The SUV space is probably the most competitive one since the first car was invented. We’ve gone from mid-size and full-size SUVs to over 5 segments based on size and utility, and that is just the SUV. We now have SAV, CUV, Crossover and a few “made-up” others.
This made it really hard on the Traverse, and for 2018, Chevrolet redesigned it entirely to stay fresh, up to date and very family friendly.
The thing is, being all that is just not enough to compete these days, and so I had to take a more in-depth look at the Traverse.
Special thanks to Chevrolet and WeberShandwick for the week-long ride!
Let’s put the Traverse under the microscope and then go through what Chevrolet got right and what they still need to work on.
Introducing the 2018 Traverse
This is the second generation Traverse, and while the first one lasted nearly 8 years, it got a significant facelift in 2013. Both models were not really attractive to look at in my opinion.
New for 2018, the Traverse has been entirely redesigned to look more like its bigger brothers, the Tahoe and Suburban, and it pulls that off quite well.
It has a 3.6-litre v6 engine pushing out 310-horsepower and 351-Nm of torque delivered via a new 9-speed automatic transmission directly to the front wheels (of the test model) – a 4-wheel-drive version can be spec’d.
There are several trim levels on offer; LS, LT, and Premier. Others will be available early next year, along with a new 2-liter engine.
This, being the Premier model, has a 7-seat layout which is in the form of 2-2-3 (more on that later) with tons of storage space on the inside.
There is a long equipment list on the Premier which includes:
- D-Optic LED headlamps with Intellibeam
- Panoramic sunroof
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Keyless entry, start and remote start
- 360-degree camera with front and rear parking assist guidance lines and audible sensors
- Ventilated and heated front seats, with heated rear seats
- Front pedestrian detection, front collision warning, and following distance indicator
- Lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert
- 8-inch center dashboard display with Chevrolet MyLink with 10-speaker Bose sound system
- Height-adjusted powered tailgate with hands-free opening
- Quite a bit more small things like 7 USB ports, rear power outlet, etc
Quite a package, isn’t it? The Premier sells for ~180,000 AED (~49,000USD), but if you do not need all the bells and whistles, you can get your hands on one starting at ~120,000 AED (~32,500USD).
The 2018 Traverse is a long vehicle so let’s discuss the elephant in the room.
It is a hair under 5.2 meters long, which is the exact length of a Range Rover Long-Wheelbase model, except here, you can take 7 and luggage in that same space. This is a long vehicle, and while you do not feel it on the road, it’s prominent when parking or maneuvering tight spots.
The front is strong, bold and imposing with the massive grille, logo and extended bumper. It certainly looks like a large vehicle even when looking dead-on. While the car looks like an SUV, that low bumper and front-wheel-drive combination ensure you can’t do much of it.
Standard on the Premier, are the LED headlights, which are crystal white, offers brilliant coverage and range at night with active LED daylight running lights.
Moving to the side, the Traverse is not too high off the ground that entry and exit are hard, but not too low that this would be impossible to take off-road. The doors are long and wide, making sure you can quickly get in and out of the vehicle with minimal open door angle.
There is a strong shoulder-line going through the vehicle from the front to the rear taillamps that give it a powerful stance. It is simple, sharp and clean.
Being a Chevrolet, there is plenty of chrome all around, from the window surrounds, side mirrors, and along the lower part of the doors.
Around the back, the Traverse is kept simple. It is understated and elegant.
Straightforward and functional taillamps, dual chrome exhaust, and a neat design bring the shoulder-line to a close. Chrome continues on the bumper and upper lip between the taillamps.
The Traverse was a bit of a challenge to photograph because the vehicle looks alright, it didn’t seem good in photos. There are angles, especially around the front, where it just did not look beautiful. I would definitely suggest seeing this one in person, as I keep fluctuating between liking it, and not liking it – after every trip.
What Chevrolet nailed
There are a couple of unique selling points for the Traverse, and a few things they got right, that is worth highlighting. Here are 4:
It is over 5 meters long, and they must have put this space to good use, right?
The front seats have a beautifully spacious front-quarters with plenty of headroom, leg-room, and thigh-room. I say thigh room because this vehicle seems to have excessive space between the seats and the door or at least a more than I am used to.
The seats themselves are tall, wide and covered in soft leather. While this is a great start, there is something about the padding that makes them not as comfortable as they could be. Not saying they are not comfortable because they are, but I am sure if they were a tad softer, it would make all the difference.
The high center armrest is also a soft-touch addition in matching leather and stitching.
