2013 is shaping up to be a momentous model year for General Motors' Lambda triplets, the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave. The Acadia refresh was revealed at this year's Chicago auto show, Buick has teased the Enclave update, and Chevrolet has just pulled the wraps off the 2013 Traverse.

Much like the Acadia, the most noticeable difference is the front-end treatment. Whereas the Acadia went from generic, non-offensive crossover style to in-your-face truck 'tude, the Traverse incorporates a more car-like front end, forsaking Chevrolet's recent prominent split-level grille design for a front end with clearly-defined upper and lower grille openings, bisected by the front bumper. The overall effect is a clean, contemporary look, making the 2013 Traverse appear visually "lighter" than its predecessor, at least from the frontal view. In the rear, the Traverse gets a new taillight design, and the license plate pocket has been repositioned onto the tailgate for a "sportier" look.

Mechanically, there are few changes, but 2013 brings the addition of the MyLink system, GM's next-generation mobile integration platform as an option, adding Pandora and Stitcher streaming internet radio to the head unit. A rearview camera system, previously standard on the 2LT, and LTZ trims and available on the 1LT, is now standard across all Traverse models. Climate controls have been redesigned for improved functionality. Soft-touch surfaces on the instrument panel and upper front doors highlight the improvements to the interior, and the optional ambient blue interior lighting adds an upscale touch.

On the safety front, the biggest news is the addition of a front-center airbag designed to reduce serious injury in side-impact crashes, inflating between the driver and front passenger, reducing potential body-to-body impacts. A side blind zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert radar system with audible alerts is optional, and StabiliTrak stability control, as on the 2012 models, is standard across the lineup.

GM's familiar 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 carries over unchanged, with the same 281/288 hp, 266/270 lb-ft of torque ratings (depending on single/dual exhaust) as the 2012 model. In a surprising turn of events, the smaller Equinox gets the 3.6-liter V-6 as an option for 2013, with power ratings of 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque.

But the Traverse's mission is clearly that of a practical family hauler, and its specifications reflect its mission in life. The Traverse features a best-in-class 24 highway mpg fuel economy rating for an eight-passenger crossover, has a maximum towing rating of 5200 pounds, and its maximum cargo and passenger volumes are considerably larger than its cross-town arch-rival, the Ford Explorer.

Although the under-the-skin changes may not appear extensive, Chevrolet's updates to the Traverse should help keep it a fresh and relevant contender in the crossover segment among increasingly more sophisticated and well-equipped competition.