It is well known that Chevrolet prides itself on its Suburban and Tahoe SUVs. But then came along the 2008 recession and the fuel crisis, and Chevrolet was forced to think outside the box for its customers who needed a large family SUV but with better fuel economy. Enter the Chevrolet Traverse. Introduced in 2008 as a 2009 model, the Traverse was based off a platform shared with the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook. These four SUVs replaced the Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, and Saturn Relay minivans. The Traverse is a first for Chevrolet, as it is its first dedicated unibody large SUV. Lambasted for its fuel economy and unresponsive transmission, the Traverse was refreshed for 2013 with new updated styling and powertrain.
The 2013 refresh included renewed styling. The front is clean and uncluttered with the prominent Chevrolet logo centered in the grille. The lower aspect of the front bumper could be less crowded, and the black surroundings of the headlights look out of place. The side profile is conventional except for a distinctive rising belt line past the C pillar. The rear is plain. I do not like the taillights as they have been made to look “sporty” which does not fit in with the design. The interior is uncluttered, and maximizes the use of light colors. Teal stitching on the dash and on the seats is a nice if somewhat unusual touch. The gauges are teal in color also. Chrome accents help lighten up the interior.
The Traverse’s handling belies its bulk. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it drives far better than what its size suggests. The steering is communicative and decently weighted. It is quick to respond. Body roll is well contained. The turning circle is wide though. It does run out of grip easily, but handling is secure. The ride quality is firm, but comfortable. It may prove to be too firm and uncomfortable for some. Braking performance could be better though.
The Traverse is powered by a 281 horsepower 3.6 liter V6 accompanied by a six speed automatic transmission. The V6 is sluggish initially, but it becomes smoother at higher revs. The six speed automatic transmission is slow to shift, making this the Traverse seem slower than it actually is. Fuel economy is respectable at 16-18 mpg overall.
Refinement is a strong suit. There is some road noise, but overall, it is refined. The large mirrors exacerbate wind noise somewhat. The engine sounds coarse at higher revs.
The cabin is very roomy and capacious. The seats are comfortable but could use better support. The second and third row have ample room. The third row is relatively short on legroom, but overall it has decent room. The cargo space with the third row up is adequate, but fold the second and third row, and there is commodious space. Flipping the second row seats are easy and aids access to the third row. Fit and Finish is a strong suit. Everything feels well assembled, and soft touch plastics are abound. The gauges are attractive, and they are easy to read. It can wash out in direct sunlight though. The cloth fabric feels of high quality. Numerous storage spaces include a bin on the dashboard, and several caches in the center console, not to mention the pockets behind the seats and in the doors. 2013 models come with a touch screen radio. For the most part, it is easy to use and reacts quickly to prompts. However, some radio controls are touch sensitive, not traditional buttons, which can make it difficult to get to the desired function with ease. Visibility is a drawback. Up front, big pillars compromise your side views of your whereabouts. In the rear, your view is obscured by thick pillars and a small rear window.
If you are looking for a large SUV with enough room to transport a family in comfort, look no further. The Traverse provides comparable space to that of a Chevrolet Tahoe, but in a smaller body. Prior to the Traverse, Chevrolet was not competitive in the family market. Shoppers in the market for a family friendly SUV flocked to Hondas and Toyotas. But Chevrolet has been making strides in recent years. The Cruze, Malibu, Corvette, Sonic, and the Traverse are examples of its improvement. The Traverse is good to drive, relatively affordable, comfortable, roomy, and American. When I was driving this car, I was impressed at its competence, and I can assess that the Traverse gives people a good reason to buy American. Go America!