Chevrolet Traverse: A Modern Large SUV For America's Family Brand
Editor’s Note: Traverse may be the most significant new vehicle at the Chicago Auto Show. The highest volume of the four General Motors Lambda Large Crossover SUVs, Traverse pickups the positive styling cues of the Enclave’s haunches and adds Chevrolet’s front end styling. GM design definitely did not dumb down the styling of the Traverse. With the Buick so fully-featured and having loads of special enhancements to handle noise vibration and harshness, hopefully Traverse gets more than its fair share.
Chevrolet‘s 2008 Chicago auto show star, the Traverse, is the brand’s answer to changing consumer demands, as buyers gravitate toward car-based SUVs and more and more prioritize fuel efficiency over SUV image. If you need the towing or off-road capability of a traditional truck-based SUV, Chevy will still offer Tahoe, Suburban, and Avalanche. If you need a comfortable, stylish, and relatively efficient non-minivan family car, Chevy will offer the Traverse late in 2008. The Traverse Vehicle Line Executive enlisted the help of her four kids and husband in introducing the vehicle, proving the people and stuff-hauling benefits of Traverse. Chevrolet will eventually give up on the mid-size, truck-based TrailBlazer, as buyers are already doing.
Based on the same platform as the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook, the Traverse is quite large. It offers a longer wheelbase than the latest Tahoe and is wider and nearly as long. The size pays off in plenty of space, but it feels small on the road, offers more in terms of family comfort, and is cheaper to fuel than TrailBlazer or Tahoe. Though GM never quite got competitive with minivans, Traverse will be a satisfying family product. The Traverse and its siblings are the right products at the right time. Still, while giving up the TrailBlazer for the Traverse was a bold move when the decision was taken, by time the Traverse arrives on market, Chevy doesn’t look so much brave as keeping up.
No matter how it got here, Chevrolet is adding a good-looking product. The Traverse sports a clearly Chevrolet face and a profile more like the Enclave than Acadia and Outlook, to Chevrolet’s benefit. As a follow-up to the latest Malibu, Chevrolet is proving they are going to provide us with more stylish, as well as affordable and practical, family transportation going forward. With recent introductions of the Tahoe and Silverado hybrids, Corvette ZR1, and upcoming Camaro, there’s also no doubt Chevrolet will remain a full-line make and more dedicated to getting products right than ever before.
Gasoline Direct Injection V6
Traverse is the first GM SUV to offer the gasoline direct-injection 3.6L V6. The V6 delivers an estimated 286HP (up about 10HP from the non-direct-injection V6 in Acadia, Outlook, and Enclave), with better fuel economy. This engine is found in 306HP form in the Cadillac CTS. Mated to a six-speed automatic, tuned for strong launch feel as well as strong fuel economy, this promises to be a rewarding drivetrain.
Seating is available for seven or eight, and the interior is chock full of helpful elements. The initial information doesn’t highlight features not seen in the siblings, but the others didn’t leave much out. The Traverse’s extra time in gestation should mean refinement for some of the features we already know.
Access to the third row is by GM’s Smart Slide system; though a similar system is on the new-for-2009MY Dodge Journey, it was a GM first. Operation is an easy one-hand effort, also accessible by the third-row passengers; it makes living with a three-row SUV much easier. Also a nod to the family target, the rear-seat entertainment system gets second-row controls. Inside there is a carlike instrument panel set further away from the passengers for a more open feel, with Chevrolet’s dual cockpit design.
Convenience options are typical. Among the bells and whistles are ultrasonic parking assist, power liftgate, remote vehicle start, heated windshield wiper fluid, DVD entertainment system, a DVD navigation system, power folding mirrors with turn indicators, heated and cooled front seats, and a rear-view parking camera. OnStar is standard and Turn by Turn directions included for a year.
Safety features are consistent with the Traverse’s siblings, with lots of standard airbags and GM’s rollover sensing system. The Traverse does boost electronic braking aids; as well as a panic assist, there will be a Dynamic Rear Proportioning system that optimizes front to rear brake balance and a Hydraulic Brake Boost that amplifies the hydraulic brake force in low or low-engine vacuum conditions.
We’ve been impressed by the three vehicles already available on this platform, and in some ways expect more from the Traverse. Like the change from Saturn Aura to Chevrolet Malibu (themselves platformmates), the Traverse should have better fit and finish and a more appealing interior. The direct-injection V6 will improve driver satisfaction, both on the road and at the pump. There is no reason Chevrolet should not have a complete winner with the Traverse, except perhaps the name. Traverse does give you the sense the vehicle can conquer vast distances, but it doesn’t clue you into the fact the package is going to be so family friendly.