Cars: Headin’ up to Traverse city |

Cars: Headin’ up to Traverse city

Andy Stonehouse
2009 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ. X09CT_TE039 (United States)
Wieck | Chevrolet

As we enjoy our first collective holiday in a long time (and do enjoy it, please, especially with gas prices still comfortably low), let me take a trip back to September to give you a bit of an idea of what the new Chevy Traverse was supposed to be, and what it is in reality, after some more recent time behind the wheel.

I attended a GM-wide press day in Phoenix and the Traverse, a large crossover blend of minivan and SUV, was poised as the day’s star attraction (even though the journalists in attendance were just a little more excited about a ride around the track in the new Corvette ZR1).

Nonetheless, the Traverse rolled out and we all looked on, marveling at a reasonably large, teardrop-shaped machine that rather discretely morphs raw people-moving capacity into something much more attractive than a minivan.

And with all-wheel-drive and a 281-horsepower 3.6 liter V6, it’s the kind of machine that might serve High Country parents, soccer coaches or those who just don’t quite feel like an SUV, but aren’t ready to commit to hauling the kids and the dog around in a Mazda 5, as people in Europe or Canada might do.

A GM manager described Traverse as “the vehicle you don’t want to hide in your garage,” and … a half year later, when I finally got a chance to drive the Traverse for a week, I must agree.

Admittedly, it’s definitely got the crossover thing going on ” which is a nice way of saying that like every other crossover, it looks like a variation on the bumblebee-shaped Nissan Murano or Mazda CX-7.

There’s also a certain thematic resonance with General Motors’ existing, somewhat smaller crossovers, including the Buick Enclave, the GMC Acadia and the Saturn Outlook; in Traverse’s variation, you get an extra row of seats and looks that are a nice mix of all three.

In its highest trim level, that even includes a Cadillac CTS-styled, shield-shaped grille; all levels include a long, swoopy window line and sporty dual exhausts. You also get futuristically angular side mirrors with very helpful convex inserts, which allow you to more easily park and change lanes, given the Traverse’s girth.

Inside, the stylistic push continues with an angular, wrap-around treatment from the dash to the doors. You also get some nice tech touches, including a backup camera built into the rearview mirror, Turn-by-Turn oral navigation through OnStar, plus a bar graph-styled fuel efficiency monitor.

My 2009 time with the Traverse (remember last year’s gas price crisis?) made the 16.9 mpg average a little easier to swallow; EPA figures say the Traverse should get 23 on the highway, but that wasn’t my experience.

And the ride? Smooth as butter, aided by 18-inch wheels, soft suspension, a long wheelbase and a comfortable 6-speed automatic transmission.

Passenger access is also a snap, as the second-row seats slide forward to allow people to jump into the back; if you aren’t hauling humans, everything folds flat to provide nearly 118 cubic feet of cargo space.

If big is what you need and a Suburban just seems a little too gauche for your tastes, this might be the compromise.

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