'09 Chevy Traverse: Stylish aero body, seats 8

By: samjack


THINGS are shaping up for
Chevrolet in the world of three-row people-movers. The 2009 Traverse (pronounced truh-vurs) joins its General Motors platform cousins — GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook — as a large-midsize crossover-vehicle that’s practical, stylish and a capable performer.

The Traverse goes on sale this fall with a starting price of $28,990 for the base 2WD LS model. It’s also offered in mid-line LT and top-line LTZ models, as well in 2WD and 4WD configurations.

This crossover impresses in a number of ways, but a high point is exterior styling. Designers were successful in giving the Traverse character — a sleekness allowing it to shake the stodgy “wagon” label.

Up front, giant scalloped-bottomed headlamps, which designers label “windswept,” flank an aggressive grille design — one Chevy reports you’ll be seeing more of on its products.

“The twin-port grille is the new face of Chevrolet globally,” said Humberto Ortiz, General Motors senior designer. “It builds on the Malibu sensation.”

While the front end is sufficiently bold, more creativity was invested in sculpting the rear end, with a pinched roof line and healthy fender haunches.

Highlighting rear-end styling is the liftgate, shaped with a cool boat-tail effect. Also eye-grabbing are trim shield-shaped window glass, liftgate spoiler and scalloped taillamps.

Wind drag is low with this design, which rates an exceptional 0.33 coefficient of drag. This helps reduce wind noise, improve performance and enhance fuel economy.

Style and performance are addressed with
17-, 18- and 20-inch wheels. The 20-inchers are Ultra-Bright aluminum wheels, standard on the LTZ.

The Traverse stays surprising well-planted during aggressive cornering on both 18- and 20-inch wheels/tires tested. Maneuvering the Traverse is efficient, thanks to responsive on-center steering.

Ride quality also is good on both size wheels, with not much difference in the degree to which irregularities are felt. Asked which wheels are best all around for the vehicle, a Chevy chassis engineer said the 18-inchers are his choice.

Power to the wheels is via a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, delivering 288 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque on dual-exhaust models. Its standard transmission mate is an automatic with smooth six-speed shifting.

The transmission teams with the V-6 on the 2WD version to burn regular gas at an estimated 17 miles per gallon, city, and 24 mpg, highway. Towing capacity is 5,200 pounds.

The driver experiences the Traverse’s power and performance within a roomy cabin that can be configured to tote seven or eight adults. It’s fitted with two front buckets; a standard 60/40-split bench or optional pair of captain’s chairs in the second row; and a two-place third-row bench. Unlike some of Traverse’s competitors, the third-row seat has a split-folding vs. one-piece-folding seatback.

Access to the third row is provided by a second-row Smart Slide seat system, which opens a relatively clear path to a bench capable of seating two adults.

Room behind the third-row bench is an exceptional 24.4 cubic feet. There’s enough space to tote a couple of golf bags or three average-size pieces of carry-on luggage.

Second- and third-row seatbacks fold flat to expand cargo capacity to 117.5 cubic feet.

Perforated-leather upholstery is optional for the stylish interior. Dashboard design with “wings” swooping from the center stack is handsome, but a better choice of plastic could have been used for the two-tone treatment.

Instrument panel design is modern-looking — like a pair of tear-drop-shaped robot eyes with blue-illuminated hash marks.

A Traverse standard is OnStar 8.0, which includes Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Bluetooth-enabled hands-free calling and an Advanced Crash Response System. In the event of a moderate-to-severe crash, ACR kicks in within seconds, sending a message to the OnStar Call Center adviser that a crash has occurred.

Passengers are protected by six standard airbags: a pair of dual-stage frontal airbags; dual pelvic-thorax side-impact airbags in the first row; and two head-curtain side-impact airbags covering all three rows.

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