In the midst of the economic turmoil that was engulfing the automotive manufacturer back in 2008, General Motors found a way to develop and launch three mid-size SUVs built on an integrated platform. The move was in response to market trends away from independent chassis that, though more robust, offered duller road performance and mediocre comfort levels. The three models were the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse. What is most striking about this trio of SUVs is its homogenous character as well as the versatility of each, which allowed the models to stay competitive on the market for more than a decade.
Buick is currently developing a modified new Enclave, and the Acadia got its reboot last year. Now it’s Chevrolet’s turn to introduce a wholly revised Traverse, which sees both its mechanics and design transformed. The only element retained from the previous version, in fact, is the first-generation 3.6L V6 engine, which has been modernized through the incorporation of a stop-start system, among other tweaks. It is now wedded to a new 9-speed automatic transmission, and buyers can for the first time opt for all-wheel drive in all trims.
A more diversified product offer
As similar as they were, the three SUVs targeted different clienteles depending on their characteristics and configurations. The Chevrolet held economic appeal, and aimed to address the needs of families wanting versatility and reliability. Offering more refinement and luxury was not part of the equation. Trims were adequate and competitive but never aimed higher than that. The new generation ventures far beyond that in attempting to lure consumers who demand a little more luxury and exclusivity. And so the competitively priced trims are being supplemented by two higher-end versions. The top-end High Country sports a distinctive chromed front grille and exclusive chromed alloy wheels, and its interior has higher-end finishes, right down to High Country badging embossed on the headrests. It’s also the only version with available dual-clutch all-wheel drive, a more sophisticated and efficient system that reduces fuel consumption.
The other model infused with a larger dose of posh is the Red Line version of the Premier model, bedecked with a black front grille, the Chevrolet bow-tie logo dressed up in black and special black alloy wheels with red accents.
All models come with a third row of seats, which is relatively easy to access as the middle row is mounted on rails and can be moved to create a larger opening for those clambering into the back. Captain’s chairs are available for the second row, but for consumers mindful of maximizing space, a bench might be preferable as folding it down creates a flat floor space. Overall cargo space is plentiful, a total of 2,781 litres being available for loading gear once all back seats are folded down. Versatility is also the keyword in terms of USB ports, which are placed in front, centre and back, and in terms of storage compartments, which are placed just about everywhere. The quality level of the finishes and materials used is also considerably higher than in the previous Traverse.
More stylish look, more comfortable suspension
Curiously, the contours of the new Traverse are the product of the design team in Chevrolet’s truck division. And in truth the more muscular look that results is appreciated by the model’s target consumers. In fact, its silhouette is largely the same as that of the Equinox’s. Chevrolet has even intimated that the general shape will be used yet again when comes time to renew the company’s large SUVs, the Suburban and the Tahoe, as well as when the Silverado gets it makeover in 2020.
But while the carapace may display a certain machismo, it rides on a suspension that has been refined front and back in order to upgrade comfort level and road handling. During our test drive, carried out on the belt roads that circle around Detroit, we were surprised by the ability of the suspension to absorb the potholes and bumps so ubiquitous on Michigan roads. What’s more, the Traverse remained astonishingly neutral when cornering. I was able to try out a front-wheel drive model as well as the high Country version with all-wheel drive, though not on any rough terrain. Whichever traction mode it ran on, the vehicle performed steadily, without much change; the all-wheel drive system proved to be very transparent.
Its solid road performance is due in good part to the excellent work of the MacPherson front strut suspension and multi-link independent rear suspension. Towing capacity for the vehicle is 5,000 lbs, which falls into the norm for this category. As well, consumers get to choose between the 310-hp V6 engine and a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo engine (255 hp) offered with the RS models, new this year. To compensate for the loss of horses, this engine does produce more torque than the V6.
And all the rest
There’s simply not enough space here to get into detail about all the safety, comfort and convenience features and equipment available with the next-generation Traverse. What’s important to retain is that this is a more refined vehicle, and offers all the safety features that its competitors do. It also includes the feature allowing owners to open the hatchback by simply swiping their foot under the rear bumper; even better, when it’s dark the Chevrolet badge is projected on the ground just so you know where to place your foot!
As is the case in every current Chevrolet model, WiFi and Apple CarPlay et Android Auto compatibility are included, as is wireless smartphone recharging. Another nice touch is the special rear camera that can project a panoramic view of the road behind the vehicle in the rearview mirror while driving.
The Traverse is an improved and more-comfortable multi-use vehicle. It has everything it needs to take on the competition in terms of its mechanics, comfort level, road handling and versatility, making it a highly credible alternative to the segment-leading Ford Explorer.