SHEDIAC, N.B. – Chevrolet designers have given the three-row Traverse SUV more brawn for 2018. In fact, this totally new mid-size iteration, with its muscular, big-boy styling, might be considered a scaled-down version of its full-size sibling, the Suburban.
Feedback from consumers suggested that the exterior styling of the current-generation Traverse was was too soft, so Chevrolet’s design team has made this new generation more masculine and truck-like, taking styling cues from its big brother, such as its broad front end and thick C-pillar.
The bold, shared design cues are complemented by new headlight assemblies, including available LED lamps, signature LED daytime running lights and chrome accents. Overall, the styling changes have resulted in a solid look that should compare well with its prime competitor, the Ford Explorer.
Lighter but roomier
The new Traverse is built a new platform that’s stiffer than the previous generation, is about 7% lighter (which equals about 158 kilograms) and sits on a wheelbase that’s been stretched 50 millimetres to 3,071 mm, which is about 200 mm longer than its GMC cousin, the Acadia.
Interestingly, that added wheelbase length has altered the vehicle’s length by just 15 mm to 5,189 mm overall. However, the extra space between the front and rear axles has been put to good use by increasing interior space, including additional cargo room.
The total passenger volume within the cabin is now a class-leading 4,485 litres (up 215 litres from the 2017 Traverse) and maximum space for cargo is 2,789 litres (190 litres more than in the current model) with the second- and 60/40-split third-row seatbacks folded flat.
With all seatbacks upright, there’s still 651 litres of space available for stuff behind the third-row bench. Chevy says there’s more cargo area behind the back seat than in the Explorer, Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander.
There’s also a concealed 90-litre storage bin under the cargo area floor. It’s worth noting the floor of the cargo area is 1,219 mm – or 48 inches – wide, making it ideal for hauling home materials from the lumber yard. On the top trim levels, the rear power liftgate opens with the swing of your foot – and at night, a bowtie image illuminates on the ground to show precisely where to take that swing.
Five trim levels
The Traverse is being offered in five trim levels, including two new ones, plus a new Redline upgrade package ($995) that adds black gloss trimmings, special 20-inch gloss-black rims with red stripes and more.
The well-equipped, eight-passenger base model is the LS, which is available with front- or all-wheel drive and has a starting price of $36,790 for the FWD model (including freight charges and air-conditioning tax.) All-wheel drive adds $3,000 to the price tag.
The seven-passenger LT trim is expected to be the volume model, accounting for 30-40% of Traverse sales. It can be ordered with a cloth interior and FWD ($41,090) or AWD ($44,090), or it can be upgraded to the True North version ($49,390), which includes all-wheel drive, leather seat surfaces, 20-inch alloy rims, premium Bose audio system, navigation and dual-pane sunroof.
Chevy marketers note the price of the new LT AWD is just $430 more than the current model, but offers greater value with $2,850 in additional equipment and powertrain features. Pricing is also on a par with a comparable equipped 2017 Explorer XLT AWD, but outguns the Ford with $2,950 of additional equipment and value.
The Premier model ($54,390), loaded with upgrades and features, was the top of the line in the past, but an even higher-grade trim, the High Country, will now top off the lineup. This fully loaded model, at $60,390, is Chevrolet’s version of GMC’s premium Denali trim and in addition to a host of luxury and convenience features, it includes a unique, twin-clutch all-wheel drive system that feels more stable in slippery road conditions.
One powertrain, for now
The only powertrain offered with these models is a new, lighter, quieter, 3.6-litre V-6 engine coupled to a nine-speed Hydra-Matic 9T65 automatic transmission. With double overhead camshafts, variable valve timing and direct fuel injection, this engine generates 305 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Fuel-saving stop-start technology is standard on all models. Fuel consumption ratings with front-wheel drive are 12.9 litres/100 km in city driving, 8.7 on the highway and 11.0 combined. Fitted with all-wheel drive, the ratings are 13.7 city, 9.4 highway and 11.8 combined.
A new RS model will be joining the lineup later this year, featuring LT True North content plus a unique black exterior. Intended for drivers who are looking for slightly better fuel efficiency, or those buyers who prefer more torque, the RS will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine, also paired with a nine-speed automatic.
This engine churns out 255 horsepower, but its torque output is a stout 295 lb-ft. It will be offered only as a FWD vehicle. The four-cylinder’s fuel consumption is rated at 11.7 city, 9.0 highway and 10.5 combined. Properly equipped, the RS is capable of towing up to 680 kg (1,500 lb), compared to the 3.6L six, which can haul up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lb).
On the Road
Driving in a variety of conditions, including urban streets, highways and winding gravel roads, the Traverse’s dynamics were what one would expect of a modern SUV – it handled well, for what it is, the ride was quite comfortable, even over rough terrain, and the vehicle felt quite stable with minimal body lean. The V-6 powertrain performed admirably, with decent throttle response when the go pedal was pushed hard.
One of the new features for 2018 a switchable all-wheel drive system that enables the drive to change modes on the fly. One can simply turn a knob mounted on the centre console to switch between AWD and the more efficient FWD mode. There are also settings for off-road driving and towing mode. Models with FWD only are fitted with similar rotary dial that can be used on the fly to switch between normal two-wheel drive, a snow setting and towing mode, if equipped.
Perhaps the most impressive finding during our test drive was the quietness of the cabin. Even over the bumpy stuff, the Traverse kept the intrusion of road, tire and engine noise to an absolute minimum. The seats, even across several trim levels, were comfortable and supportive, although the padding on the third-row cushions and seatback were a bit thin for this butt and back.
There was plenty of head-and leg room for my ample bulk, however, even in the third row, which boasts the best leg room (856 mm) in the segment. Access to that back room was easy, thanks to the Smart-Slide second-row, right-hand captain’s chair, which can be tilted and moved forward, even with a child seat secured in place. Heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats are available.
Rich in technology
Buyers today are demanding more technology and connectivity in vehicles, so the new Traverse has been loaded with a host of new technological and convenience features for 2018, including a seven-inch colour touch-screen with MyLink that’s standard on the LS; the LT and higher trims get an eight-inch screen.
An added feature of the larger touch-screen is that it can be raised at the touch of a button to reveal a hidden storage compartment, complete with USB outlets. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard on all models, as are GM’s Teen Driver monitoring technology and rear-seat reminder system are standard, Also available is GM’s OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotpsot technology.
Up to 14 advanced safety technologies have also been added. New protection and avoidance features include adaptive cruise control, Intellibeam headlights, front pedestrian braking and low-speed and full-speed forward automatic braking, rear camera display in the interior rearview mirror and 360-degree surround vision, which is displayed on touch-screen mounted in the centre stack. These new features complement such carryover safety technologies as blind-spot monitoring, lane-change alert, forward collision alert, rear parking assist and rear cross traffic alert.
With its muscular new look, additional technologies and competitive pricing, the 2018 Traverse gives shoppers in the mid-size SUV segment a vehicle that certainly should be on their short list when it comes time to purchase.