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First Drive: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse

Room and refinement help second-generation midsize SUV stand out.

by on Aug.16, 2017

The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse will hit showrooms later this year with a slew of upgrades and a new transmission.

We’ve all used the term, “dog years,” to talk about how fast some things age. Nowhere does that better apply than an automobile. And these days, new vehicles seem to age faster and faster because there’s more and more competition. So, it’s a surprise that General Motors let its Chevrolet Traverse grow so old.

First introduced in late 2009 as a 2010 model, it’s as old as anything in the midsize SUV segment, not exactly a plus these days. But if we had to wait, it’s good to see what Chevy is finally bringing to market for 2018. The second-generation Traverse is bigger and roomier, yet lighter and more fuel-efficient, quick and reasonable nimble, and it offers a lot of appealing new features and a level of overall refinement missing from the original version.

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Or so we found out during a family getaway earlier this month making the five-hour run to Michigan’s favorite summer resort, the lakeside Traverse City, and back. The drive wasn’t perfect. We did experience one annoying problem – a rattle – in our late prototype along the way, though one that Chevy engineers already knew about and promise to have fixed before the ’18 models roll into showrooms.

Visually, you’ll likely immediately recognize the 2018 Chevy ute. The nose is a slight bit more raked, reflecting some of the steps taken to improve aerodynamics. There’s a more attractive grille, split by a crossbar emblazoned with the classic Chevrolet bowtie logo. Our test vehicle was one of the new High Country models, which features tastefully selective chrome accents, including strips on the otherwise body color side mirror caps.

The new Traverse High Country features a lot of high-end touches that give it a more luxurious feel.

Though a bit more modern and graceful, the new Traverse retains a more classic ute-like appearance than many of its competitors. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s good visibility, and the relatively flat roofline ensures plenty of headroom for passengers in the second and third rows. And with an extra two inches on the wheelbase, there’s significant additional space for passengers and cargo whether you opt for the two or three-seat middle row.

(Chevy has big plans for bigger Traverse. For the story, Click Here.)

The back seat could actually be used for adults, even on a trip as long as the one from Detroit to the upper reaches of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Most owners, however, are more likely to fold the back row down, which is relatively easy on the new Traverse. That provides a cavernous cargo compartment – and there’s even space hidden below the rear load floor if you want to tuck away a purse or computer bag, for example.

With the rear seats up, the middle row will slide forward, providing reasonable legroom for all rear occupants. The one problem we ran into during our trip was an annoying rattle that took some time to isolate. It ultimately proved to come from one of the second-row seats when pulled all the way rearward. It vanished in any other position. And the fact that Chevy engineers already knew about that and a slight buzz from the forward of two sunroofs when the shade was closed makes us confident these issues will quickly be addressed in production.

The cargo space in the new Chevrolet Traverse is expansive with plenty of space for whatever needs to be hauled.

Once we figured out how to resolve those problems we found traveling in the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse to be a real pleasure. The seats in our High Country model proved not only attractive but also comfortable on a five-hour drive, plush, with good leather and upscale stitching. The layout of the instrument panel said “truck,” with more rugged-looking knobs and controls, but the overall look was still quite luxurious. Pull the Chevy badges off and you might mistake the new Traverse for a more upscale brand.

Adding to the ease of a long-distance trip: a 10-speaker Bose sound system, the latest infotainment technology Chevy offers – including an onboard 4G LTE WiFi hotspot and such features as active cruise control. Set it and forget it. Traffic on I-75 can slow to a crawl, but the system automatically adjusts to the pace of traffic, even coming to a complete stop, if need be. There are also plenty of USB ports and even a 110-volt outlet. Add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

In terms of power, Traverse buyers can choose a 255-horsepower turbocharged four, though our High Country model featured a 310-hp 3.6-liter V-6 paired with parent General Motors’ new nine-speed automatic transmission. We were skeptical about the new gearbox, as some competitors have been having trouble with their nine-speeds. No such problem with the GM box – which was developed in a joint venture with erstwhile rival Ford Motor Co. It was all but transparent during normal operation, with none of the hunt-and-seek issues some other new transmissions have demonstrated.

In addition to the big cargo area in the back, the new Traverse has some hidden storage in the front of the vehicle too.

(Chevy Traverse named “Most American” vehicle in new study. Click Here to see why.)

But that new box, along with standard-issue Stop/Start technology – which shuts the engine off instead of idling, then restarts automatically – helped pay off in terms of fuel economy, as did the fact that the 2018 ute is 362 pounds lighter than the outgoing Traverse. In front-wheel-drive trim, it’s EPA-rated at 18 mpg City, 27 Highway and 21 Combined – five mpg better than before on the open road. The numbers slip just slightly to 17/25/20 for all-wheel-drive. On our long drive we averaged about 1 mpg better than we had expected for most of the trip, though we gave up a bit driving hard on back roads.

Meanwhile, the Traverse with the V-6 can launch from 0 to 60, according to GM, in “under 7 seconds,” while also carrying a tow rating of up to 5,000 pounds.

Up in the North Country, we had a chance to toss the midsize ute around on some rougher, twistier roads. No, it’s not as nimble as smaller models, like the latest-generation Chevy Equinox, but for its mass, the 2018 Traverse was reasonably spry and confidence inspiring. Add quiet. Once we dealt with that rattle it was quiet enough to converse in normal voice with the folks in back.

The new Traverse can be equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 310 horsepower.

Along with the active cruise, Chevy has given the new Traverse a reasonable complement of new safety features, including blind-spot warning, rear-cross traffic alert, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and lane-keep assist. But automatic emergency braking is only offered on the top two trim levels, including Premier and High Country and we hope they’ll show up on lower grades in the coming years.

One other feature deserves mention: dozens of young children die each year when parents and caregivers inadvertently leave them inside hot cars. GM introduced the Rear Seat Reminder system on its GMC models a couple years ago and is now expanding that to a wide range of additional models, including Traverse. If you opened the back door within 10 minutes of starting the Traverse you will get a chime and instrument panel warning to check to make sure you didn’t leave anything – or anyone – in back when you stop.

(Chevy hits the Redline. Click Here for more on the new, sporty edition of the 2018 Traverse.)

It’s the sort of touch that makes the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse a solid choice for family buyers. And, with the second-generation ute you don’t have to sacrifice the upscale features you might have found in competing brands. That makes the new Chevy a solid alternative when put up against other mainstream midsize offerings such as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander or the new Volkswagen Atlas.

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One Response to “First Drive: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse”

  1. Jim says:

    Zzzzzzzzz….