DANSVILLE, Mich. -- On a bee-line stretch of Michigan 36, which shoots eastward out of the crossroads center of Dansville, we put the pedal down on a reworked Traverse, the full-size crossover utility vehicle from Chevrolet of General Motors.
Response comes almost instantly, as the CUV surges ahead with its V6 screaming and 20-inch 255/55R20 AL3 blackwalls scrambling to keep pace with the engine's high-revving whirs.
Then we hang on as the wagon seems to slink down on the pavement and run with bedrock stability.
Later, we park our tester Traverse on a blacktop lot simply to walk around Chevy's full-size CUV and scrutinize the sensuous styling.
It's a big wagon, close to 17 feet long and more than six wide, yet the slippery design of the sheetmetal package fools the eye and seems to diminish the scale.
Focal point is the bold front-end carved in elegant lines of a sculpted block with a power dome hood, 5-sided grille filled with horizontal fins, redesigned headlamp clusters, generous chrome accents and sculpted front fenders bulging over big tires.
The design contains built-in aero enhancers, such as an integrated rear spoiler and a splitter at the base of the frontal air dam. Those devices serve to enhance the vehicle's aerodynamic efficiency, which works to maximize fuel efficiency.
Traverse is constructed with an integral body-frame structure which compares to a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car rather than the conventional SUV's rear-wheel-drive (RWD) body-on-frame truck platform.
A stretched wheelbase of 118.9 inches and a wide wheel track of 67.3 inches front and 67.1 inches rear forge a long and broad platform which reduces the center of gravity for the vehicle and sets up a sure-footed ride quality.
And, unlike the typical SUV's solid rear truck axle and crude leaf springs, Traverse the CUV carries the independent suspension components like a car. There's a coil-over strut design up front with direct-acting stabilizer bar and full perimeter isolated cradle, while in the rear the independent H-arm arrangement has twin-tube shocks mounted on a road-bump-isolating sub-frame.
As a result, Traverse brings the easy-to-drive manners and smooth ride of a large luxury sedan.
Traverse also derives nimble steering attributes from a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, and the brakes add a disc at every wheel with electronic link to an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
Further, all versions stock StabiliTrak, GM's seamless yaw controller. The StabiliTrak electronic stability control system also ties to GM's rollover sensing system, dubbed rollover mitigation technology (RMT). It can deploy side-impact air bags and curtain air bags if on-board sensors detect a potential vehicular roll event.
All versions of Traverse stock passive safety systems like frontal and seat-mounted side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags mounted above outboard seats at all three rows. New safety technologies aboard Traverse include a front center side air bag designed to minimize injury from front-seat riders knocking into each other during a side-impact collision. The front center side air bag deploys from the inboard side of the driver's seat and inflates between driver and front passenger.
Traverse also offers the choice of FWD traction or a permanently-engaged all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. The intelligent AWD rig employs a computer and wheel sensors in conjunction with ABS and StabiliTrak to determine how much power to apply to each wheel for maintaining tire traction on wet or slippery pavement -- all with no intervention required from the driver.
Motivation for Traverse comes from a V6 engine which displaces 3.6 liters and has dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT). It delivers 281 hp at 6300 rpm plus torque of 266 lb-ft at 3400 rpm with single exhaust. With optional dual exhaust, the power numbers increase to 288 hp at 6300 rpm plus torque of 270 lb-ft at 3400 rpm.
The transmission is GM's fuel-saving Hydra-Matic 6T75 six-speed automatic updated with revised controls. With the 6T75 in play, the 2013 Traverse earns EPA fuel economy scores up to 24 mpg for highway cruising in the FWD edition, or 23 mpg with the AWD equipment.
The passenger compartment has room for three rows of seats and a rear bay for cargo. On the first row two wide bucket seats flank a floor console. On the second row the standard arrangement shows two captain's chairs which slide to and fro, although a sliding bench to accommodate three passengers is available. On the third row, a folding bench split 60/40 can squeeze up to three more riders aboard.
Upgraded materials in the cabin include soft-touch material on dashboard and front doors, accents in silver and chrome, and optional blue ambient lighting. The new center stack houses a 6.5-inch color touch radio with options for MyLink or MyLink with Navigation infotainment devices.
Traverse for 2013 trims out in base LS, upgraded 1LT and 2LT, or top-grade LTZ. Selecting the LTZ tier brings 20-inch painted aluminum wheels and a load of chrome decorating the exterior, with interior enhancements like perforated leather seat upholstery, heated and cooled front seats plus a heated steering wheel, memory settings for the driver's seat, bright dual exhaust outlets and new safety technologies like Side Blind Zone Alert with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert.
Chevrolet posts MSRP figures for the 2013 Traverse as low as $30,500 for entry-trim Traverse LS FWD.