2009 Chevrolet Traverse Review
Thinking about purchasing the new Chevy Traverse? See MSN Autos full review of the car.
- Good driving dynamics
- Sweet engine
- Seats seven comfortably
- Air dam too close to ground
- Trailer-sway control not offered
- Where’s the hybrid version?
With today’s gasoline prices, what choices does a family have if they want to take weekend jaunts with the kids and a couple of their friends without going broke filling up the tank? Enter Chevy's new SUV, the 2009 Traverse. It is three inches longer than the truck-based Tahoe, can seat up to eight and has more interior room. Oh, and it gets three more miles per gallon in town, five more on the highway.
The 2009 Traverse is the fourth installment of General Motors’ unibody crossover SUV platform, called Lambda. It was preceded by the 2007 GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, and the 2008 Buick Enclave.
To distinguish the Traverse from its corporate cousins, the front end reflects the look of the 2008 Malibu sedan’s twin port grille, while the rear features unique high-mounted taillights and a subtle boattail hatch. In between, the body is taut with crisp character lines and presents little adornment, save for chrome door handles and a chrome lower rub strip.
The Traverse follows the traditional Chevy model offerings with LS, LT and LTZ trim levels. All three trims can be equipped with either front- or all-wheel drive (AWD) and buyers have a choice of 17-, 18- or 20-inch alloy wheels.
Under the Hood
While the Traverse’s 3.6-liter DOHC V6 is the same engine found in the Enclave, Outlook and Acadia, it is the first application of direct fuel injection. With direct injection, fuel is sprayed directly into the combustion chamber instead of into the intake tract, resulting in more efficient use of fuel, increased performance and reduced cold-start emissions.
The V6 is rated at 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque in dual-exhaust LTZ trim, and 281 hp and 270 lb-ft in single-exhaust LS and LT trim. Ninety percent of peak torque is available from 2500 rpm to 6000 rpm. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard. Using regular unleaded gasoline, the front-drive Traverse earns an EPA rating of 17/24 mpg (city/hwy); AWD versions net a 16/23 mpg rating.
With the wheels placed as close to the four corners as possible, the Traverse is the roomiest vehicle in its class. The cavernous cabin picks up styling cues from the Malibu sedan, with a sweeping twin-cockpit theme for the dash and soft-to-the-touch materials that have excellent texture detail. Storage bins and cubbies abound.
Driver and front passenger seats are very supportive and comfortable, and third-row seats offer surprisingly ample head, leg and knee room. The third row isn’t just relegated for the most unruly kids.
Second-row seats offer even more room. And to get from the second to third row, just flip a lever alongside the second-row seats and the cushion flips up while the seatback slides forward. The second-row seats slide forward or backward, providing more leg and knee room for either the second or third row.
Each trim level is well turned out, with a complement of standard equipment including Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation and XM Satellite Radio. Among the options are a power liftgate, a rearview camera, a DVD entertainment system, a GPS-based navigation system, a dual-pane sunroof and a towing package.
All the safety goodies are present and accounted for — a full complement of airbags, including curtain-style bags for all three rows. The anti-lock brakes are discs at all the corners and include electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Stability control, with traction control and roll-over mitigation, and a tire-pressure monitoring system are standard.
On the Road
Our time behind the Traverse’s steering wheel was limited to a half day at General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground, a few miles from Detroit. The structured drive consisted of a ride and handling road, an evasive lane change on a slick surface, a short slalom course and trailer towing.
What’s most unexpected about the overall size of the Traverse has nothing to do with the interior, but rather how it performs on the road. The four-wheel independent suspension offers a car-like ride that isn’t upset by irregular road surfaces. The linked H-arm rear suspension design keeps the rear end firmly planted in fast corners and during abrupt lane changes. Steering precision and braking performance were equally impressive.
Engine power progresses smoothly in a linear manner. While it won’t be mistaken for a V8, the direct-injected V6 felt brisk during our controlled driving conditions and towed a 4,200-pound boat and trailer without gasping for breath.
Right for You?
Arriving in September, Traverse pricing starts at $28,990 for the base LS trim, including destination charges. The LT has a sticker of $31,545 and the high-end LTZ with leather is $39,810. Expect to add around $2,000 for AWD models.
There is a plethora of crossover SUVs to choose from today and they come in all sizes. If you regularly tote around six or seven passengers, occasionally load plywood sheets or tow up to 5,200 pounds, the Traverse should be added to your shopping list.
Larry Hall is the editor of Northwest Auto News Service and a freelance journalist based in Olympia, Wash. For more than 20 years, he’s covered the automotive industry for numerous trade journals, newspapers and business publications.
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