Even General Motors recognizes the new order. After sitting on its hands for two years, it has given Chevrolet a midsize Traverse crossover, a noteworthy vehicle even if the name is uninspired.
When Enclave, Acadia and Outlook bowed for the 2007 model year, GM saw no need for a high-volume Chevy version. When gas topped $4 a gallon, GM changed its tune. After all, it wanted to keep all those fleeing TrailBlazers and Tahoes in the family.
Traverse comes in LS, LT and LTZ trim with front or all-wheel-drive for security on wet or snowy roads, what brought people to SUVs in the first place.
We tested the highest volume LT in FWD. Sadly the AWD version has no badge to let folks know of the added security. Traverse product manager Steve Bartolone said that's being corrected.
Traverse holds up to eight in three rows plus their stuff in the large cargo hold in back, which also has a compartment under the floor. Second- and third-row seats fold flat for massive space.
Second-row seats slide forward to create a wide aisle to row three, where knee and head room are at a premium. No such problem in the second row, thanks to sharply curved front seat backs that provided the room to stretch. Cloth seats are well padded, but side-bolsters are skimpy.
Traverse arrives at the same time as the Ford Flex, its close-in-size rival. Traverse is built on a 118.9-inch wheelbase and is 205 inches long, Flex a 117.9-inch wheelbase and 202.3 inches long.
While both have three rows of seats, Flex seats only seven. Like Traverse, lots of legroom in row two, but seat bottoms in Flex are slender and third-row seat bottoms are slim; leg and knee room is scant and cargo room not so spacious. Traverse/Flex offer an optional power tailgate, but neither a power folding third-row seat.
Traverse sports a 3.6-liter, 281-horsepower (288 with dual exhausts) V-6 with 6-speed automatic, that's more energetic and considerably quieter than the 3.5-liter, 260-h.p. V-6 with 6-speed in Flex. Traverse is so quiet you may tap the pedal while idling to make sure it's running. Flex will add a turbo boost–to 340 h.p.—in 2010.
The mileage rating is 17 m.p.g. city/24 m.p.g. highway with FWD in Traverse/Flex, but 16/23 Traverse and 16/22 Flex with AWD.
Stability control with roll mitigation control plus traction control is standard in Traverse. Ride is smooth, comfortable and quiet. Think family sedan rather than rough and readySUV. Traverse is nimble and easy to maneuver into and out of the passing lane or parking spot.
Visibility is excellent front, back and sides, and Traverse offers blind-spot mirrors. Unlike the blinking car symbol in the sideview mirrors on the Buick Lucerne to warn a vehicle is in the blind spot, Traverse houses a small second mirror in the corner of sideview mirrors to expose the blind spot. Great concept, but the second mirror is tiny and it takes time to figure out what you're seeing.
It also offers a backup camera that displays in the rearview mirror so you don't have to buy a $2,000 navi system to use its screen as a monitor. The wide-angle shot of what's behind appears in the left third of the mirror where it's very easy to see and no doubt soon will be offered in other GM vehicles. Option price: $450. Relax, volume will bring it down.
Neat touches include cell phone and iPod holders and a power-plug in the dash, a covered bin atop the dash, a bin big enough to hold a purse in the center console, bottle holders in all doors and cupholders in rear-door armrests.
Traverse starts at $28,255 for the LS, $30,810 for LT and $39,075 for LTZ. Add $2,000 for AWD.
Air conditioning, AM/FM radio with CD/MP3, power windows/locks/(heated) mirrors/driver's seat and side-curtain air bags are standard. The option list includes power liftgate (in a $2,705 package), power sunroof ($1,400), remote start ($260), DVD entertainment system ($2,340) and DVD navigation system ($2,840).
Flex, by comparison, starts at $28,295 for the SE, $32,070 the SEL, and $34,705 for Limited. Add $1,850 for AWD.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at email@example.com.