The Chevy Traverse had an identity complex during its first 8 years of life, with the first-gen model being a weird blend of crossover and minivan with GM’s old, not-so-attractive styling inside and out. Fortunately, the 2018 model year became the host of the second-gen Traverse, and it came with a true SUV appearance that doesn’t require the hardcore (and heavy) full-size truck DNA under the metal. As the roomiest three-row SUV on the market without those full-size truck underpinnings, we’ve been wondering how the second-gen Traverse really holds up against competitors like the Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-9. Finally, after two years on the market, we finally got the chance to get behind the wheel to find out for ourselves. This is our experience with the 2020 Chevy Traverse.

  • 2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Transmission:
    9-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    310 @ 6800
  • Torque @ RPM:
    266 @ 2800
  • Displacement:
    3.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    130 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Chevy Traverse Exterior Design

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
- image 867472

The original Chevy Traverse was just downright ugly. It’s like it had an identity complex and didn’t know whether it was a crossover or a minivan, and thought “SUV” doesn’t even come close to resonating with the first-gen Traverse. It was seriously more like the failed Chevy Uplander van than it was a true utility vehicle. And, did I mention that it was ugly? Anyway, the second-gen traverse actually holds true to the SUV nomenclature and now that it has a boxier, but sporty appearance, it’s much more attractive. The front end features a flat face with a dual-grille design. This design allows for placement of the bowtie on the front of the face without having to hamper overall design. The headlights are sleek and feature a unique design across all segments.

Since we have the High Country trim level, we have a little more chrome than others, but the gloss black grille louvers up front really help to offset how flashing this chrome can get.

Oddly enough, the shape of the grille reminds me a lot of what Audi is offering now, but that’s a good thing. The hood is rather uneventful with nothing more than mild body lines, but that’s also a good thing as too much here would really hurt the Traverse’s look.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
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Now that the Traverse doesn’t have the weird and bubbly, rounded roof, it actually looks the part of a true SUV. This becomes even more evident when you glance at the side, which is, more or less, pretty attractive. From this view, the placement of chrome is far less liberal, but there’s still enough to keep the appearance tasteful. The thicker portion of trim on the rear-most glass of the rear doors is a little too thick, in our opinion, but luckily that thickness doesn’t carry over to the rest of the side glass. The rear quarter glass blends in very nicely thanks to some fine machinery work and lack of any real gap at all between the glass and the C-Pillar. Despite the fact that the doors sit right in the middle of the Traverse (if you count nose to rear), it feels like the rear half of the traverse is very long, but that’s thanks to the full-size rear doors. The rear end has a rather long overhang, but you should be thankful as that makes for more cargo room and that third row of seats.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
- image 867500

The rear end of the Traverse evokes the traditional and boxy SUV appearance, but it does so with only minor touches of aggressiveness or sportiness.

The taillights are big and bulky, while the matrix inside helps them appear smaller than they are.

A single chrome strip adorns the rear hatch and the rear fascia while a flat-black trim piece fills in the bottom of the rear fascia and accommodates the rectangular exhaust outlets. The darkly tinted rear quarter glass and hatch glass almost appear to be one piece thanks to that matching, gloss black pillar on each side of the hatch. That same trim piece connects to the bottom of the overhang and does give the rear of the traverse a more elegant look.

Overall, we’re completely pleased with the design of the new Traverse over that of the last-gen model. Finally getting to experience it for ourselves for a long period of time has really given the Traverse’s design time to grow on us, and grow it did. It might not be the best-looking SUV on the market, but it does look good, especially for a GM product. Not that we hate GM design, but there was a time when GM really needed to step it up. Finally, Chevy is starting to pull itself together in the design aspect of things, and the evolution of the Traverse proves exactly that.

How Big is the Chevy Traverse?

The Chevy Traverse is bigger than its competition in nearly every category. It measures 204.3-inches long, 78.6-inches wide, 70.7-inches tall, and rides on a 120.9-inch wheelbase.

