The Traverse is the fourth General Motors' model built on its Lambda unibody architecture, others being the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook, and GMC Acadia. The Traverse is functionally much the same as its cross-brand siblings and gives Chevy a much-needed entry in this segment, replacing the ages-old, truck-based TrailBlazer. It also gives us our first taste of GM's direct-fuel-injection V-6 in this platform, although the other variants also are so equipped for 2009.
With optional dual exhausts, the newest version of GM's 3.6L DOHC V-6 spools out 288 hp. The engine is quiet and smooth and has a wide powerband. It's mated to a six-speed automatic transaxle, replete with a handy toggle switch on the end of the shifter to allow manual scrolling up and down all six gears. It's a good powertrain, but it works hard to move the Traverse's mass, plus cargo. You pay the penalty at the pump: While the EPA fuel economy estimates are 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, the observed fuel economy for our admittedly hard-driven, top-of-the-range, 5111-lb, all-wheel-drive LTZ was just 12.1 mpg.
Inside, the Traverse's IP and controls are clean and workable. The interior plastics and materials are attractive and appear durable. On a Chevy...how times have changed. Our tester featured sliding captain's chairs in the second row. Despite the Traverse's 118.9-in. wheelbase, second-row legroom is surprisingly tight for adults, especially if you plan on carrying anyone in the third row. On the positive side, your kids will like riding in the third row a whole lot better than in a Tahoe -- the H-point is higher off the floor, which means their knees won't be up around their ears. Fold the second- and third-row seats flat, and the Traverse will swallow 115.9 cu ft of stuff. Need to bring more junk along? No problem, given the towing package that delivers 5200-lb capacity.
Photos don't quite do the Traverse's clean, modern styling justice. The stacked grille graphic up front is strong, and while the upswept beltline compromises visibility a little, it gives what is basically a very large two-box vehicle a more athletic stance. The big 20-in. alloys, which are standard on the LTZ, help.