New car reviews

2011 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ

The Chevy Traverse - A Sensible Crossover

Christina DesMarais, Fri, 25 Mar 2011 02:11:10 PDT

Like a chameleon, the crossover is an interesting animal. While my husband has a hard time distinguishing vehicles like the Chevrolet Traverse from an SUV, to me the difference is obvious. The Traverse and other crossovers remind me of station wagons on steroids.

"The wheels on that thing are huge," he said after checking out the top-of-the-line Traverse I was testing.

Indeed, "huge" is an appropriate descriptor for many aspects of the vehicle in competition with the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Ford Flex.

Big, hip and smart

Bigger than a car, hipper than a minivan and more fuel efficient than an SUV, it's no wonder there are so many on the road. The Chevrolet Traverse is a perfect specimen.

Park it next to a Tahoe like I did and you can see what I mean.

From the rear-end, the Traverse is only a titch shorter than its Chevy cousin, is more angular and has less window, all of which contribute to a sharp look. From the side, it seems to take up nearly as much space in the parking lot as the Tahoe, but again, does so with attitude. It's almost like the Traverse wants to say, "I'm as comfortable as an SUV, as utilitarian as a minivan but... I'm better-looking."

A hugely sensible interior

Sitting behind the wheel of the Traverse for the first time I appreciated how sensibly the driver, telephone, entertainment and environmental controls are configured. As today's vehicles continue to evolve into highly complex computers on wheels, manufacturers often seem to be opting for over-the-top technology instead of ease-of-use.

Not once while driving the Traverse did I find myself scratching my head about how to access vehicle diagnostics, or cussing out the Bluetooth voice-activated phone feature for accidentally calling someone I absolutely did not want to talk to or panicking when I couldn't figure out which button to push to end that blasted call.

The LTZ model I drove is the Traverse's upper trim level and comes with leather heated and cooled front seats, tri-zone climate controls, second row audio controls and a ceiling-mounted display for watching DVDs. While the hard and textured material covering the dash and doors isn't the most luxurious, it was fine for me and again, seemed sensible. If I had to pay more for something softer, I'd skip it.

The front cabin of the Traverse offers many areas for stashing stuff. In addition to the cubbies built into the adjustable middle arm rest, the dash has a large compartment to store things and hook-up an MP3 player or USB drive to play music.

Since the Traverse's windows have a chopped look to them-which you're not going to find in any minivan with the same utility inside-I loved the display in the rear-view mirror that shows video from a rear camera when reversing.

When you need to haul something large, the Traverse is a rock star. The third and second row seats fold down flat, resulting in class-leading maximum cargo space of 117.9 cu.ft. While I relished the luxurious Escalade I drove recently, even that behemoth didn't have seats that folded flat, but had removable (and heavy) third-row seats.

Driving the Traverse

The Traverse feels big. Yet, with 288hp and 270 ft.lb. of torque its 3.6L V-6 direct injection engine is fully capable of passing confidently or jumping off the line. In fact, on a two-hour drive through the country I was able to nimbly pass a line of cars behind a numbskull driving a motorcycle one-handed in 40-degree weather at 50 mph for miles on end.

The Traverse has a 6-speed automatic transmission and boasts fuel economy of 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway for the all-wheel-drive LTZ I drove. Front-wheel drive models get slightly better economy with 17/24 mpg city/highway.

While the Tahoe I photographed for this story can definitely tow a lot more than any crossover, the Traverse can pull up to 5200 pounds, good enough for pulling around a boat, pop-up camper, or pair of jet skiis.

As for price, the Traverse is GM's least expensive large crossover. The other GM options in this class are the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia.

While a minivan or SUV could adequately haul me, my husband, our four children and two dogs, I'd pick a crossover. To me, nothing says "I have a passel of kids" more than a minivan. I'll pass on that stereotype. And since I don't need to pull around something heavy like a skid loader, I'll take the crossover over the SUV and save a little gas.



From the side, the Traverse is not far in stature from a full-size SUV

Traverse's driving, media, and phone systems are organized comfortably and sensibly

Traverse (pictured in red) parked next to a Chevy Tahoe, takes up a slightly smaller footprint

The Traverse AWD LTZ has a 6-speed automatic transmission and boasts fuel economy of 16mpg-city and 23mpg-highway

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