After General Motors murdered its minivans and started a variety of three-row crossovers on a then new Lambda stage around a decade ago, it looked a risky move. But it paid off Fast-forward to now, and Americans have bought over 2 million of those Chevrolet, GMC, and Buick (and yes, Saturn) people haulers.
Now GM’s second-generation three-row transporters are all here, and they’ve got a much tougher playing field of family SUVs to go up against. The first of those renewed efforts was the GMC Acadia, which appeared considerably in comparison with its predecessor. At a recent comparison test, it put mid-pack behind the Mazda CX-9 and the Volkswagen Atlas. So perhaps it’s a good thing that the Acadia’s corporate cousin, the new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, is taking a different strategy.
For starters, it’s done the reverse of shrink: With a wheelbase that is a whole two inches more than that of the older Traverse and incremental upticks in width, length, and elevation, the Traverse is a size XL to the Acadia’s L. It’s the largest crossover in a big class, and its size pays dividends indoors.
For those who place carpooling for sports teams on very top of the priority lists, the Traverse’s ace up its sleeve is your available eight-seat configuration which swaps out our test car’s second-row captain’s seats to get a three-seat seat–sadly, it is available only on reduced trim levels with cloth seats and less gear.
Speaking of gear, our top-trim Traverse High Country test car had itas it should, considering that its steep asking price of $52,995. Like GMC’s Denali trim level, the High Country is geared toward raising transaction costs and profit margins and comes fully loaded with showy exterior bits such as 20-inch wheels and tons of chrome trim; interior updates like a panoramic sunroof and a power-folding third-row seat; and a full complement of active-safety attributes. Its nicely laid-out interior largely impressed with its simple controls and attractive-looking finishes, even if the feel of substances does not quite justify the hefty price tag. We were also disappointed to come across a few areas where GM cut prices. The colors for the dual sunroofs, for example, are manual instead of power operated, and the flipping and folding second-row chair that facilitates access to the third row is included only on the passenger-side captain’s seat.
The High Country is the only variant of this Traverse that comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is a $2000-to-$3800 option otherwise. Compared with lesser AWD Traverses, the High Country’s system boasts a more advanced rear-axle drive unit using two clutches that individually control torque to each wheel. The setup is shared with the Acadia All Terrain and the Cadillac XT5. So, in theory, it is better at, ahem, traversing high state.
We figured that off-roading this Chevrolet people hauler would be about as useless as placing a child seat in a Corvette. But we did examine it on-road, in which it proved to be a capable performer in virtually every metric. The standard 3.6-liter V-6 motor with 310 horses provides strong and linear power via a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic, propelling the Traverse to 60 miles at a competitive 6.5 minutes. A calm and securely tuned chassis, great for a solid 0.83 gram of traction on the skidpad, gives the Chevy a planted feel, while its own brakes are confidence inspiring and stopped the hefty, 4680-pound crossover from 70 mph in a relatively clean 176 ft. Its ability to balance comfort and quiet with responsiveness nicely splits the difference, dynamically, between the even more nimble Mazda and the slightly softer and plusher Volkswagen.
Automatic stop/start is standard on each Traverse and is about as discreet as these methods get; it was a element in our test truck’s powerful 21-mpg average fuel economy, edging the EPA’s combined figure. Within our real-world highway fuel-economy testing, the Chevrolet really was able to top its own 25-mpg EPA quote, scoring 27 mpg and beating all of its competitors including that the CX-9and that the Honda Pilot (both of which returned 26 mpg).
Beyond being a roomier, more refined, more efficient, and better-performing bus than previously, the Traverse also looks less just like a bus. Its handsomely squared-off styling is surely more attractive than that of the old bulbous Traverse, which perhaps took its minivan-surrogate status a bit too badly. You may even mistake it for a Tahoe or a Suburban, given its size, which isn’t a terrible thing.
The new version’s more truckish design likely would have been enough to ensure the second-gen Traverse’s earnings success. The new Traverse is considerably improved in a lot of different ways puts it near the top of its contentious section. We would certainly wager that GM is going to have no trouble selling many more copies in the years to come.