The Chevrolet Traverse is a large crossover SUV with big interior space, quiet comfort, and an easygoing ride. Traverse can be loaded with safety and convenience features. Seating either seven or eight occupants, this crossover has changed little since its 2009 debut, apart from a mild facelift for 2013.
Little is new for 2016, except for the addition of OnStar 4G LTE connectivity, which can provide a mobile wi-fi hotspot. A Leather and Driver Confidence package now is available for the 2016 Chevrolet Traverse LT.
For many owners, the Traverse serves as a practical alternative to a minivan. Built on a car-type unitbody platform, it delivers a more friendly driving character than does a full-size SUV built on a truck-type chassis. A Tahoe, for example.
Structurally related to the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, the Traverse is among the roomiest vehicles in its class. Passengers enjoy plenty of space, actually approaching that of a big, truck-based Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban.
In the rear are two 60/40-split benches for eight-passenger capacity, or captain’s chairs may be installed in the second row. In that case, capacity drops to seven.
One dilemma, though, involves the Traverse’s long rear doors. In contrast to a minivan’s sliding side doors, theses biggies open wide, which may prove challenging when facing a tight parking-lot space, or trying to slip into a modest-sized garage.
Under the hood, a smooth-running 3.6-liter V6 with direct injection delivers 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, driving a 6-speed automatic transmission. Properly equipped, a Traverse can tow up to 5,200 pounds, though frequent towing calls for a Tahoe or Suburban.
Partly because the Traverse is a heavyweight, throttle response sets no records; and acceleration gets even lazier if all-wheel drive is installed. Fuel economy isn’t a strong point, either.
On the safety front, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2015 Traverse a five-star rating overall. That included five-stars on all tests except for rollover, which earned four stars. Three trim levels are offered, and the top one (LTZ) includes Blind Zone and Forward Collision alerts, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Front center side airbags are available, built right into the driver’s seat. Siri Eyes Free also is available, letting the driver keep eyes on the road, not the iPhone.
In profile and in function, the Chevrolet Traverse resembles a tall station wagon rather than an SUV. Body shapes are more rounded, compared to the angular, squared-off look that’s typical of full-size SUVs. Taillights appear to have been influenced by the current Camaro coupe. Wheel arches are flared. Up front is a three-bar upper grille, complementing the two-bar design below.
Chevrolet’s version of the basic design lacks the modestly edgy appearance of the related GMC Acadia. Nor does it flaunt any retro details, like the Buick Enclave. Instead, such touches as a sculpted hood and darkened headlights help to provide a bit of character.
Even though functionality is the byword inside as well as out, woodgrain or silver accents highlight Traverse interiors. Soft-touch materials may be found, complemented by some contrast stitching in the upholstery. Ambient lighting is standard, in the relatively simple cockpit design. The Traverse driver benefits from clear instrument displays and logical, well-done switchgear in a layout that qualifies as intuitive.
Available MyLink infotainment includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen and helpful smartphone integration, plus streaming of such apps as Pandora and Stitcher.
With both rear seats folded down, 117.5 cubic feet of passenger space is available: not quite minivan-level, but not so far removed, either. Front seats are supportive, as well as more plush than might be expected. Adult-size second-row seats slide forward, to alter the mix of available legroom. Third-row seats are comfortable, at least for youngsters. In fact, Traverse has one of the most practical rear rows of any three-row vehicle. Unfortunately, a high step up is needed to get into that third row. The cargo floor is high as well, thus not so easy to load.
A quiet, smooth, well-controlled ride heads the list of performance attributes. Handling capability is about as good as can be expected, if less than agile and marred by a rather heavy feel overall. Even so, despite its abundant dimensions, the Traverse manages to react well enough when quick maneuvers are needed. Little road, wind, or engine noise can be heard. Unlike many current vehicles, which have switched to electric power steering, the Traverse retains a hydraulic setup.
Acceleration is swift enough for a family vehicle, but a Traverse struggles on upgrades, or even when starting off from a stop. Gas mileage is not great, due in part to this crossover’s weight: in the 5,000-pound neighborhood. With front-drive, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel economy at 17/24 mpg City/Highway. All-wheel drive drops those figures to 16/23 mpg City/Highway. That’s roughly in the middle of the three-row-vehicle category.
The Chevrolet Traverse has plenty of virtues, led by a nicely controlled ride and satisfying handling. Interior space scores high, and larger families welcome the three-row seating. Gas mileage is nothing to shout about but it’s not far removed from other vehicles in this class.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.