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Chevrolet Traverse: Showing off more intense SUV look

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The crossover look is out and SUV/truck styling is in. Apparently, buyers want their crossovers to have a rugged look and ditch the softer, wagon styling many crossovers currently offer.

I tested Chevy’s new 2018 Traverse FWD 3LT and liked the new truck-centric styling. Think of the new Traverse as a blend of the Tahoe and Equinox. Traverse’s thin LED headlights and slim taillights are tied together with a bold, shoulder line that reminds me of a Cadillac from certain angles. Traverse is tall, which benefits drivers with higher visibility, better headroom and good cargo capacity.

Power On Demand

Pop the hood and you’ll spy a 3.6-liter V-6 standard issue engine, except on turbocharged RS models. The 3.6-L features an adequate 266 pound-feet of torque and is backed with a new 9-speed automatic transmission. FCA take note, this is how a 9-speed should function in terms of responsiveness, power transfer and smoothness.

Inside Refined

Inside, I liked most of Traverse’s interior, as the ‘truck look’ continues. The wide seats and three-row, seven-passenger capacity give the Traverse a full-size interior feel. The 8-way power seat adjustments helped provide maximum comfort during a long road trip.

Splitting the front passengers is a tall, wide console that blends into a blunt pickup-style dash design. Chevy pulls off the truck design, and while there are a lot of plastic lower pieces throughout, they are put there to withstand harsh family use.

There is a touch of premium with leather trim on the seats and door panels. Entry/exit is good for the second-row bench, but curiously (cost-cutting) only the passenger side flips/folds forward to allow access to the third row. The second- and third-row seats fold flat, providing a total of 98 cubic feet behind the front row – perfect for gear and large objects. 

Technology

As for tech, it’s a mixed bag here. Traverse comes with the current edition of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. The diagonal display is integrated nicely into the dash, but even though it’s the latest MyLink system it is rapidly falling behind the competition. I thought the 8-inch screen was crowded with dated graphics and awkward functions to get to settings. On the positive side my test vehicle did have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with optional 4G LTE WiFi do help to keep the system relevant. Two USB charge ports are located up front plus there’s a 120-volt power outlet and two more USBs in the back for passengers.

Piloting the Traverse, I was pleased by the acceleration, as the transmission is quick to channel the engine’s power from a standing start. During low-speed cruising shifts were rendered virtually undetectable. The new engine never felt labored or about to run out of steam during passing – and it emits a throaty sound.

Handling

Handling has gone from minivan to capable sedan. Contributing to this improvement are MacPherson struts in front, bolstered with hydraulic ride-control mounts, then a five-link rear with hydraulic mounts, isolated cradle, and upgraded shocks all around.

My test vehicle was a front driver that handled somewhat truck-like but left the line like a late model Impala. The ride is smooth, without becoming mushy, and body sway is controlled. I was disappointed by the steering which felt numb and slow to respond.

The base model is the LS (there is a super-stripped L model) and LS starts at just under $33,000. However, the top AWD versions can fetch over $52,000 putting them closer to low- to mid-luxury brands’ mid-size offerings. 

So, the bottom line is, if you don’t want up-to-the-minute technology, and you can live without every option, and don’t need the firepower of a Dodge Durango, or the handling of a Mazda CX-9, then the new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse can hold its own with the competition.