Remember the Chevy Uplander? Of course you don't. Uplander was Chevy's last-and some say pathetic-attempt to take on the swashbuckling duo known as the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. Poor sales led Chevy to kill the Uplander and exit the minivan segment entirely back in 2008-the same year the Traverse came on the scene. Coincidence? Nope. Though you'll never hear the Bowtie boys say it, Traverse is Chevy's de facto minivan replacement. And it's doing very well.
Chevy sold 91,000 Traverses back in 2009, the first full year it was on sale. In 2010, sales improved by 17 percent, making the Traverse the best-selling three-row crossover in the United States. In comparison, Toyota sold 83,118 and 92,121 Highlanders in the same two years, alongside 84,064 and 98,337 Siennas.
Sure, Chevy still does a lot of rental fleet volume, but Traverse's sales shouldn't be that much of a surprise. Despite its rather plain vanilla wrapper, the Traverse packs a lot of content, including GM's stout 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6 engine and six-speed transmission, seating for up to eight, and a 5200-pound towing capacity. Moving from the entry-level LS trim to LT and LTZ, Traverse buyers can upgrade to 20-inch wheels (17s are standard) and all-wheel drive, along with rear-seat entertainment and navigation systems for those long road trips.
With such sales success, it's no surprise that Traverse product planners chose to stick with the formula for 2011. Changes are minor: A USB port for the audio system has been relocated, two new exterior colors are offered (White Diamond Tricoat and Steel Green Metallic), and LT models now have heated cloth seats as an option.
In between a steady flow of Z06 Vettes, GT-Rs, and Boss Mustangs, a dark blue 2011 Traverse recently made it into the tanned and leathery hands of several of our editors. Though the prospect of shuffling around in an AWD MPV initially left our road warriors cold, after some seat time, our crew traded surprised shrugs and murmurs.