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.
Comments such as "You know, this isn't bad...much better than I remember," were consistently heard, as were dollops of praise for the Traverse's smooth ride and NVH suppression. Said assistant road test editor Carlos Lago, "Nice driver. Comfortable on smooth pavement, not so hard on rough stuff."
At the test track, the Traverse proved itself to be a solid mid-packer. It hit 60 miles per hour in 7.7 seconds-respectable for a nearly 5000-pound vehicle with only 288 horsepower. Its 16.0-second sprint to the quarter mile at 86.9 miles per hour was an equally solid performance.
From 60 miles an hour, the Traverse came to a stop in 124 feet-well off the pace of a Corvette Z06, but right in line with the Pilots, Highlanders, and Explorers of the world.
Same goes for its performance around our figure eight-27.8 seconds at 0.61 g didn't raise any eyebrows, though our test and handling guru Kim Reynolds gave the Traverse his tacit approval: "Quite nice. More roll and understeer than others but turn-in is crisper. The nanny is hard to detect and brake pedal is firmer."
Yes, none of that will get anyone's palms sweating, but remember this is a three- row Little Leaguer limousine that plays in the same sandbox as Odysseys and Siennas. Which is perhaps the Traverse's biggest problem. To many on our staff, it just doesn't stray far enough in the sport/ute or crossover direction. The Traverse's styling was singled out as "boring," because it looks and handles a lot like a minivan.
Some liked it for those reasons. "I like the seating position. Its upright position gives a commanding view of the road. Feels like I'm above everything, looking down," said Lago. "The Traverse is the most minivan-like and that's a compliment. It's got a cavernous interior, floors that look like they can take a beating, and an easy-to-access third row."
Some wanted more SUV swagger, or at least a modicum of sexiness, but all were unanimous in slagging the Traverse's low-rent interior.
"Interior plastics have the coarseness of a cheese grater. Disappointing plastics throughout, but at least they're uniform in their mediocrity," said one editor.
"While I like the access to the third row, I'm not impressed by the second row comfort. Others do it better," said another.
Also consistently criticized was the Traverse's OnStar-based navigation system, which looks rather pathetic when compared against the fancy integrated systems of newcomers like the Ford Explorer. Chevy knows this, which is why it offers a touch-screen-based system with rear camera for $1890 on 2LT equipped models.
Still, if you're in the market for a capable, competent people- and gear-hauler, Chevy's best-selling Traverse has a lot going for it. Just don't call it a minivan.
| 2011 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ AWD |
| POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS |
| DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT || Front engine, AWD |
| ENGINE TYPE || 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads |
| VALVETRAIN || DOHC, 4 valves/cyl |
| DISPLACEMENT || 217.5 cu in/3564 cc |
| COMPRESSION RATIO || 11.3:1 |
| POWER (SAE NET) || 288 hp @ 6300 rpm* |
| TORQUE (SAE NET) || 270 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm* |
| REDLINE || Not indicated |
| WEIGHT TO POWER || 17.1 lb/hp |
| TRANSMISSION || 6-speed automatic |
| AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO || 3.16:1/2.34:1 |
| SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR || Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar |
| STEERING RATIO || 16.1:1 |
| TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK || 2.9 |
| BRAKES, F;R || 12.8-in vented disc; 13.0-in vented disc, ABS |
| WHEELS || 8.0 x 20-in, cast aluminum |
| TIRES || 255/55R20 107H M+S Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza |
| DIMENSIONS |
| WHEELBASE || 118.9 in |
| TRACK, F/R || 67.8/67.4 in |
| LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT || 205.0 x 78.4 x 72.8 in |
| GROUND CLEARANCE || 7.2 in |
| APPRCH/DEPEART ANGLE || 13.1/17.1 deg |
| TURNING CIRCLE || 40.4 ft |
| CURB WEIGHT || 4939 lb |
| WEIGHT DIST., F/R || 55/45 % |
| TOWING CAPACITY || 5200 lb |
| SEATING CAPACITY || 7 |
| HEADROOM, F/M/R || 40.4/39.4/37.8 in |
| LEGROOM, F/M/R || 41.3/36.8/33.2 in |
| SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R || 62.0/61.3/57.6 in |
| CARGO VOLUME, F/M/R || 116.4/68.8/24.4 cu ft |
| TEST DATA |
| ACCELERATION TO MPH |
| 0-30 || 2.6 sec |
| 0-40 || 3.9 |
| 0-50 || 5.7 |
| 0-60 || 7.7 |
| 0-70 || 10.4 |
| 0-80 || 13.6 |
| 0-90 || 17.1 |
| PASSING, 45-65 MPH || 4.0 |
| QUARTER MILE || 16.0 sec @ 86.9 mph |
| BRAKING, 60-0 MPH || 124 ft |
| LATERAL ACCELERATION || 0.80 g (avg) |
| MT FIGURE EIGHT || 27.8 sec @ 0.61 g (avg) |
| TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH || 1600 rpm |
| CONSUMER INFO |
| BASE PRICE || $31,999 |
| PRICE AS TESTED || $42,400 |
| STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL || Yes/Yes |
| AIRBAGS || Dual front, front side, f/r curtain |
| BASIC WARRANTY || 3 yrs/36,000 miles |
| POWERTRAIN WARRANTY || 5 yrs/100,000 miles |
| ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE || 5 yrs/100,000 miles |
| FUEL CAPACITY || 22.0 gal |
| EPA CITY/HWY ECON || 16/23 mpg |
| ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY || 211/147 kW-hrs/100 miles |
| CO2 EMISSIONS || 1.05 lb/mile |
| MT FUEL ECONOMY || 13.8 mpg |
| RECOMMENDED FUEL || Unleaded regular |
| *SAE Certified |