One thing to mention before heading to the rear seats is that the Traverse has a lot of storage; two cupholders, a large center pocket on the right side of the footwell, armrest storage compartment, glovebox and large side door pocket with 2 mini-pockets. That is not all…
The front display can be raised to reveal even more storage space for a phone, or music storage device along with a convenient USB port to connect it through.
In the Traverse Premier, you get 7 seats instead of 8. This is significant for two main reasons:
- This allows for two large, comfortable and fully adjustable second-row seats, and
- A cooler way for children to get to the rear seats, as they can get in, and go to the rear between the second-row seats
If you want to get an adult in the back, a simple 1-lever pull will slide the seats forward and slightly higher up for easy access.
The third-row is a traditional bench style, with fairly thin padding which could get uncomfortable on a long drive. Another point worth making is, while this first and second-row are spacious, the third is not, especially for adults.
The outer two seats are decent, but the center one is quite a tight fit unless you sit funny. One thing that sucked was that the second-row seats slam back in place when pulled, which banged into my knee – just be careful.
The compromise is as follows; get a 7 seater if you have more kids than adults to haul, or get an 8-seater if you have more adults than kids.
Another benefit of all this length is that with all 3-rows up, you have plenty of space for everyone’s luggage. There are several hooks and even a power port back there.
They have stuffed a lot of safety tech in the Traverse to ensure you and your family are very well taken care of!
- Low-speed braking – slows and stops the vehicle if it detects an imminent collision
- Lane-keep assist – monitors the lanes and guides the vehicle back in lane and warns you if you go over
- Forward collision alert – warns you if you get too close to a vehicle while driving with adjustable distance warning
- Front pedestrian braking – monitors the space in front of the vehicle and stops if it detects a pedestrian crossing
- Rear cross-traffic alert – applying of brakes if there is vehicle coming cross-traffic to avoid a collision
- Blind spot monitor – alerts the driver if a vehicle is in his/her blind spot and sends a warning if the vehicle continues in that direction
- Rear parking assist – activates the rear camera, sensors and has a visual display of distance
All this and more features keeps the Traverse highly competitive when it comes to safety
Convenience and comfort
One of the things that makes a car 2017, is how much of a convenience it can be, and Chevrolet has done a great job on the new Traverse.
First and foremost, the keyless entry, remote start, hands-free trunk control, and walk-away locking.
You will probably never take the keyfob out owning a Traverse. You can lock and unlock the doors by pressing the button on the door handle, start the vehicle at the press of the button, and if you walk away from the vehicle, it will lock itself.
Carrying heavy bags as you approach the Vehicle? Wave your foot under the rear bumper (there is a projection Chevrolet logo too) and the trunk will open – as long as it detects the keyfob in your pocket or bag.
How many USB ports do you think a vehicle of this size needs? 2, 3, 4? The Traverse has 7! The front passengers get access to 3 ports, second-row seaters have access to 2, and a power outlet and the third-row riders have one port on either side!
Chevrolet has stuffed the Traverse with a lot of advanced technologies, while most of them were covered under safety, there are even more pieces of tech on board.
Intellibeam is standard on the Premier models with LED headlights, which essentially turns on the high beams when it would be required and not affect other vehicles and on-coming traffic.
While there are 7 USB ports on board, they have also included a wireless charging pad. I have to admit this was not really fast on my Samsung Note 8, but it is a feature offered. I am sure will come in handy at some point, or at least to maintain your battery during your journey.
What Chevrolet needs to work on
While the Traverse has a lot of interesting characteristics, there are quite a few things that require work. Here are 7:
Walkway locking is a convenient feature to have, after all, we forget. The Traverse even sends you a warning on the driver instrument panel if you’ve opened the rear doors before you set off, to remind you to check your rear seat. That is, for people who forget their children or shopping.
What does this have to do with Walkaway locking? Well.. it is set up all wrong. If I open the door, get out, and walk around to the passenger side, the vehicle would lock itself thinking I walked away!
I do not mean take a stroll near the it, I mean literally around it and it would lock forcing you to unlock the doors – very annoying.
Speaking of locking the doors, the Traverse does not have a touch-sensitive door handle to unlock the door by just pulling it, one has to press the button on the handle to unlock it.
Cruise control and steering wheel controls
The Traverse in Premier trim has a host of sensors, including “Following Distance Indicator,” which monitors the road ahead and indicates when the system can identify a vehicle ahead and if it gets close. If the vehicle ahead is too close, it triggers the Traverse’s forward collision warning system.
Also, the vehicle has “Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning,” which means… the Traverse can see lanes, know where you are within them, see vehicles ahead and know when it’s close and finally, has standard cruise control. So, why on earth, can’t it also brake the car and maintain the speed of the vehicle ahead? Like the rest of the vehicles in the segment?
I raise this issue with another one. Cruise control is entirely set on the steering wheel, which also has controls for the driver instrument panel, voice control, and heated steering wheel control – but does not have the most basic steering wheel control, the volume!!
Parking sensors not always on
Having a big vehicle means struggles in tight spaces. Chevrolet battled that by fitting the Traverse with 360-degree cameras and proximity parking sensors, which all function pretty well. The only issue with that is that they are not always on, they require manual intervention or shift into the reverse gear.
You can imagine my disappointment driving a vehicle of this length down a tight parking ramp knowing this vehicle has cameras and sensors all around, but they’re not on.
Auto stop-start and fuel economy
I am all in for technology that is designed to improve on a vehicle’s fuel economy or environmental impact, but the implementation on the Traverse got to me.
First of all, you have no control over the auto stop-start, which means you cannot toggle this off to leave the engine on always.
When I made this complaint to my friends, they asked why I would want to turn it off? The answer was that I prefer turning it off when in neighboorhood traffic and roundabouts. Being the first to enter a roundabout and the engine switches off, is not amusing.
Secondly, you can barely tell when the Traverse turns off (until the air conditioning stops cooling) but you can when it turns back on, and it does require a second before you can set off.
And finally, the stop-start is supposed to aid in fuel economy, but what I realized is that in my test (city driving around Dubai), the vehicle would turn off and come back on in about 15 – 20 seconds. In return, I doubt the impact is significant, and my fuel economy was approximately 6.1KM/L (officially stated as 11.9) or 16.4L/100KM or 14.34MPG, which isn’t great anyways.
There are tons of features and options on the infotainment system. No doubt Chevrolet has done a great job stuffing it with features and actually has decent hardware to support operating it smoothly.
My issue with this system is it seems like it was designed by older aged people, for younger aged folks. The icons, colors, color-coded sections and UI isn’t working very well for Chevrolet, it looks a tad immature.
Ford has it very basic, but straightforward. The Germans are a generation or two ahead (And you pay for that). Chevrolet doesn’t seem to be able to crack it, and the theme even continues in the driver instrument panel with several taps to do the most basic things. And the steering wheel buttons aren’t the greatest to use as well.
Power and gear control
The test vehicle has 310-horsepower from the 3.6-litre v6 engine, which sounds about right, but unfortunately, the vehicle is massive, and unless you get the 4-wheel drive model, any hard acceleration leads to one or both of the following:
- Torque steer, where the power is pulling the vehicle’s steering direction – hard to bring back if you continue to accelerate
- Loud front-wheel spin when you set off
The front wheel drive Traverse would have made a little more sense with less power. The 4-wheel drive would do well with the power, mainly if you will actually tow anything.
The second point is, unlike its competitors that focused on being what the vehicle was designed to be, Chevrolet gave the Traverse paddles behind the steering wheel for manual shifting, and even up and down buttons on the gear lever. I just don’t understand, why would a general day-to-day driver of the Traverse need this? It apparently isn’t a sporty vehicle, nor a fun riding one… perhaps for towing? But you should get the 4-wheel drive for that anyways.
I am not sure if this is considered cost-cutting, but in the midst of all the 21st-century pieces of tech on the Traverse, some things did not make sense like how some materials were way too cheap looking and feeling, or that only the driver’s windows are auto up-and-down, etc
Where do we go from here?
That is actually the golden questions, isn’t it? Well… the answer to the question quite simple; if the Traverse does what you want from a vehicle in this segment vs. the others, get it.
My recommendation though is a bit different. I believe the Traverse makes the most sense if you’re purchasing one of the entry-level models. You get the same engine, front-wheel-drive, massive space, and a decent amount of tech such as keyless entry, touchscreen infotainment system, HID headlights, rearview camera, tri-zone air conditioning and more.
The higher up you go on the specifications, cars from other manufacturers start to become appealing as they are at a similar price point but might be giving you a better owner’s experience, advanced technology, a better resale value, or even styling. Space is probably the only thing the Traverse surely does better than anyone else.
It is hard to place but after having the Traverse for over a week, I understand it’s purpose and Chevrolet wanted to give it as much as it could for the least amount of money in exchange. This has led to mixed experiences, but there is no denying this is a great family car.