The Ford Explorer is 0.3-inches wider than the Traverse, but otherwise, the Traverse is the biggest of the bunch. That plays well in terms of interior room and cargo space, but it also means that you need a big garage if you plan on sheltering this baby at night. You’ll need, at the very least, a two-car garage, and you probably need something that’s a little longer than normal if you don’t like nudging your vehicles as close to the back of the garage as possible. Two traverses in a two-car garage would also be a tight fit in terms of width, but it can be done – we just wouldn’t recommend it.

Chevy Traverse Interior Design

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867492

Chevy might not the be premium automaker, but it likes to think it is when it comes to some models The Chevy Traverse, however, in at least some trim levels, does present some premium goodness here and there. Our Traverse tester was the high country trim, so it does feature quite a bit of leather, including perforated seats and center console and proper door trim accommodations. The overall design of the Traverses interior evokes a feeling of spaciousness. The three-tier dash is actually very nicely done, and Chevy managed to blend it into the door trim panels smoothly and elegantly. We’re still not sure about the wood trim or the few bits of cheap plastics here and there, but it isn’t typical GM in any case.

Up front, the center console is relatively wide, leaving little room between the center stack and the shifter when it’s in park.

There is little storage space ahead of the central armrest, but that does open up to provide rather ample space. The infotainment screen is centered directly in the center of the dash and faces straight back. It’s not a bad design, but you do have to reach to hit controls on the right side of the screen. Fortunately, most of the music control functions and phone control functions are located in the lower left-hand corner. The system is question is, luckily, Chevy’s new Infotainment 3 infotainment system. We’ll talk more about that later, but it’s a blast to use.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867487

The second row feels just as spacious as the front and, since our tester had the second-row captain’s chairs, it kind of feels like riding first class back there. These seats are almost identical to the front seats, however, they do sit a little higher has the floor is angled just a bit. This might seem weird at first, but it provides for amazing forward visibility for the second row (not that it matters, in most respects), and it allows for easier viewing out of the side glass since the beltline rises so aggressively across the rear doors. The second row does offer ample adjustment for rear passengers, and frown adults of all sizes will be comfortable here. The only downside is that there is no rear entertainment system, now is there any type of USB or 12-Volt connectivity. Given the space, this would be a good place for a tray table on longer trips or, at the very least, headrest monitors in the front seats.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867486

The third row of seats is laughable in terms of comfort.

They look a lot like the front two rows but offer maybe half the padding and zero support.

You could, in theory, fit three small humans back here, but space will be very tight as the interior trim bows inward because of the wheel arches – the third row sits directly over the rear axle – but legroom with the second-row seats positioned partially forward isn’t bad. Since the roof doesn’t have the trendy and annoying downward slope in the rear, headroom isn’t that bad either – it’s just hip room that’s compromised. The rear seats are, honestly, best for children or younger teenagers, but as a full-grown adult, I didn’t find that row too comfortable. Getting into the third row is possible via two different paths. The second-row seats will slide and fold forward to allow access directly from the door, or you can climb into the second row and venture into the rear between the two captain’s chairs.

Chevy Traverse Interior Dimensions

The Chevy Traverse is a monster when it comes to interior space. Its 204.3-inch width means there is tons of legroom for all occupants, even those in the third row. This is emphasized greatly if you go for the second-row captain’s seats like our High Country tester has. We really wouldn’t recommend sticking with the second-row bench unless you really need to seat 8 people on a regular basis. Your passengers will thank you in the long run.

Chevrolet Traverse vs competition - interior dimensions
Chevrolet Traverse Ford Explorer Mazda CX-9
Front Headroom 41.3 40.7 39.3
Front Shoulder Room 62.1 61.8 57.9
Front Legroom 41 43 41
2nd row Headroom 40 40.5 38.5
2nd row Shoulder room 62.2 61.9 58.1
2nd row Legroom 38.4 39 39.4
3rd row Headroom 38.2 38.9 35.4
3rd row Shoulder room 57.5 54.6 53.1
3rd row Legroom 33.5 32.2 29.7

Chevy Traverse Cargo Room

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867424

With three rows of seating, the interior of the Traverse is very customizable in terms of how much it can carry. With a vehicle full of people, you can still carry 23 cubic-feet of cargo behind the third row – that’s almost 5 cu-ft more than that Ford Explorer and an impressive 8.6 cu-ft more than the CX-9.

