PowerSteering: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse Review
When Chevrolet introduced the original Traverse back in 2008 as a 2009 vehicle, the world was a vastly different place. Social media was in its nascence, the economy had imploded, and affordable, fuel-efficient cars were suddenly back in vogue.
Little did we know that in less than a decade’s time, crossover SUVs like the Traverse would dominate the American marketplace, comprising the biggest share of the market share and becoming the biggest money makers for many car companies.
That’s why Chevy is giving family-sized crossover SUV shoppers its best shot at building the perfect vehicle. The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is bigger, leaner and appreciably better than the version it replaces, and in almost every measure.
For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Traverse in the top-shelf High Country trim. Its only option is the $395 paint job upgrade, because the High Country is otherwise fully equipped right out of the box, except for minor upgrades and dealer-installed accessories. The price came to $53,440, including the extra-coast Cajun Red paint and the $995 destination charge.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the Chevrolet Traverse, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this Midsize SUV, and what they liked most and least about their Traverses.
Compared to the segment, more women own the Traverse (45% vs. 41%). They are slightly younger, at a median age of 54 years compared to 56 years, and they enjoy a lower median annual household income ($98,269 vs. $113,384).
In terms of their attitudes about vehicle ownership, Traverse buyers are far more likely to agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company when compared to all Midsize SUV owners (94% vs. 61%). They are also more likely to agree that a vehicle is just a way of getting from place to place (43% vs. 36%), and more often identify as Price Buyers (29% vs. 22%).
These sentiments help to explain why Traverse owners are less likely to agree that they will pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (46% vs. 52%), less likely to agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (62% vs. 70%), and less likely to pay extra to ensure their vehicle has the latest safety features (79% vs. 83%).
Owners report that their favorite things about the previous Traverse were (in descending order) the driving dynamics, exterior styling, interior design, engine/transmission, and visibility and safety. Owners indicate that their least favorite things about the previous Traverse were (in descending order) the storage/space, climate control system, infotainment system, seats, and by a significant margin, fuel economy.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the Chevrolet Traverse measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2017 APEAL Study.
Chevrolet’s design team deserves kudos for creating a masculine, handsome vehicle, with just the right amount of creasing along its flanks to keep it from looking slab sided.
Up front you’ll find the latest iteration of Chevy’s corporate face, which is more upscale and appealing than it has been for quite some time. My test vehicle’s 20-inch wheels added to the appearance of strength, and the squared-off rear hatch fit in with the overall theme of linearity.
Owners of the previous Traverse were already pleased with the appearance of their vehicles, which means they should be thrilled with the 2018 version.
I opened the door to my top-of-the-line High Country test vehicle to find a cabin bedecked in upscale saddle-colored (Loft Brown) leather upholstery, with a high-contrast black dashboard and carpets. So far, so good. What was odd was the light gray headliner and pillar covers that didn’t really match anything else. While I’m usually a big fan of light colored interiors, I would have preferred just a simple black headliner in this instance.
Adding to the fun is polished metal-look trim sprinkled liberally throughout the dashboard, along with prominent seam that delineates the top of the dashboard from the rest of the control panel. Some may be a fan of the aesthetic; I wished for a bit more subtlety and restraint.
My high-level trim test vehicle was equipped with upgraded materials on the upper part of the dash, but the lower part revealed the cheap and flimsy plastics that do not pass muster on a vehicle that costs more than $50,000. There were also persistent noises and rattles that did not speak well of fit and finish, although visually, no faults could be found.
The Traverse’s front seats are rather flat, and need some added bolstering for greater comfort. My husband thought that it needed some more thigh support as well. On the topic of cushioning, soft touch, padded material is needed for the door ledges where people commonly rest their elbows.
Chevy equips all but the lower trim levels of the Traverse with second-row captain’s chairs. While this takes away the ability to fit eight people, it makes for happier campers. The curbside second-row seat folds and lifts for ease of entry into the third-row, even with a child safety seat installed in that position.
Honestly, though, the Traverse is best when used as a 6-passenger vehicle. Only meanies would try to stuff three people into the third-row seat. As with most three-row crossovers, there is simply inadequate space back there, although legroom is more generous than in other 3-row crossovers.
Previous owners of the Traverse were not terribly happy with seat comfort. Unfortunately, based on my assessment, they may continue to complain.
Climate Control System
Chevrolet arranges the Traverse’s climate controls in a grid pattern with similarly sized buttons, which isn’t as easy to use as controls that are laid out in a single row. At least the temperature settings are controlled by knobs, and Chevrolet offers heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and a heated steering wheel for this SUV.
Owners of the previous Traverse weren’t too crazy about the infotainment technology that came with the vehicle. Indeed, it was fairly dated in terms of its appearance, functionality, and features. I think that the system in the new Traverse will put minds at ease.
Chevy’s MyLink system is one of the better ones on the market today. The graphics displayed on the 8-inch touchscreen are crisp and modern, it’s easy to access and go through the various menus, and features like the onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging tray are always a hot commodity for passengers. The volume/power knob is front and center, and although a companion tuning knob is also preferred, the tuning buttons flanking the volume knob are easy to use.
Storage and Space
Press a button underneath the MyLink display screen, and a little motor will lift the screen to reveal a nicely sized bin in which to store valuables that you want hidden away from prying eyes. This compartment supplements the somewhat small center console bin. Door panel bins are nice and roomy, though.
Opening the Traverse’s rear hands-free liftgate is made easy in the dark thanks to a lamp that projects the Chevy logo onto the ground in the spot where you need to wave your foot in order to activate the feature.
Once the hatch is open, you’ll find 23 cu.-ft. of space behind the third-row seats, which is more than many competitors. In High Country trim, you fold them with the power fold function in order to create 58.1 cu.-ft. of space. With the second-row seats also folded down, you’ll get access to an amazing 98.2 cu.-ft. of cargo capacity, which is superior to most competitors and even exceeds the stuff-carrying capability of supposedly full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe.
Visibility and Safety
The Traverse supplies a comprehensive view out and over its hood, making it easy to place the vehicle in spite of its size. Slim windshield pillars aid overall visibility as well. Several versions of the Traverse are equipped with a rear camera mirror, which projects a video feed from the rear cameras onto the rear view mirror for an unobstructed view to the back. It’s useful and intuitively activated by flipping the day/night lever at the bottom of the mirror housing.
At the time this review was published, neither the federal government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had performed crash testing on the new 2018 Traverse. Collisions can potentially be averted with the comprehensive array of active safety technologies that were included on my High Country test vehicle.
Unfortunately, Chevrolet reserves some of these important driver assistance and collision avoidance features for the more expensive Traverse trim levels. In comparison, several competitors include these key safety features as standard on every trim level. It’s time for Chevy to get with the times.
The new Chevy Traverse doesn’t just look strong, it is strong. Motivated by a stout 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6, the Traverse takes off quickly from a stop, and effortlessly slips in and out of holes in traffic.
Power is generous throughout the rev range, and the 9-speed automatic transmission shifts crisply, if a bit too eagerly under normal driving conditions. But, if that really bothers you, there is a manual shift mode activated using a rocker switch atop the gear selector. Properly equipped, the Traverse can tow up to 5,000 pounds with its V6 engine.
I’m glad that Chevy stuck with a V6 as the standard engine (although the RS trim level comes exclusively with a turbocharged 4-cylinder), as I’ve found that they are much better suited to moving bigger crossovers designed to carry lots of people, and with little penalty in terms of fuel economy.
According to EPA ratings, owners of a Traverse with a V6 engine and all-wheel drive should expect to get about 20 mpg in combined driving (17 city/25 highway). My week of driving in mixed conditions, even with a full house occasionally on board, netted an average of 19.9.
Fuel economy was the single biggest complaint that owners had about the old Traverse, and based on my experience, those who get the new Traverse should be a lot happier. Unless they’re expecting it to exceed official ratings, that is.
Traverse owners really liked the way the previous version drove, citing it as their favorite aspect of the vehicle. My opinion of the previous version diverged from their, but I’m much more satisfied with this new 2018 model, which has lost some weight and gained a stiffer body.
While it doesn’t try to compete with some of the more athletically tuned midsize crossovers on the market, it provides a solid, reassuring drive. It’s well mannered around town and gives a proficient performance on twisty roads. It feels a bit smaller than it is, but it also doesn’t dance when asked to shift its weight quickly.
If I have any complaint, its that the Traverse is louder inside than I expected, with a hoarse engine note and fairly obtrusive wind and road noise. If you want a quieter vehicle, you might want to look into the Buick Enclave, with its noise-suffocating sound deadening materials.
In the 2018 Traverse, Chevy has created an appealing family vehicle offering lots of practicality. My complaints mostly pertain to packaging issues, and in particular the one that puts important safety features out of reach of buyers who want a less expensive solution to their needs.
The Traverse is a sound vehicle, however, with lots going for it, making it a worthy entrant into the midsize crossover segment, which continues growing with no limits in sight.
General Motors supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 Chevrolet Traverse review.