The Traverse from Chevrolet first appeared in 2009 and was overhauled to its second generation for the 2018 model year. And if you were turned off by the styling of the original, it’s worth giving the new version a look. It feels like a small Suburban as it falls in the broader General Motors lineup as a Crossover or Midsize SUV along with the Enclave and Envision by Buick, the Cadillac XT5 and GMC’s Acadia. The Traverse is only slightly smaller than the Chevrolet Tahoe. Both are 204 inches long, but the Traverse is two inches narrower at 78.6 inches and 3.5 inches shorter at 70.7 inches (interestingly, the Tahoe wheelbase is five inches shorter than the Traverse). However the Traverse starts at about $20K less than the Tahoe. It starts at $30,875 and this is the second version we have tested. First it was the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse FWD Premier with a 3.6L priced out to $46,265, and more recently the 2019 AWD RS priced at $47,290.
To put the Traverse to the test the first time we loaded our family of four (an 8 month old and a 4 year old) and all the gear we needed for a week long ski trip and drove from Boulder, Colorado to Park City, Utah—about 500 miles each way. Our 2019 test was in the summer and way longer, Boulder to Seattle—1,300 miles each way. We blew right past Park City.
The Traverse is built on GM’s Lambda platform—along with the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave—and is smooth and easy to drive. Outward visibility through the windshield and forward side windows is good but like with so many modern vehicles these days looking towards the rear to see any hazards while backing up is pretty poor—hence the heavy relyance now on rear-view and surround-view (called Surround Vision by Chevy) cameras. The turning radius of the Traverse is 39 feet—pretty average for SUVs—which proved to be fine for most of the in-town maneuvering on our trip. GM’s suspension is awesome and the ride was always smooth from the long, high-speed hauls on the highway to plowing over washboard dirt roads and berms of snow in the ski area parking lots found on our first test. Also during that first test, the only complaint we had—specifically from my wife in the passenger seat—was this was the only car we’ve been where she’s gotten a little woozy. She couldn’t quite peg what it was, but our standing theory is that since her seat needed to be moved quite far forward to accommodate our 8 month old’s rear-facing car seat, her sightlines out of the vehicle may have been compromised just enough to throw her equilibrium. However, for our 2019 test, something shifted and she didn’t have any complaints like this whatsoever. Now our son’s seat was forward facing instead of rear facing, so maybe that changed where the passenger seat was placed.
Cargo space is amazing, even for a 204-inch SUV. The 23 cubic feet of volume behind the third row is spacious to start with. And in the configuration we were using it with the third row down we had 58.1 cubic feet. If we didn’t have to take the kids and could drop the second row we’d have a luxurious 98.2 cubic feet—but that wasn’t going to happen.
One great feature is how the second row captain chair on the passenger side moves forward to allow access to the third row even if there’s a child seat strapped in.
On our winter trip we strapped our skis to the top instead of trying to fit them inside. I used a pair of Thule universal towers and square bars to mount a pair of RockyMounts LiftOp ski racks—both awesome procuts if you’re looking into rooftop hauling.
For the summer trip, we didn’t need to put anything on the top, but we did have one of Thule’s new HideAway awnings to provide a little extra shade when needed. We didn’t pull a trailer on either trip but the Traverse comes with two engine options, hence two towing capacities. The 3.6L with the trailering package hauls 5,000 pounds and the 2.0L (which will be discontinued after 2019) with the trailering package hauls 1,500.
The 3.6L with the trailering package hauls 5,000 pounds and the 2.0L with the trailering package hauls 1,500. A significant difference worth considering if you plan to haul.
The Forward Wheel Drive (FWD) version of the Traverse we tested in 2018 was rated by the EPA to get a combined 21 MPG (18 city/27 highway). After 1,300 miles our full load and driving over mountain passes, the Traverse’s computer reported 21.2 MPG. Our own calculation of mileage showed that to be a little generous, but we find car computers usually are compared to the old school method of dividing the miles on the trip meter by the number of gallons put into the car at the pump. Nevertheless, for the vehicle size, that’s still pretty good mileage.
The AWD version we drove to Seattle takes a tiny hit and drops the combined rating to 20 MPG (17 city/25 highway). Still, the 21.7 gallon gas tank could provide up to 500 miles of range which proved to outlast our bladders and the need to stop for the kids along the way.
As is common with media test vehicles we first had the Premier trim package, the second highest trim available for the Traverse in 2018 then the RS trim in 2019. The RS is similar to the Premium as a variation on their luxury trim package. That is to say both were loaded with a bunch of extra features including some collision avoidance safety features, chrome trim and such. But what made the biggest difference to us in both trims were things like well placed USB charge ports, ergonomic (easy to reach) cup holders, included 110v AC power port (even if it was only on the back of the center console facing the second row), and a 12v DC port in the rear cargo area where we were able to plug in our portable fridge. The downside to the 12v placement in the cargo area on either trip is it’s pointing into the main space—meaning when we plug something into it, the plug sticks out into the cargo area and items can’t be pushed up against the sides. Some vehicles remedy this by placing the 12v plug on a horizontal surface like along the window or back side of the wheel well.
There is also a great little non-carpeted storage space under the floor of the rear compartment. It seemed ideal for an emergency kit that just would just live in the vehicle (though, ironically, it would then be under whatever was in the rear cargo space depending on the urgency of the emergency). Up front, there’s a secret storage space with a USB-A plug hiding behind the center console screen, which for us only being in the vehicle for a short period seemed like a good place to lose something because we might totally forget about that space. But maybe after owning the car, it would become commonplace to use it. Then there’s the built in WiFi hotspot which is something we always love about the latest versions of GM vehicles. As freelancers who essentially need to be able to work from anywhere, this saved us from needing to tether to our phone for data and since the data antenna is built into the vehicle, it’s placed higher and is bigger it gets better reception than our phones on the same network, AT&T. Missing however is the new USB-C style plug. I’ve seen these on rare occasion in some other vehicles and think all manufacturers need to start incorporating them.
The Traverse is hailed for being a marvel of engineering to make it feel so spacious on the interior. Indeed, it does and I never felt cramped sitting in the driver’s seat. The seats themselves are very comfortable. In the Premier and RS trims we had leather seats which were nice and the shape of them were accommodating and never felt cramped.
They have good adjustment controls and for the winter trip, the seat warmers were appreciated for that extra bit of coziness. We have no idea how the second row of captain seats or the third bench row felt, but they all had USB-A ports available to them to keep passengers charged up.
Vehicles this size are ideal for families—at least, families of four like ours on the kinds of adventures we do. The third row brings in great versatility. If we owned this vehicle, the third row would probably live most of its life folded down and only be brought into service on the rare occasion we needed to bring someone beyond the family along. As mentioned earlier, the feature of being able to tip the second row passenger side seat forward to allow access to the third row, even with a kid’s seat strapped in is pretty awesome. Always to our surprise, especially at this trim, there were no built in window shades to protect the kiddos from long hauls of shining sun from getting in the back. But the rear windows were tinted which did help some, but as many of you know, while on long road trips—especially ones traveling mostly east or west—whoever is sitting on the south side of the car is in the hot seat and any extra shade possible is usually highly appreciated.