If you lay down the third row, your cargo capacity more than doubles to 58.1 cubic-feet – again more than the Ford Explorer with 47.9 cu-ft and the CX-9 with 38.2 cu-ft.

Lay down the second row of seats too, and you’ll have an expansive 98.2 cubic-feet of cargo-carrying capacity – 10.4 cu-ft more than the Explorer and a painful 27 cu-ft more than the Mazda CX-9 can offer on its best day.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867422
Chevrolet Traverse vs competition - cargo room
Chevrolet Traverse Ford Explorer Mazda CX-9
Cargo room behind 3rd row 23 18.2 14.4
Cargo room behind 2nd row; 3rd row folded 58.1 47.9 38.2
Cargo room nd and 3rd rows folded 98.2 87.8 71.2
2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867484

Chevy Traverse Infotainment System

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867490

Chevy’s Infotainment 3 system is the standard offering in the Traverse, and it’s a huge step forward from the system it replaced. The user interface could be a little more interesting, but for intents and purposes, it does its job, and it does it well. Much like we saw on the Chevy Blazer, the same physical button panel carries over, consisting of a power button and volume knob in the middle, the home button on the left, and the back button on the right. The screen itself is pretty much a square, so the Blazer’s is certainly more interesting, but the appearance here, paired with the vent on either side, makes the system seem bigger. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, and you’ll probably want to use them, at least for navigation, as Chevy’s built-in system (it’s still SD card-based, by the way) is definitely showing its age. It’s not bad and might hold up while you’re in the middle of nowhere with no signal, but any other mobile navigation app is inherently better.

The other point to make here is that there is no AUX input jack, so if you want to listen to music from your mobile device, you’ll have to do it via USB or Bluetooth.

Bluetooth worked just fine for us, so that’s nothing to be worried about, and, while paired, if you long-press on the voice button, you can access Siri or Android assistant. And, we did notice that GM finally solved that issue with music playback after accessing Google Assistant, so kudos to the software designers for that.

Overall, the infotainment system is easy to use and is straightforward enough that most people will have no issue getting used to it or learning its various functions.

Chevy Traverse Drivetrain and Performance

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Drivetrain
- image 867493

For 2020 Chevy did a very good thing and dropped the old four-cylinder engine offering from the Traverse lineup.

This is a big deal because the Traverse weighs just over 2 ton and a 255-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder just wasn’t up to the task.

You could almost get up to speed faster in a first-gen Toyota Prius. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but only a little bit – that’s the crazy part. Anyway, back on topic, the Traverse is now only offered with a 3.6-liter V-6 across the entire lineup from the entry-level L trim all the way up to the range-topping High Country trim that landed at Top Speed headquarters this week.

Chevrolet Traverse specifications
Engine 3.6L DOHC direct injection
Transmission Hydra-Matic 9T65 nine-speed automatic
Power Output 310 @ 6800
Torque 266  @ 2800
Driveline FWD
Fuel Gas
Fuel Capacity 19.4
Fuel Economy 17/25/20
0-60 mph 6.9 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph
2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
- image 867478

That 3.6-liter V-6 could offer up more power if we’re being honest, but its 310 horsepower and 266 pound-foot output rating is at least sufficient enough to put it ahead of its main competitors, the Ford Explorer and the Mazda CX-9. It’s paired exclusively to a 9T65 nine-speed automatic transmission that can send power to just the front wheels or to all four wheels depending on how you option it at the time of ordering. You can get up to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds (faster than both the Explorer with a 2.3-liter and the CX-9 with a 2.5-liter), and it tops out at 130 mph – 18-mph shy of the Explorer but on par with the CX-9.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
- image 867465

That is also the Traverse’s fault, however, as that V-6 must compete with the fuel economy of four-cylinders, and it just doesn’t offer what you can get from the competition.

