Real-world testing of the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse included loading up my family and trekking 350 miles across the state of Illinois and Indiana — a full load of passengers and cargo, traffic, rain, and boredom were no challenge to Chevrolet’s newest mid-size sport utility vehicle.
Ask any busy family about the qualities that comprise an ideal sport-utility vehicle and their answer will likely include any number of these five words: comfort, room, capability, safety, and value. While many automakers can check two or three of those boxes off with their crossover offerings, few are able to effectively attain all five as comprehensively as the completely-redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse.
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Confirming my statement, I recently loaded my family into Chevrolet’s newest mid-size SUV for a 350-mile road trip from Chicago to Purdue University, and back, to visit my son during the school’s ‘Parent’s Weekend’ celebrations. I planned on an easy three-day journey, but heavy traffic, inclement weather, and keeping all occupants entertained during hours of passing cornfields presented its challenges.
It’s not your eyes playing tricks on you — the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse has grown over the years to be longer than the Chevrolet Tahoe, which is the company’s traditional body-on-frame sport utility. Not only is it longer, but Traverse also has more interior room and it rides on a longer wheelbase (stretching the wheelbase typically improves the ride). Adding in the fact that the Traverse is built on a unibody chassis – just like a passenger car – it will drive more like a family sedan than a work truck. That said, while there are still plenty of times when I’d recommend the traditional Tahoe (e.g., someone who tows frequently, or spends a lot of time off-road), most families will be better served by today’s Traverse.
The family-friendly approach is immediately apparent when passengers climb into the cabin. The automaker offers seating for up to eight, but the Traverse I was driving (“Traverse FWD 3LT Leather”) was configured for seven, which meant it had the convenient captain’s chairs in the first and second rows. For families that don’t need eight-passenger seating capacity, I highly recommend this configuration as it significantly eases access to the last row through the middle two when the doors are shut (Chevrolet’s Smart Slide Seating, on the second-row passenger side, also allows the seat to effortlessly slide up and forward to ease access to the third row from a parked position).
A large center console opens to reveal generous storage space for personal items and the pockets on the doors are also over-sized to accept water bottles and more. There is also a secret compartment behind the infotainment screen – electric motors lift it up for access – that can be locked with a secret PIN, if desired. Overall, the Traverse offers no shortage of places to stuff/hide things for easy retrieval.
Chevrolet offers the Traverse with a choice of engines. Most will be fitted with the standard 3.6-liter six-cylinder, which is rated at 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Optional (offered on the premium trims) is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which develops 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are mated to a slick-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but those who tow (with the Trailering Equipment package and a V6, it will tow up to 5,000 pounds) or find themselves in challenging weather will want to opt for all-wheel drive.
Departing O’Hare airport in a front-wheel drive Traverse, southbound to Purdue, highway traffic crawls to a halt nearly immediately. I reach for the Adaptive Cruise Control – a lifesaver (and safety cushion) in these conditions – and the 3LT trim doesn’t have it. Frustratingly, Chevrolet only offers it on the premium High Country trim. (I recommend the aforementioned ACC and upgrading to the Driver Confidence II package, which bundles Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Following Distance Indicator, Front Pedestrian Detection and IntelliBeam headlamps.) There is too much congestion for the standard ‘one speed’ cruise control, so my right leg is going to get a workout.
Nevertheless, the 9-speed automatic and 310-horsepower V6 make easy work of the stop-and-go traffic. Highway travel at speed is painless, as the engine feels like it is barely working when the transmission shifts into a tall overdrive. Off the highway, the Traverse feels quick off the line – figure a 0-60 mph sprint in less than seven seconds. However, aggressive acceleration (e.g., passing on a two-lane road) requires the transmission to kick-down a couple gears every single time. My experience says the smaller turbocharged engine will have a bit more punch thanks to the torque from its turbocharger, but in real-world practice it will be thirstier around town. (While I noted 25.8 mpg during one 133-mile high-speed stretch in the V6, the overall fuel economy for the 345.2-mile trip was exactly 22.0 mpg – not bad when you consider a great deal of that was around town and the engine makes a stout 310 horsepower.)
Rain that evening had me second-guessing the front-wheel drive powertrain, which is the standard driveline. Yet the surefooted Traverse never put a tire wrong on the chilly, wet, surfaces (many covered in slippery leaves). Non-intrusive traction control ensured that wheelspin — a frustration with most front-wheel drive vehicles — was minimal. Thankfully.
While the engineers at Chevrolet never engineered the Traverse to be sporty, the new model is significantly lighter than its predecessor – a significant 350 pounds. Removing that mass and recalibrating the suspension means that the sport utility feels lighter and it handles better. I deliberately took some curvy back roads while heading to West Lafayette, and my passengers put up protest about my spirited driving long before the chassis showed any signs of angst.
The cabin of the Traverse is quiet and comfortable. Driver and front occupant both have supportive seats (8-way power for the driver, and 6-way power for the passenger) that feel great, even after hours in the saddle. The view out is commanding (one reason why families love crossovers), with big windows and tall seating positions for all. Even at night, when I often find myself hunting around for buttons and switches in a darkened cabin, everything was easy to find. Again, kudos to Chevrolet for the traditional “PRNDL” transmission shift lever that doesn’t require the operator to look down when operating it.
My kids also liked the second row accommodations, really enjoying the inboard armrests on the seats and large storage compartments molded into the door panels. They also commented about the USB/power options on the rear of the console and the strong 4G LTA Wi-Fi hotspot, which kept both of them busy on their devices during much of the drive. It’s worth noting that the captain’s chairs are far enough apart that they were able to put a few bags on snacks on the floor between them — no complaints, whatsoever.
Chevrolet fits all Traverse models with a standard rear camera, Rear Park Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. More sophisticated safety technology, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Pedestrian Braking, and Forward Collision Alert are optional on premium trim levels (I’d prefer that Chevrolet offered those on the standard trims, too). The NHTSA gives the 2018 Traverse its highest 5-Star overall safety rating, which is additional peace of mind if the unexpected happens.
I’d be doing shoppers a disservice if I failed to mention that Chevrolet also fits all Traverse models with its Teen Driver Technology. This built-in system – no subscription required – helps parents keep track of how their teens are driving. Consider it a post-drive report card, which is an excellent way to open up a dialog about safe driving practices. On a similar note, OnStar, which is Chevrolet’s satellite-based connectivity, is also standard and it comes with a complimentary five-year basic plan.
With a base price of $30,875 (incl. destination), and a very reasonable as-tested price of $44,185 for my 3LT trim, it goes without saying that I put the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse high on my crossover recommendation list. Three days behind the wheel proved to me that it checks the requisite boxes for comfort, room, capability, safety, and value, while my smiling family confirmed that I wasn’t the only one satisfied.
Source: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, The Family Road Trip Extraordinaire