTZ shows off its dual tailpipes. The shape of the taillights with their round bottoms and sharp edges is another modern design touch for the Chevrolet Traverse. The glass in the tailgate is not as large as it appears from the inside and it would be nice if it could open. Bordering the top of the tailgate is a sporty body colored spoiler with integrated third brake light.
Inside the seats are covered in nice soft leather, and could benefit from more lateral support. The vehicle can be started traditionally with a key or remotely from outside the vehicle with the key fob. The only problem with doing that is you miss the dials sweeping through their range of motion just like a Corvette, it doesn’t really do anything but it is cool to see. The steering wheel is great; to begin with its location is fully adjustable. The rim, where your hands will spend most of their time, is covered in the same soft leather that adorns the seats, inside is a smooth painted piece that is greatly contrasted by the rough plastic that covers the center of the wheel.
The design of the gauge cluster is reminiscent of the Saturn Flextreme concept car. The dials are separated into two sections outlined with a thin piece of trim, this is something we could see more of in the future from GM. There are a host of information screens that the driver can flip through such as oil life, timer, trip odometers, average speed, and average miles per gallon... My favorite was the fuel economy gauge, watching the green bars disappear as I opened the throttle, and then return when I let off was a guilty pleasure I indulged in while driving the Traverse.
In the center of the dash is a hidden storage compartment that opens up with the touch of a button. Below it you will find a standard GM satellite radio with too many controls for its own good. Optional is a navigation system that will display the image from the back up camera, on vehicles without navigation the monitor is integrated into the left side of the rear view mirror. That is also where you will find everything Onstar. The shift lever is covered in a combination of leather and painted plastic that is up to par with the rest of the interior, quite possibly the best feature is the knob mounted gear selector. Continuing on down are two cup holders that are elegantly finished with a shiny metallic bezel. Keep going and you will find a large storage compartment in the center console.
From the driver’s seat the entire dash is finished nicely with a thin painted piece of trim that begins above the door handles and continues across the dash and flows down either side of the center stack. All surfaces that are not covered in leather or accented with metal are nice smooth painted pieces.
The second row consists of two individual captain’s chairs, ensuring that legroom is not an issue between siblings on road trips. The rear seats fold down with the pull of a chord and can even fold completely flat.
Helping out with entertainment is a flip down DVD monitor complete with wireless headphones. Right below the rear air conditioning and radio controls are a 12 Volt cigarette lighter outlet, RGB inputs for a game console and a standard three pronged wall socket to power more household items.
The third row can seat three across and has the ability to fold flat as well. A nice touch are the straps attached to the back of either side of the third row seats. This makes it easier to raise the last row without having to climb all over the vehicle. Trunk space is a little tight with all of the seats up, but folding the third row down solves that problem in no time at all.
Overall the interior is well finished and comfortable. The use of soft tones and modern contrasts create a soothing pleasant environment, perfect for daily commutes or even long drives.
The Traverse is powered by a 3.6 liter direct injection V6. This provides the Chevrolet with more power and better fuel economy than its GM cousins (Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook all use traditional multi port fuel injection and make 275 HP and 251 lb-ft of torque.) The LT has 281 HP and 253 lb-ft of torque while the twin tail piped LTZ makes a few more ponies (288 HP and 255 lb-ft of torque).
The automatic transmission is a little slow to downshift on its own, but when the gear selector is in “L” you can use the + and - buttons on the shifter to have a lot of fun changing gears with your thumb. The acceleration is tremendous, almost overpowering, but sufficient for the Traverse to tow 5,200 pounds while fully loaded with passengers and cargo.
While not towing the maximum capacity, General Motors claims that the Chevrolet Traverse will return 16 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway. We observed a combined economy of 20 MPG, quite impressive for a car this size with this much pickup.
The suspension is set up to be comfortable in city driving and is smooth on the highway. However when turning the vehicle exhibits a bit of body roll, coupled with the elevated seating position makes the driver lean in sharp turns.
The brakes are more than adequate for trips to the grocery store or for dropping the kids off at soccer practice. However we wish that the brakes were more responsive, because the Traverse is such a heavy vehicle at nearly 5000 pounds, it takes a lot of stopping power to bring the crossover to a halt. At times the brakes felt a little soft. This forces the driver to look ahead, anticipate changes in traffic and prepare to brake early.
The Chevrolet Traverse is a very fun car, quite possibly even better from the back seat than behind the wheel. The entertainment options, comfortable seating, quality materials and spacious interior make it the perfect people mover. From the outside the vehicle is very pleasing to the eye, from the Malibu style grill to the sculpted side mirrors to the slight bulge in the rear quarter panel the exterior design hints at being more than just another family vehicle. The engine is another forward thinking move by Chevrolet. By adding direct fuel injection to the V6 the engineers at GM made no sacrifices, gaining horsepower and increasing fuel economy. The Chevrolet Traverse is a great alternative for someone who does not want to face the reality that they need a minivan.