It’s rated at 17 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 combined.

The Explorer beats it by 2 mpg in each category while the CX-9 brutally kills it with 22 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined. The Traverse is the heaviest of the bunch at 4,363 pounds, only marginally losing to the Explorer at 4,345 pounds while the CX-9 comes in much lighter at 4,217 pounds. On the towing front, you can haul a maximum of 5,000 pounds, which is 300 pounds shy of what you can do with the Ford Explorer (it offers more torque) and 1,500 more than what you can do with the CX-9 at 3,500 pounds. Apparently, the Mazda was meant to look good and do little work.

Chevy Traverse Driving Impressions

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
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From the moment we opened the driver’s side door of our High Country tester, we were quite impressed. Sure, the Traverse does have some cheaper, traditional GM bits here and there, but our range-topping tester had a lot of leather, and all three rows were very easy to access – something you can’t say for a lot of three-row models. Getting comfortable in the driver’s seat is quite simple thanks to easy adjustment, and the seating height allows for great forward visibility and, while there are blind spots to the rear, they are easily remedied by the tall side glass and side-view mirrors.

Access to the infotainment system is easy unless you’re reaching for the few controls on the right side of the screen, at which point you do have to reach a bit.

Second-row seating, when equipped with the captain’s chairs, may even be more comfortable than the front seats, while the rearmost seats lack some and could be improved upon. Overall space is fantastic, and I don’t think you can find better cargo room on the market without moving up to something much larger like the Chevy Suburban or something else with truck underpinnings underneath like the Ford Excursion.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Interior
- image 867457

As far as driving goes, the feel of the steering does evoke a sense of confidence, however, be careful not to get overconfident. Because of how smooth the ride is, it’s easy to forget that you’re driving something that’s almost 17-feet long. Overall the Traverse handles moderate bumps and inconsistencies in the road well, but it can get a little clunky and rattly over rougher roads. Road noise is kept to a minimum, though, so you don’t really hear any exterior noise creeping in unless you’re on bad roads. The brake pedal feels good to the foot during light or hard braking, and there is minimal forward tipping when stopping in a hurry.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
- image 867495
Acceleration is pretty adequate for a model this size, however, an optional V-8 with more power would be nice.

It’s not that the 3.6-liter struggles to get the Traverse moving – quite the opposite, actually – but there’s always this little feeling… eh… voice in your head that says there should be a little more oomph to it. We did manage to hit 60 mph in just over seven seconds with the wind at our face, so the rated 6.9-second sprint should be attainable in the right conditions. We didn’t try to hit top speed since we were limited to public roads, but we can admit that the body doesn’t seem to experience a lot of body roll when hitting sharper bends. I wouldn’t recommend doing it on wet or slick pavement, but for a model this size, the Traverse is pretty damn nimble.

How Much Can the Chevy Traverse Tow?

With Chevy’s 3.6-liter V-6 being the only engine offering for the Traverse, you’ll find that all trim levels are capable of hauling 5,000 pounds, but only when equipped with a level 3 towing hitch.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
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Chevy Traverse Pricing

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven
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The Chevy Traverse is available in seven different trim levels, with the entry-level L trim starting at $30,995 and prices increasing incrementally all the way up to the High Country Trim at $52,09 before any taxes, fees, options, etc.

