Sunday, July 19, 2009

2009 Chevrolet Traverse Review

. Sunday, July 19, 2009

2009 Chevrolet Traverse Review


It's no great secret that recent history has seen a decline in the sales and appeal of truck-based SUVs as family movers. Nonetheless, no matter how practical and easy to use a minivan is, there's just no getting around the minivan stigma for many people. Automakers have reacted to this trend with the crossover SUV, a vehicle that combines the family-focused functionality and car-based dynamics of a minivan with the outgoing appearance and personality of an SUV. With the introduction of the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, General Motors now has four such vehicles built on the same "Lambda" platform, the others being the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.

Having so many similar vehicles available might seem like overkill, but the quality and thoughtfulness of design that all the Lambda crossovers share has made every one of them a strong segment contender thus far. The brand-new Traverse seems poised to do just as well, if not better. To help differentiate it from the General's other crossover offerings, the Traverse shares some styling cues with the new Malibu, including the distinctive mesh front grille, vaguely circular taillights and the lines of the dual-cockpit dash that extend onto the doors. Overall, the interior styling of the Traverse's cabin, while largely similar to the Acadia's and Outlook's due to parts-sharing, offers an edgier design without losing any mass appeal.

Like those that came before it, the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse is a strong entry in the already crowded full-size crossover SUV segment. If you're looking for a solid-performing people mover that seats up to eight (and doesn't exclude adults from the third row), hauls a lot of cargo and doesn't cramp your ego, the Traverse deserves your serious attention. Those considering a GM crossover who haven't made up their minds on which one should note that, at a starting price just over $28,000, the Chevy is the least expensive in the family. So if the styling and options specific to the Traverse speak to you, this latest addition to the brood may be just the right pick. But if the Traverse or its siblings don't work for you, the Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander are all worthy competitors and merit a close look.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2009 Chevrolet Traverse is a large crossover SUV available in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels. Standard equipment on the LS includes 17-inch steel wheels, eight-passenger seating, split-folding second- and third-row bench seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, full power accessories, OnStar and a six-speaker CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.

The midrange LT trim level actually comes with the choice of two packages: the moderate 1LT and the more upscale 2LT. The 1LT package offers 18-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear parking sensors and remote vehicle start. Select the 2LT package and get all that plus Bluetooth, tri-zone automatic climate control, a 10-speaker Bose system, rear audio system controls, seven-passenger seating featuring second-row captain's chairs, a power liftgate and a rearview camera integrated into the rearview mirror. The Traverse LTZ improves upon the 2LT with 20-inch wheels, leather seating, heated and cooled power front seats with driver memory settings, a navigation system with real-time traffic and a rearview camera.

Many of the features on upper trim levels can be added to the lower ones via optional packages. Also available are dual sunroofs and a rear-seat entertainment system. Should you wish to take advantage of the Traverse's 5,200-pound towing capacity, a trailering package is available on all trim levels and includes a heavy-duty engine cooler and trailer hitch.

Powertrains and Performance

There is only one engine/transmission combination available for the Chevrolet Traverse -- a 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. In the LS and LT trims, which sport a single-outlet exhaust, the V6 produces 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. In the uplevel LTZ, hp jumps to 288 and torque goes to 270 lb-ft thanks to a dual-outlet exhaust and an upgrade to direct fuel injection, which allows for increased efficiency and reduced emissions when compared to the V6 used in earlier years of the Traverse's platform mates.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the front-wheel-drive Traverse are 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined. All-wheel-drive Traverse models are very similar at 16/23/19 mpg.


Antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags for all three rows are all standard on every 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, as is one year of GM's OnStar service, including turn-by-turn navigation and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

In both frontal- and side-impact crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Traverse received a perfect five-star rating for its protection of occupants in head-on and side-impact collisions.

Interior Design and Special Features

Inside the roomy cabin of the Traverse is an attractive layout in a two-tone color scheme with brushed aluminum and chrome trim. The instrument panel consists of dual gauges featuring bright white numbers on a black background that are simple and easy to read. One of our few complaints is that the audio and climate controls consist of too many small and similar-looking buttons and not enough knobs.

Depending on the configuration chosen, the Traverse seats either seven (with second-row captain's chairs) or eight (split-folding second-row bench seat) passengers in three rows. The first- and second-row seats are quite comfortable and supportive, and the split-folding third-row seat which is often a kids-only zone in traditional SUVs -- can accommodate adults in reasonable comfort.

Maximum cargo capacity is a generous 117 cubic feet with second- and third-row seats folded down, and even with all three rows of seating in use, there are still a useful 24 cubic feet of luggage space.

Driving Impressions

Like the other three large General Motors crossovers, the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse hits a happy medium between secure handling and a comfortable ride. And even though it is a big vehicle (4,720 pounds with front-wheel drive, 4,925 pounds with all-wheel drive), it doesn't feel nearly as large and lumbering as it should from behind the wheel. The 3.6-liter V6 feels peppy and capable. Its higher than average towing capability is a plus, too, though during a test-drive that included towing a 4,200-pound boat (1,000 pounds below the Traverse's maximum tow rating), the crossover seemed a bit overtaxed when compared to a lighter competitor. Additionally, the six-speed automatic transmission is often unwilling to downshift, which, though good for fuel economy, can be frustrating.