Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted February 22, 2012 17:40
An Uphill Battle
When Ford came out with the Explorer just a few months ago, we knew we had a winner in our midst. Soon after, Chevrolet came out with their own new SUV to take the place of the Trailblazer for the meantime: the Traverse.
So, how does this 8-seater SUV stack up?
For one, it's long. Very long. It measures well over 5 meters long at 5207mm, 1991mm wide and 1788mm tall. Its nearly 200mm longer than the new Explorer, the new Durango or even the Land Cruiser. The wheelbase is long too, coming in at 3020mm.
In the style department, the Traverse does look modern. It gets the Chevrolet family face with the split grille. The headlamps are a little reminiscent of the Prado, while the side profile reminds me a bit of the Montero Sport. The rear end is a bit plain, though, and I feel the taillamps don't match the headlamps as they usually do in most other vehicles. A bit mixed in terms of looks then.
Inside, I was a little underwhelmed, primarily because of the prevalent use of plastic in the interior panels. It doesn't feel as luxurious as you would expect of a car at this price point. I do like the gauges and the controls, as well as the way the dash was designed, but still, the use of hard plastics does take away from it.
Where the Traverse shines is in seating, as it can accommodate 8 inside with 2 in the front, 3 in the middle and another 3 in the 3rd row. All while leaving plenty of room for cargo. I actually had my dad (he's 6'0”) sit in the third row without any complaints about knee, leg and head room. The accessibility of the 3rd row is a little strange, as it folds in an unconventional manner and slides forward. Either way, the Traverse scores good points when it comes to cabin space and passenger seating.
On its own, the Chevrolet Traverse comes pretty loaded with plenty of features. Standard are the usual suite of power assist for steering, windows and mirrors. Safety is a top priority for the Traverse as it gets 6 airbags, HID, foglamps, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, giving the Traverse top marks in various safety tests held by the NHTSA.
The Traverse does get an in-dash, DVD, CD, MP3, iPod-capable audio system with Bluetooth for your phone and satellite navigation, but its one that's been sourced from AVT. Impressive as it is in terms of its functions, but I feel the Traverse deserves something better, especially since the Explorer has its great MyFord Touch system. Also, the air conditioning is the manual type, and doesn't have as strong a blower as we would need in a tropical country.
So far, it's been a little underwhelming behind the wheel of the new Traverse. Perhaps the drive would be better?
Well, for one, the engine is pretty good. Powering the Traverse is a new 3.6 liter V6 from Chevy; the same, impressive V6 found in the Camaro RS we tested earlier. Of course, the Traverse is no Camaro, but it's nice to know you have power when you want it.
Nail that throttle and the V6 really comes to life. The Cam, er, Traverse lunges forward with plenty of gusto, after all, the engine has 281 horses and 359 newton meters available at your right foot's disposal. Handling that power is a 6-speed automatic transmission, giving the Traverse's V6 a good set of ratios to maximize.
For economy, its decent. In city streets with moderate to heavy traffic, the Traverse's powertrain returns 5.2 km/l (fully loaded) and 9.8 on the highway. Those figures aren't exactly record breaking, but being able to do it with a full cabin (for the city figures) is pretty decent.
Unlike Chevy's SUVs of old like the Trailblazer and Suburban, the Traverse is the brand's first large SUV that is actually a crossover; meaning the old body-on-frame construction has gone out in favor of the more modern unibody construction. It's a front wheel drive crossover SUV unlike the Suburban, Tahoe or Trailblazer, so don't expect much off-road ability. An all-wheel drive model is available, but is still meant for smooth dirt roads rather than hardcore off-roading.
The suspension is fully independent, and handling is decent for its size. Don't expect sporty handling in the corners, as it is a very heavy SUV. It's fine to drive around town, though its length does make parking a challenge; thankfully the rear camera makes it a bit easier.
The odd thing about the Traverse is its ride comfort; it's much stiffer than I expected. Having driven the Suburban and Trailblazer before, the Traverse is not as comfortable as either of them. It's strange because normally when a manufacturer transitions to crossover construction, the ride comfort typically improves. The suspension, body and even the relatively stiff nature of the seats tend to transmit a noticeable amount of the road's imperfections up to the passengers. Other reviews of the Traverse in the U.S. say it has a pliant ride, but it seems to have bitten more than it can chew when faced with our far less than perfect roads.
Needless to say, I was expecting a lot from the Chevrolet Traverse, especially given its pricetag (PhP 3,088,888). The great engine and excellent space are good points for the Traverse, the style and interior design are relative to the customer, but I do feel the ride comfort and the features need quite a bit of work.
I admit, the Ford Explorer (also a crossover) did raise the bar significantly for the mid to large SUV class overall (price, style, comfort, features, drive), and has spoiled us in our expectations of the class. Chevy has given us great cars like the Camaro, the Cruze and the Spark, with even more in the pipeline with the Sonic and Colorado, but the Traverse has quite a climb to meet the high standards set by its primary competition.