2019 Chevrolet Traverse pricing
L $30,995
LS $34,095
LT Cloth $36,595
LT Leather $40,295
RS $44,795
Premier $46,995
High Country $52,095

Our tester was the High Country Trim, and, as the range-topping trim, it already comes equipped with most options you would consider. You could spend a couple of thousand dollars on various packages. The “Hit the Road” package will give you roof rails and side steps for $1,195. There’s also a floor liner package for $395, an Interior protection package for $270, and a cargo package for $195. And, there are a ton of different accessories too. Our tester didn’t have any extra’s, though, so total pricing came in at $50,900 plus a $1,195 destination charge, bringing the total up to $52,095. Because, you know, God forbid, you don’t pay $1,200 for a $50,000 vehicle to be delivered to the dealership, right?

Chevy Traverse Competition

Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer
- image 813352

The Ford Explorer is one of the longest-running SUV’s on the market, being introduced way back in 1991 as a boxy, almost mini version of the larger Ford Bronco (never mind the Bronco II, of course.) For 2020 it entered its sixth generation, and it was received with general acceptance when Ford pulled off the big white sheet. Despite its fresh appearance, it’s still recognizable as an Explorer, while the interior takes a fresh approach to interior design with a large, upright infotainment screen that consumes, quite literally, the entire center stack above the HVAC controls and a few other radio controls. It’s very Tesla-esqe, to be honest. Safely, the Explorer kind of one-ups the Traverse as it is offered with an all0figital infotainment screen, and it also features a rotary shift knob. Leather materials are on par with what you’d expect from Ford, as is the fake wood trim on certain models. Forward visibility is pretty good, but the Explorers windshield is raked, and the large A-Pillars do create a couple of blind spots.

The Explorer is offered in four different trim levels, starting with the $36,675 XLT, but it gets expensive fast with the next trim level, Limited, commanding $48,130. The Explorer ST is clearly the sportiest of the bunch but costs $54,740 while the range-topping Platinum trim comes in at $58,250. Base models feature a 2.4-liter four-cylinder while the higher-speced models feature a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6. The former is good for 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, while the latter is good for 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet. The Explorer can tow between 5,300 and 5,600 pounds depending on equipment and engine while available cargo room ranges between 14.4 cubic-feet to 71.2 cubic-feet with both rear seating rows laid flat.

Read our full review on the 2020 Ford Explorer

Mazda CX-9

2017 Mazda CX-9 – Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 699581

The Mazda CX-9 entered its second generation in 2016, and with it came a bold new styling that really does put the competition to shame. The interior, however, is somewhat of a mid-point between the Traverse and the Explorer. It features a smaller infotainment screen like the Traverse but has a more modern mounting position and better control. It also doesn’t feature a digital instrument cluster, but the interior materials are generally on par with what you’d expect from brands of a premium nature like Lexus or even BMW. Like the Explorer, the CX-9 is offered in four different trim levels, but all of them come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s good for 227 horsepower on 87 octane or 250 horsepower on 93 octane. 310 pound-feet of torque is the limit here while towing capacity comes in at a laughable 3,500 pounds.

Pricing for the Mazda CX-9 starts out at $34,080 for the entry-level Sport trim or $37,130 for the Touring trim. Move up to the Grand Touring, and you’ll pony up $42,640 while the range-topping Signature model commands $45,365. Honestly, the Mazda CX-9 is the best choice in most cases as it is fuel efficient and much more stylish, however, it does fall short in the towing department, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind.

Read our full review on the 2019 Mazda CX-9

Final Thoughts

2020 Chevrolet Traverse - Driven Exterior
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I have to admit that driving the Traverse for an entire week wasn’t exactly a dull experience. There was nothing groundbreaking about it, of course, but it wasn’t a bad experience. The Traverse has a tendency to feel like it’s more upmarket than it really is, but then again, we were driving a $50,000+ High Country trim level that begs the question of whether or not you need all that interior space. If not, there are a lot better, and smaller models you could spend $50,000 on that would be a lot more satisfying to drive. Overall, the Traverse is a relatively solid vehicle, and in its range-topping trim it does exude a sense of premium driving experience. I still feel like $50k is a little too much to spend on a Chevy, but then again maybe I’m a little biased after a lot of bad experience with GM products. Sorry, not sorry.

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