A little over a year ago I reviewed a 2010 Chevrolet Traverse and deemed it to be a highly competitive entry into a cut-throat segment. While some things have changed in the auto industry over the past year, the Traverse has not. I recently spent some time in a 2011 Traverse AWD LTZ to see if, after a year, the big CUV is still as competitive today as it was a year ago.
The Traverse has not gone through a refresh yet so the styling is still exactly the same. The LTZ model adds sharp 20-inch aluminum wheels and dual chrome exhaust tips. These two things alone really sharpen the exterior of this big people mover. Up front the LTZ ditches the black mesh grille in favor of a chrome mesh grille. This too really does change the look of the front end for the better.
Inside the Traverse you will find the same exact design as last year. The plastics all look nice, but are rock hard. Touch points such as the center arm rest and door arm rests are soft, but the door panels are rock hard, as is the dash.
With all the glass on this vehicle, visibility is not an issue. But just in case it is, the LTZ features a rear-view camera that is integrated into the rear-view mirror when not equipped with navigation (this tester was not).
For 2011 an iPod/iPhone USB plug was added to all the Lambda vehicles (Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse). Unfortunately, somewhere along the line someone dropped the ball. The iPod/iPhone USB plug was added to the storage bin on top of the dashboard; this is a less than ideal place for its location. Your options come down to not using it, drive with your device connected in the storage bin, or drive with the storage bin open while your device is connected and placed next to you. As you can see by these three options, none are appealing. The fourth one is trying to slam the storage bin shut, coming close to ruining an iPod cord. I chose this option but quickly decided it was a poor choice. In the end I deemed it wasn’t worth it using the plug. If this was my personal vehicle, I would probably buy an iPod just for this storage bin and leave it there.
The Traverse comes with a one-choice 3.6-liter V-6 with direct injection, rated at 281 horsepower and 266 pound feet sent to either the front or all four wheels. The power is managed by a six-speed automatic transmission.
My tester featured all-wheel drive, which of course, is front-wheel drive based. If you slam the gas there is a slight tug at the steering wheel before some of the power is routed to the rear wheels. At no time is there a question of not enough power.
Within one day, I wasn’t enthused with the transmission’s programming. Unless you were driving aggressively, the transmission seemed lazy and slow to shift. It would sit at 4,000 rpms and think for a second whether it should upshift or stay in the current gear. This scenario can get old quickly when on city streets.
The front end of the Traverse is somewhat low for a CUV, though this is for aerodynamic purposes. Thankfully, it is made of soft plastic so when going into a driveway it might scrape but it won’t crack.
We received approximately 3-inches of snow and slush while I had the Traverse. The low front end acted as a make shift plow and the all-wheel drive was more than up to the task of moving this large CUV down the road. The traction control was quick to step in whenever a wheel would slip, quickly cutting power and correcting the vehicle’s direction. There’s no question the Traverse is more than up to the task of driving through the snow.
While the EPA gives the AWD Traverse a respectable 16/23 mpg rating, I’m sad to report that I did not come even close to that. I saw an average of 13.8 mpg in mixed suburban driving. This was quite disappointing, though I do know that quite a bit of gas was wasted when plowing through the snow.
So after spending a week with the 2011 Traverse do I still feel it is as competitive as it was last year? In short, yes. It is definitely a comfortable family hauler for those that feel a minivan or station wagon is too soccer mom for them. Just make sure to buy a separate iPod to leave in the storage cubby.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors