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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 Chevrolet Traverse Review

2018 Chevrolet Traverse Review
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A new powertrain and crisp (but conservative) styling mean the Traverse is once again a contender in the three-row crossover race.

The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse takes the palatable family-friendly crossover SUV into more masculine territory this year.

Clean styling inside and out, an enjoyable standard powertrain, a comfortable, spacious cabin, and most of the equipment we expect in a modern family car help the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse score 7.2 out of 10 in our testing.



For now, all Traverses use a new 3.6-liter V-6 with 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque that adds 20 hp over last year’s V-6. It’s the only available engine until a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 joins the lineup under the hood of the Traverse RS. Both engines work alongside a standard 9-speed automatic, but only the V-6 is available with all-wheel drive. At this point, we’ve only driven the V-6 and will update once we drive the RS.

The V-6 model improves on the first-generation crossover’s fuel economy despite the extra power. Thanks in part to the 9-speed automatic, the front-drive Traverse returns 18 mpg city, 27 highway, 21 combined. All-wheel drive lowers those figures to 17/25/20 mpg. Both are substantial increases on the last Traverse, which could only muster 15/22/18 mpg in its most efficient trim.

The 2018 Traverse is available in seven trims—L, LS, LT Cloth, LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country are the others. Each comes with a HID headlights with LED running lights, rearview camera, 18-inch wheels, a 7.0-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, Bluetooth, six USB ports, keyless ignition, and three-zone climate control. That means even the $34,995 (including a mandatory $945 destination charge) Traverse LS has a lot going for it.

The most advanced active safety equipment is, as is Chevrolet’s tendency, limited to the range-topping Premier and High Country—it’s only standard on the latter. Lesser trims, like the LT Cloth and LT Leather, are available with blind-spot monitors, while all trims come with GM’s Teen Driver and Family Link systems, as part of the OnStar suite.

Styling
A conservative, truck-inspired exterior contrasts with a more stylish and attractive interior for an above-average aesthetic in the 2018 Chevy Traverse.

A clean but conservative design inside and out might not excite, but there’s also nothing on the 2018 Traverse that will offend. While this is a bigger problem on lesser trims, the top-end High Country stands out as one of the better cabins attached to a modern Chevy. This is all good enough to earn 7 out of 10 on our styling scale. 

Chevy’s entire goal with the Traverse’s styling was to give crossover customers a truck-like styling experience. That starts with an exterior that borrows heavily from Chevrolet’s full-size, truck-based SUVs. The Traverse’s upright stance, squared-off front and rear, and tall sides work alongside a very SUV-like C-pillar—one that’s angled aggressively forward—to present a more rugged character. Slim wraparound taillights are the terminator for a strong shoulder line that runs from the equally slim front headlights, which get stylish jeweling as on higher trims as part of Chevy’s so-called D-optic design. That face, meanwhile, is like an embiggened Malibu—that's OK.

This is all good, but not great. The Traverse is an attractive vehicle—unarguably better than the Equinox and on an entirely different plane than the woeful Trax and ancient last-gen Traverse—but it’s going to have trouble standing out alongside more style-forward offerings, like the Dodge Durango and Mazda CX-9.

The Traverse does better in its cabin, where Chevy carried on with its truck-inspired design. A high, wide center console intersects a tall, unyielding dash and screams “I really want to be a Silverado.” It looks good, with pleasant plastics that will stand up to the abuse of several children and touches of leather trim on the door panels.

The seats on our LT Leather wear attractive hides, although the range-topping High Country is the only choice for certified interior snobs.

It wears stylish wood accents and more leather trim, although much of what’s plastic on lesser trims is the same on the High Country. This top-of-the-line model also gets unique reddish brown leather upholstery—called Loft Brown—that contrasts pleasantly with the black plastics scattered through the rest of the cabin.

Performance
Pleasant powertrain improvements boost the 2018 Traverse, but it’s still far off the segment’s best.

A new 3.6-liter V-6 and a slick-shifting, unobtrusive 9-speed automatic are a tremendous improvement over the last Traverse’s powertrain, helping the 2018 model score 7 out of 10 points on our performance index.

The 3.6-liter V-6 is the standard engine on all but the turbocharged Traverse RS and arrives with 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. With low peak torque for a naturally aspirated engine—just 2,800 rpm—this direct-injected engine feels lively off the line, with a throttle response that borders on overaggressive.

Once underway, the acceleration is smooth and linear all the way to the tachometer’s upper reaches. The Traverse’s new engine is perfectly suited to passing maneuvers, whether at lower speeds on two-lane roads or at higher speeds common on interstates. The 3.6-liter’s performance feels out of the ordinary for a Chevy crossover SUV, but it’s the sound that surprises.

This V-6 is smooth, almost sonorous in the way it sounds under hard acceleration. It’s genuinely pleasant in a way that the last Traverse could never approach. But it’s also not obtrusive in gentler conditions, where the intake and exhaust note hush up until there’s just a gentle thrum.

The new 9-speed automatic transmission is a standout.

The transmission is quick to engage off the line, and rifles off shifts smoothly and quickly under hard acceleration. At gentler speeds or under a lighter foot, the shifts through the first several gears are almost imperceptible. The transmission’s behavior is easy to predict, too. It’s easy to dial in just enough throttle to demand a lower gear on the freeway, which reinforces the charming behavior of the V-6 engine in a delightful cycle.

But the Traverse’s steering falls flat. It’s heavy and remarkably numb on center, while dialing in additional angle doesn’t do much to increase feedback. Weight, meanwhile, seems to fall off in the bends, so at the very least it’s easier to make the mid-corner corrections the lifeless steering demands.

At the very least, Chevrolet has improved the Traverse’s handling over the first-generation model. There’s a five-link rear suspension with MacPherson struts in front, blessing the Traverse with a nimbler, more predictable handling character. This big Chevy still isn’t as capable or entertaining on a twisty road as a Mazda CX-9, but it won’t fall all over itself when presented with a corner. The brakes are stouter too, with a more confident pedal feel.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Chevy Traverse has extremely comfortable seats and an expansive cargo area, although we wouldn’t recommend shoving adults in the very back for too long.

The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is a big, simple American crossover, so the fact that it has very comfortable, supportive front and second-row seats, and a roomy third row that can comfortably seat two adults without much complaining isn’t a big surprise. That helps boost the Traverse to an impressive 9 out of 10 on our comfort scale.

Every Traverse gets wide, supportive front seats, while the LS and above are eight-way adjustable and powered. We managed to pound out over 250 miles in a single stint sitting in these seats and climbed out with nary a hint of back pain or numbness. It’s a similar story in the back, where the available captain’s chairs—standard on LT Cloth and above—feature four-way adjustability.

On paper, the Traverse’s third row is very impressive. There’s 33.5 inches of leg room, which is more than the 31.9 inches in the very back of the Honda Pilot, the 30.7 inches in the updated Nissan Pathfinder’s third row, and the 33.3 inches in the back of the Ford Explorer. While your author—a 6-foot-2, long-legged man that weighs around 245 pounds—had little issue getting into the third row and sitting comfortably, provided the middle seats were in an agreeable position, some of our passengers weren’t as keen.
We managed to cram seven adults into the Traverse’s cabin, and while those in the first and second row had little to complain about, the third-row passengers weren’t nearly as happy. We put the three smallest in our party in the back, but the outboard third-row passengers complained about a lack of leg room over even a short journey.

The bigger issue, though, is shoulder space—Chevrolet doesn’t offer an exact measurement, so it’s difficult to make a comparison with the competition, even our three guinea pigs had trouble sitting side-by-side comfortably. While the Traverse doubtlessly works as a seven- or eight-passenger vehicle (if you have the second-row bench) if most of your passengers are children, we’d classify it as a six-passenger vehicle at best if you’re moving multiple adults.

Even with the third-row occupied, there’s an impressive amount of cargo space available. The 2018 Traverse offers 23 cubic feet, which is more cargo space than most mid-size family sedans. Fold the second row down and the cargo volume swells to 58.1 cubes, while the Traverse offers a maximum of 98.2 cubic feet with both the second and third-row folded flat—the Chevy offers more cargo volume than the Pilot, Explorer, or Pathfinder, and by a significant margin in some cases.

Material quality is largely dependent on trim level. While even the base Traverse gets attractive plastics with a solid, durable feel, it’s not until you reach the higher trim levels that Chevy responds. Our LT Leather test vehicle had pleasant touches beyond the hide-upholstered seats—there’s leather on the door panels and stitched leather on the dash. The range-topping High Country elevates the interior even more, attaching finer hides in a rich tan and adding synthetic suede and wood touches across the door panels and dash.

Safety
The lack of IIHS or NHTSA crash testing prevents us from rating the 2018 Traverse on safety.

As is typical with a new model, the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse lacks a complete set of crash-test results. For that reason, we can’t give it a rating on our safety scale.

Federal testers give the 2018 Traverse a five-star overall rating, which includes four stars for front- and rollover-crash protection. The IIHS hasn't rated the new Traverse at all.

Chevy reserves the most comprehensive active safety systems for top-of-the-line models—the company claims the bulk of customers neither ask for nor use some of the more advanced safety systems—but even the most basic models get a rearview camera, HID headlights, and Chevy’s impressive Teen Driver monitoring system on top of the usual suite of OnStar systems.

Blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts don’t appear until the LT Cloth, while active lane control, lane departure warnings, forward collision warnings, and neither low- nor full-speed automatic emergency braking are available outside of the top-end models. Unless you select all-wheel drive, you’ll need to shell out $475 to add these features (with low-speed auto emergency braking) to the Traverse Premier. They’re standard, including full-speed auto emergency braking, on the Traverse High Country.

Features
Chevy continues to limit top-of-the-line safety equipment to range-topping trims, although there’s plenty of standard gear worth getting excited about.

Excellent standard equipment, a healthy collection of trims, and the ever-increasing roster of OnStar services help the 2018 Traverse claw out an 8 out of 10 on our features index.

The Traverse comes in seven trims, although consumers aren’t likely to encounter the base L on dealership lots. Instead, the $32,995 LS is effectively the base trim level—it features a 7.0 touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity, six USB ports, keyless ignition, three-zone climate control, HID headlights with LED running lights, a rearview camera, and 18-inch wheels.

One of two volume models, the $35,890 Traverse LT Cloth adds different 18-inch wheels, SiriusXM satellite radio, and power driver/passenger seats. A $1,795 Convenience and Driver Confidence Package adds remote start, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment screen, heated front seats, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and a power liftgate. If you’re considering the Traverse LT Cloth, we strongly recommend that package.

The LT Leather boosts the Traverse’s price to $42,490. On top of the leather upholstery and trim pieces, customers get 20-inch alloys, a surround-view camera system, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, a larger display in the instrument cluster, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Chevy’s trick Rear Camera Mirror. The LT Leather also includes the Convenience and Driver Confidence Package as standard, and adds a navigation function for the 8.0-inch infotainment system.

The $45,395 Traverse Premier adds LED headlights, 20-inch wheels, a memory function for the driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, vented front seats, and a heated second row. The $475 Driver Confidence II Package adds active safety systems, including lane departure warnings with active lane control, forward collision warnings with low-speed automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, active front lights. A $2,495 Redline Edition Package adds a range of sporty, blacked-out options, as well as a panoramic sunroof.

Finally, the Traverse High Country costs $52,995 and adds a standard twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, front pedestrian braking, high-speed automatic emergency braking, and upgraded interior materials.

All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option on LS, LT Cloth, LT Leather, and Premier trim levels.

All versions of the 2018 Traverse come standard with GM’s latest OnStar technologies. While 4G LTE wi-fi connectivity gets a lot of attention, Chevrolet’s Teen Driver and Family Link programs will give parents peace of mind. The former delivers reports on a young driver’s on-the-road behavior, while the latter allows parents to set boundaries on things like speed and the volume of the audio system. It also allows parents to set a maximum driving range—if little Joey violates that, mom and dad will know. The system can also send text and email alerts once a journey is complete.

Fuel Economy
A 9-speed automatic makes up for the additional power, boosting the 2018 Traverse’s mileage modestly over last year.

Adding a new 3.6-liter V-6 and an efficient 9-speed automatic helps boost the 2018 Traverse to an EPA-estimated combined rating of 21 mpg with front-wheel drive or 20 mpg with all-wheel drive. On our green scale, that’s enough for a 6 out of 10.

By the numbers, the Traverse is rated at 18 mpg city, 27 highway, 21 combined. Adding all-wheel drive drops that rating to 17/25/20 mpg.

The Traverse RS, which is powered by a turbo-4 and front-wheel drive, isn't much thriftier despite losing two cylinders. It's EPA-rated at 20/26/22 mpg.

In real-world testing, we averaged 22.5 mpg over fast, open back country roads, with a 55-mph speed limit and few stop signs or traffic to impede our progress. We’d expect more traditional driving to yield slightly lower figures, although not dramatically.

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