2010 Chevrolet Traverse AWD 2LT Road Test Review

John Birchard - CAP staff
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Amidst all the sturm und drang of General Motors' recent history – the bankruptcy, changes at the top, repeated management shuffles in the marketing and sales departments, etc. – the General continues to manufacture automobiles and trucks of increasing quality. Take, for example, the Chevrolet Traverse. Here is a crossover vehicle that was late arriving, joining scores of other crossovers from nearly every manufacturer in one of the most competitive segments in the industry. But late to the party or not, Traverse is carving out a nice piece of the action.

There are lots of reasons for its success. First, it's a big, good-looking vehicle. Second, it's well equipped with the kinds of features most people desire. It gets reasonably good gas mileage. It ranks high in the safety ratings. And it's priced competitively with its main challengers, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Ford Flex.

Chevrolet calls the Traverse a crossover. The EPA classifies it as a sport utility vehicle. The basic facts are these: It has the engine in front and features front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It's a car-based vehicle powered by a 3.6-litre V6 with direct injection making 281 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 266 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm. The engine is aluminum with double overhead cams and variable valve timing. Recommended fuel is regular unleaded and fuel economy is estimated at an EPA equivalent of 13.8 L/100km in town and 9.8 on the road for the front-wheel drive version, 14.7 and 10.2 for AWD (to give you competitive perspective via the Canadian system the numbers read 12.7 and 8.4 for FWD or 13.1 and 8.8 for AWD). The only transmission offered is GM's Hydramatic six-speed automatic. The company is so confident in their powertrain that they slap a 5-year/160,000-km limited powertrain warranty on it.

Brakes are four-wheel ventilated discs with ABS. Standard wheels are 17-inch steel, or you can opt for 18- or 20-inch aluminum. Riding on a 3,020-mm (118.9-inch) wheelbase, the overall length of the Traverse is 5,207 mm (205.0 inches). Curb weight is 2 141 kilos (4,720 pounds) for the front-wheel drive model, 2,234 kilos (4,925 pounds) if you go with AWD. In either case, there's seating capacity for seven or eight people distributed over three rows. Chevrolet claims best-in-class cargo room. I see no reason to argue with that claim. Fold down the second and third-row seats and remove the cargo management system and you'll have 3,296 litres (116.4 cubic feet) of space for your stuff... 1,948 litres (68.8 cubic feet) with just the third row stowed.

My test Traverse was the 2LT model with AWD bearing an MSRP of $42,415. The base LS goes for $35,700, while the top-of-the-line LTZ starts at $47,525. Standard equipment on the 2LT makes up a long list: StabiliTrak stability control system with traction control, one year of OnStar service featuring turn-by-turn travel directions and crash response, ultrasonic rear parking assist, rearview camera, power liftgate, heated outside mirrors with turn signals, 18" aluminum wheels, 8-way power adjustable driver seat, "smart slide" 2nd row seat feature, tri-zone climate control, tilt and telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, Bose audio system, USB port, XM Satellite Radio, and rear seat audio controls. The test Traverse included leather seats in the first and second row, too.

In addition to the devices already mentioned, safety gets its due with lots of airbags. The OnStar service is standard for the first year and worth keeping for its crash response alone. The automatic emergency call in the wake of a crash could save your life or that of a loved one. And OnStar does everything from providing travel directions to running a remote diagnostic check on your engine or recommending a restaurant.

The exterior of my test Traverse was done up in Gold Mist Metallic paint and the interior finished in "Cashmere." To these eyes, that means grey and tan in an attractive blend. The dash sweeps from mid-front door to mid-front door in a pleasing design. Gauges are backlit in green and are highly visible. Switches, levers and buttons are located in comfortable reach of the driver and operate properly. I was able to pre-set my favourite radio stations without so much as a glance at the driver's manual, which is uncommon. All cars' controls should be so simple. Fit and finish was very good, even though wide expanses of hard plastic are used.

Exterior styling is quite bold. The grille has the Chevy family horizontal bar with bowtie. The overall look is modern and pleasing. But rear visibility is less than optimal, with a small rear window and the side quarter windows squeezed by the stylish kick-up. The standard rearview camera display, which shows up on the inside rear-view mirror, is too small to be of much help – and it has no graphics to show the driver the safe range for reversing.

Handling, for such a large vehicle, is remarkably agile. The steering doesn't feel like you're directing a big SUV. Size does matter when it comes to acceleration, though. A 7.8 second zero to 100 km/h time isn't bad, but don't get feisty at the stoplight with, say, a Camaro SS. Reality will intrude. The highway ride in a Traverse is smooth and quiet.  The brakes are generally quite good, but you have to remember you're hauling a lot of weight. Like a freight train, it takes a while to stop.

It's easy for the driver to find a comfortable position in the Traverse. Between the wide and supportive seat, the tilt-and-telescope steering wheel and the well-placed dead pedal for the left foot, a driver of nearly any stature can find the sweet spot.

So while General Motors still has to dig itself out of a huge hole, it's with vehicles like the Traverse that they are beginning to see brighter days. The cold water of bankruptcy was a shock to the General, but they seem to have "got it" now. Traverse, Malibu, the new Camaro – all are competing head-to-head with Ford, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. Congrats to the bowtie guys.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Chevrolet, 2010, Traverse, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999,

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