Let’s be frank: I personally never felt Chevrolet had a great minivan. The Venture was ho-hum at best and the Uplander was a train wreck. In theory you are supposed to keep going until you get it right and I am all for that, but at some point, you need to cut your losses and refocus on something else. General Motors has done that exactly with the Lambda platform based CUVs and left the minivan behind.
The Chevrolet Traverse is the latest (and last to the market) of General Motor’s large CUVs. This is no small vehicle and, in fact, is pretty much the size of a Tahoe. The thing is, while it is almost as big as the Tahoe, it drives and rides completely differently. The ride is much more like a car-based vehicle and the reason for that is the unibody design and construction of the vehicle. The Tahoe is a body on frame design. The Traverse is an older truck style vehicle.
The sister vehicles to the Traverse are the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and the now dead Saturn Outlook. The Traverse launched with an upgraded motor from these other vehicles; a 3.6 liter V6 featuring direct injection technology. This engine puts out 281 hp and 266 ft-lb (288 hp in LTZ trim). The direct injection gave the engine both more power while maintaining acceptable fuel economy. The power is routed through the front wheels with all wheel drive as an option. The six speed automatic transmission does have manual shifting abilities via a rocker switch on the gear selector. The engine is rated at 17/24 in front wheel drive form, which is a decent rating for a vehicle of this size. I managed to average 17.6 mpg in mixed driving, although my city driving has lot of stop and go while going into work and really does kill the gas mileage. In the beginning of the week, when it was straight to work in downtown, I was averaging a mere 15.4 mpg. Once I started driving on the highways a more, my mileage crept up above 17 mpg.
I have driven a lambda based vehicle before but it is has been a while. Upon entering the Traverse, I looked in my rear view mirror and remembered just how big this vehicle is. Site lines are good with decent sized mirrors. Those mirrors each feature a refracted lens for your blind spot. Driving this big CUV was a pleasant experience. The steering was not overly light but more is more car-like than big SUV. The power is more than enough to overpower the front wheels on numerous occasions. Slamming the gas pedal will result in the tires trying to grip the pavement, but the traction control quickly kicks in.
The interior is styled very nicely. With a large amount of space to work with, the designers definitely tried their best to sculpt the materials to prevent the look of vast expanses of plastic and it is job well done for the most part. The dash has nice lines and fits well with the current Chevrolet styling theme. The interior was a very dark place with everything being dark charcoal (pretty close to black) and no sunroof option on this vehicle. The seats are wide and somewhat flat and, without question, these are seats made for Americans. I liked the front seatback design which is unique and looks nice. The second row tumbles forward to allow entrance to the third row which is not a place an adult will want to spend time, although a child will be comfortable and it folds flat at the pull of a handle. Another sign that this vehicle is made for Americans is the cup holders because they are literally everywhere.
The styling of the exterior is very conservative. The sides are very plain and almost slab sided. Upon looking further, you will notice a slight character line towards the bottom of the doors and one near the door handles. These are by no means strong lines, but rather soft. The lines all integrate with each other quite well, flowing from one panel to the next with no break. The front is the sharpest part of the vehicle. The dual port grille and the headlights show similarity to the rest of the new Chevrolet vehicles, while still being distinctly different. The overall exterior will not offend anyone and is by far the most conservative of the three other Lambda vehicles.
The Traverse I had was a 1LT with a sticker price of $31,745. The trailoring package, which included a heavy duty cooling system and trailer hitch, cost $525. The rear view camera system is a $450 option was done the right way, in my opinion. With no navigation optioned on this vehicle, the screen was integrated into the rear view mirror; very easy to use and convenient. The total sticker price after destination and options rang to $33,495, and while this is not cheap, it is competitive for its class.
The entire week I had the Traverse, I felt like I should be heading to the soccer field to pick up the kids. While the vehicle has more then enough power to get up and go, it is by no means sporty and that is not its intentions. The vehicle is a family hauler, designed and engineered to deliver the kids to soccer practice and make trips to Costco.
The competition is stiff in this segment and the Traverse is here for the fight. Naturally, the big blue oval is a competitor in the Ford Flex but actually, the Flex and the Traverse are completely different vehicles. I can not imagine someone that wants a Flex will even give the Traverse a second thought and vice versa.
In commercials, Chevrolet compares the Traverse to the Honda Pilot and, while both sport three rows of seating, the Traverse is the larger vehicle. Without a doubt, the Traverse is a highly competitive entry into a cut-throat segment and the vehicle I had at just over $33k is a decent alternative if you do not want a minivan. Chevrolet buyers finally have a vehicle that is not a minivan but can haul the family while achieving acceptable fuel economy
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors