When you traverse Traverse City in a Chevrolet Traverse you quickly realise that the residents are genuinely excited to converse about the all-new 2018 Traverse. This sleepy city on the shores of Lake Michigan has an unnatural amount of folk clued-up and ready for hard-core investigative natter about this new big crossover SUV from Chevrolet. Maybe it’s just because it’s the city with the same name, but I have never been on a test drive anywhere in the world before where an old lady interrupted my coffee break to quiz me on third-row seating comfort, load capacity and the pros and cons of that “new nine-speed tranny”. I mean, why would they even care never mind know that? The last generation Traverse possessed softish blobbish styling, a cheap and dull interior and… Well, I could go on and on but you get the point.
Despite the segment-leading averageness of the previous generation Traverse it still somehow managed to shift about 100,000 units per year in the United States alone from 2009 right up to 2016. That’s a hefty dose of old Traverse floating around and highlights the importance of this vehicle for Chevrolet. And Chevrolet today certainly isn’t the nail-it-together and hope-for-the-best, semi-functioning arm of a pre-bankruptcy General Motors that it used to be. General Motors is undergoing a renaissance and a reinvigorated Chevrolet is now building global cars for a global market to a global standard. However, if you are going to enter the global arena then you’re gonna walk right into a no-holds-barred global comparison. Can the new Traverse genuinely compete with the Japanese and German manufacturers in a world market?
If you are going to enter the global arena then you’re gonna walk right into a no-holds-barred global comparison.
In a word? Yes. And nobody is more impressed by this than me. American manufacturers in general have had a propensity to market their cars with exaggerated claims on the international stage and faced well-deserved derision as a result, while still (inexplicably) managing to maintain sales in their home market. But that is not the approach with this new Traverse. There has clearly been a realistic reevaluation of international expectations, and a concerted effort by the marque to genuinely challenge its global competitors. Colour me surprised but I genuinely believe the new Traverse is the best indication yet of the future for ‘New Chevrolet’. Am I going to gush and quiver and laud it with plaudits? Er, no. But damn, it doesn’t really put a foot wrong.
Styling is always subjective and a big SUV is never going to win a beauty competition. But the new Traverse is now a sharply creased, masculine and modern looking piece of machinery that thankfully bears no generational resemblance to its predecessor. The squared-off wheel arches, chunky angled C-pillar and long wheelbase are design elements that highlight its functionality and purpose. A quick investigative poke also reveals Chevrolet’s build quality game has been dramatically and positively improved with uniform panel gaps and a high-quality paint job. Yes, even in those out-of-the-way nooks and crannies that the marque used to literally and figuratively just dust over.
The positivity continues with the interior, beginning with its sheer vastness. There’s plenty of room in here for seven or eight passengers depending on which chair configuration you’ve optioned for. And all of the passengers could hypothetically be proper full-sized adults. I am a proper full-sized adult with a head and long legs and everything and even I surprisingly fit in the third row without much fuss thanks to easy access and the extra space gained by the extended wheelbase. But wait, there’s more good news…
All of the seats fold down near enough totally flat, but even with the third row up there’s still a decent sized cargo area. There’s also enough cubby holes, luggage bins and storage places to make me aware just how lucky I am to not have kids and cart all their ‘necessary’ junk around. Chevrolet have even managed to place the spare tyre inside the car this time so you don’t have to go crawling around in the dirt if you get a flat. And, as per General Motors’ new strategy, the Traverse is also festooned with a ridiculous amount of iTech and eGadgetry packed in because more and more folk are basing their car purchase on the inclusion of — takes deep breath — seven or eight inch touchscreen infotainment systems, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Audiobooks.com, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and obviously at least two USB ports per row to name just some of the stuff cars as a commodity ‘need’ to come with these days. Which the Traverse does. And, moving on…
Depending on which interior you option for, you either get cloth and plastic or leather with metallic trim pieces. Both options exceed expectations and positively raise Chevrolet’s global credibility. Comparisons with the German competition on interior aesthetics and material quality is inevitable however and it does slightly fall short on that premium feel. But, and I don’t say this lightly, Chevrolet is now genuinely fighting in the same (international) league and has raised its own bar substantially. The interior in the new Traverse is functional, inoffensive, comfortable and quality is to a (globally) praiseful high standard. Well done Chevrolet.
But all of this is worth naught if it rides and drives like a hick’s farm truck. Thankfully, it doesn’t.
In both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants the MacPherson struts in the front and multi-link suspension in the rear offer up a surprisingly plush ride in such a large vehicle. Chevy engineers have been busy. And to finally answer the question from the old lady of Traverse City, the new nine-speed tranny is really rather good. Paired up to the 3.6-litre V6 which generates 310-horsepower and 360Nm of torque it’s a rather nice drive. Upshifts are rapid if you sink the boot but nobody who buys the new Traverse is probably going to steer it like it is on a stage. It’s a big, comfortable, practical SUV and it’s packed full of safety features, tech, cup holders, cubby holes and has the luggage capacity of a van and the people carrying ability of a mini bus. It’s got a nice interior. It’s got a smooth engine with lots of pull. So, to all the people of Traverse City that asked, yes. It’s pretty good.