Mountain Wheels: Chevy’s beefier Traverse provides a legitimate option to full-size SUV comfort
While it had become a slightly dated and overly rounded memory of larger General Motors midsized SUVs, including the Saturn Outlook, the popular Chevrolet Traverse has been reinvented in an entirely different guise for its 2019 model.
In fact, I really liked the new Suburban-lite character expressed by the newer Traverse: bigger, more squared off in shape, with a largely comfortable three-row setup. Most of all, I appreciated its absolutely solid ride and handling, plus confident braking (even for a test vehicle with almost 10K of other people’s destructive testing).
I drove a somewhat upscale, lightly blacked-out RS version, and based on the experience, I’d be happy to take the Traverse as is or do one of those ridiculous Frankenstein jobs and swap in a new Camaro SS V-8 for more abrasive high-end power. Traverse seems like it could handle the job, very comfortably. The most basic Traverse starts at $30,925 with destination; RS models begin at $43,895, while my all-wheel-drive test vehicle was stickered at $47,290.
As it is, you’re not going to be too disappointed, as the standard 3.6-liter V-6 provides 310 horsepower and provided big-car thrust under all circumstances with impressive off-the-line acceleration and competent highway cruising. A 2.0-liter turbo is another option on front-wheel drive RS models, but I have heard its 257 horsepower output feels just a tad strained, though 295 foot-pounds of torque could be helpful at Leadville elevation.
The newer Traverse is also much, much bigger than its last-gen variant, though I think that perceptibly larger real estate makes it —hold onto your hat while I say these words — a much more livable and practical vehicle than the Tahoe/Suburban models.
Heresy? Sure. But think about it: Are your third-row Suburban passengers really all that comfortable, or do you even use those seats outside of the lacrosse team trips?
With Traverse, you get similarly imposing looks (especially in the more toughly tweaked RS model), you have basic but flexible occasional-use third-row seating, and storage is still a commodious 98.2 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded or 157.3 cubic feet of passenger space, using that metric.
Even better, the all-wheel drive Traverse gets 25 highway mpg with that V-6. Design is equally fancy Chevrolet level gloss, in and out, meaning Audi enthusiasts will still go European, but folks who don’t need GMC Denali or Cadillac faux-upscale will feel absolutely comfortable here.
Let’s go back to the driving experience. With a pair of trumpet-styled exhaust ports under one of the most old-school real rubber bumpers in the entire automotive market — the parking proximity camera works great, but if you mess up, you’re actually covered here — it makes macho enough noises to be cool.
Its upscale brothers may sub in electromagnetic ride options, but your standard suspension setup here was maybe 3,000 times more comfortable and flat-riding than the other domestic vehicle I drove last week: comfortable and confident on corners, relatively easy to park, but big enough to garner minor respect from tanker truck drivers, minus my California plates.
The Suburban comparison is not such a stretch, with the Traverse’s squared-off rear greenhouse and blacked-out glass, a prominent and shelf-like crease just below the windows along the entire bodyline and broad, almost rectangular wheel wells. Traverse’s hood is now creased and angular, almost Camaro-like, and the thin-profile headlamps and gigantic open-bar grille give the vehicle a more athletic feel. I do fear that the very low-hanging air dam under the front bumper will not make it past the first stretch of gravel road you hit.
Inside, seating is broad, not quite Cadillac flat, and you’ll enjoy ample headroom — a quick investigation from the outside reveals an odd embossed, almost Lego block pattern on the roof.
It’s black on black for the most part, minus some glossy plasticated metal and chrome highlights. Controls are also limited: just a couple of hard buttons and a volume control below the navigation screen, though AC controls are overly comprehensive.
The best seat in the house is the captain’s chair in the second row, which slides for comfort, plus a pop-forward eject function on the passenger side for easier third-row access. Rear passengers get climate controls and ceiling-mounted air vents.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Spoiler alert: There was almost no drama whatsoever during my recent test of the accomplished, practical and even vaguely sexy-looking Hyundai Sonata hybrid.