Everything you need to know
Low-slung station wagons are cool. Tall SUVs are sometimes cool. Tall station wagons, disguised as crossovers, like the previous three-row Chevrolet Traverse? Not cool. This new one though, the first of the second generation, is cool-er. I don’t know if a three-row anything can actually be capital C cool, but it’s Close.
The base engine is a massaged 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 making 310 hp and 266 lb-ft; the upgraded unit is the company’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four. That engine delivers 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The V6 returns 18/27 mpg, the turbo-four is better in the city at 20 mpg, but it makes just 23 on the highway. Those are both for the front-wheel-drive versions, by the way; expect all-wheel-drive models to get a little less on both ends. A new nine-speed Hydra-Matic automatic disperses power, and that’s where the rub begins — we’ll get to that in a minute.
The new Traverse is all about that space (no treble). It fits 23 cubic feet behind the third row, 58.1 with the third row folded and almost 100 cubic feet with both the second and third row folded. The second row seats slide fore and aft to accommodate different passenger sizes and the curbside second row perch folds forward, even with a forward-facing child seat, to let third row passengers in. Road Test Editor Jr. is still in the rear-facing child seat — they have to face that way until like 9 now — so we didn’t get to see how well that works. Looks cool, though — a good idea, also being employed by Nissan and others.
As for tech and convenience, the Traverse is a family car, so that means Wi-Fi, USB ports in every row, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has more than 20 storage cubbies and a “truck-size” center console that’ll fit full-size file folders if necessary. The Traverse also comes with the latest in safety, including a surround-view camera — this baby ain’t small — lane keeping and lane departure warning, front pedestrian braking and forward collision alert with low- and high-speed braking.
Two new trims land in 2018: The RS package includes blacked-out exterior cues, a black chrome grille, black Bowtie logo, 20-inch wheels and few other dashes of excitement. The High Country trim, borrowed from the Silverado pickup, gets unique leather seats with suede accents, 20-inch polished wheels, new “D-Optic” headlights, all-wheel drive and power-folding third row seats.
Chevrolet’s Rear Seat Reminder feature is standard on all trim levels of the Traverse. It reminds the driver to check the back seat for stuff, or children.
The wife, the boy and I drove the Traverse from metro Detroit up to scenic and aptly named Traverse City in Michigan, which is about 240 miles each way. I had a lot of seat time, most of it trying to beat that nine-speed auto into moving the damn car down the highway. It’s a three-row, it’s a family car, families want good gas mileage, I get it. But to keep it at the speed I like, which is only 10-15 percent over the speed limit, I had to constantly manage my throttle pressure. The problem is that whenever you move your foot down, it makes at least one downshift. Get a small breeze? Downshift. Going uphill? Downshift. Passing? Down, down, downshift.
The Traverse isn’t slow — you just have to mash your foot into the floor to get any speed. Granted, it’s smooth and decently quiet; we had our no-longer-a-baby sleeping most of both ways without complaint. Shifts aren’t intrusive, unless you need them in a hurry for a quick maneuver, in which case they’re lackadaisical at best. The flip side is that we averaged 24.9 mpg on the way home, and that was at … 10-15 percent above the (arbitrarily low) speed limit.
The MacPherson strut front suspension and five-link independent rear soak up pretty much everything this vehicle rides over, even when parking in sandy grass by a semi-hidden beach (psst, Good Harbor Bay Beach, don’t tell anyone). Even so, side-to-side body motion stays in check during lane changes though there is some dive on braking.
Now, the Traverse was never known for its dynamism — it’s known for transporting families in comfort to whatever destination they might choose, number of humans be damned. My family is only three, hence, we brought everything. Two strollers, one for on road, one for off, the pack-and-play crib, the full wagon with sunshade, a suitcase each, ‘cept for Junior who had two, and blueberries, lots of blueberries (they’re a superfood, you know). We didn’t have to fight to get everything in or debate what and what not to bring. That’s the advantage of owning a vehicle just a bit bigger than your current family. And it’ll tow a 5,000-pound boat, FYI.
From the comfortable captain’s chair, rear visibility is good, Chevy’s MyLink infotainment is within reach and the temperature was kept at a cool 67 degrees. The floor space directly behind the center console is a good place to keep extra toys, books and wubs (that’s what we call pacifiers in the Lingeman house) that can tossed back into the rear-facing child seat. It was a little too far to reach, though. That’s one of the few disadvantages to going with a bigger vehicle than you actually need. In my wife’s Ford Escape, I can stuff the boy’s mouth with a wub without taking my eyes off the road. There’s also something to be said for that.
The new Traverse is miles better looking than the last generation, but so is a lot of its competition. The stunning Mazda CX-9 is one of our favorites and the new Volkswagen Atlas was built by Americans for Americans and has the sort of features Americans want. The Ford Explorer is still the juggernaut of the three-row class, selling more than double what the Traverse moves. It’s a tough segment, but that’s why the Traverse was updated so thoroughly.
I’d like to try the turbocharged version; maybe the nine-speed plays better with that. But that’s my only complaint. The Traverse has enough features that your kids will think it’s cool, it doesn’t feel like a behemoth on the road — even though it looks almost as big as a Suburban — and 25 mpg while hustling is nothing to sneeze at.
The Traverse LS starts at $32,995 and the LT starts at $35,495. Chevy expects those two to be the bulk of sales. The High Country, which checks all the boxes, starts at a whopping $52,995. All of those prices include destination. The Explorer and Highlander have about the same price range. The CX-9 is probably the best in this class, but the new, cooler looking Traverse is moving up the charts. With the redesign, Chevy hopes it’ll go that way in your mind too.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $30,875
Drivetrain: 3.6-liter direct injection V6, front- or all-wheel drive, nine-speed automatic
Output: 310 hp at 6,800 rpm; 266 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,362 lb
Fuel Economy: 18/27/21 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Tons of space for people and stuff; easy to maneuver despite its size
Cons: Nine-speed automatic needs some software work
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