We will fully admit that there is nothing very sexy about the family-hauling automotive segments. These are big, lumbering, purpose-built machines meant to tote around a lot of people and do it with safety and fuel efficiency in mind. Not the sort of things that supercars and Baja racers are known for.
The 2018 Traverse fits into the three-row category we prefer to call "minivans without sliding doors." These are the descendants of the sport utilities of the 1990s that evolved into the car-based crossovers we have now, largely replacing the minivans that once dominated suburban driveways.
The Traverse is very similar in build to the Buick Enclave we reviewed a few months ago, sharing its platform and underpinnings. It's several thousand dollars cheaper, however, and a little less upscale as a result. Yet it retains the excellent qualities we noted about the Enclave, including a very roomy and ergonomic interior and a solidly-designed, well-mated drivetrain.
We will note right off the bat that the greatest downside to the 2018 Traverse is its lack of advanced driver aids like adaptive cruise control and the like at all but the top-most trim level. That's disheartening, but we suspect General Motors was worried about cross-shoppers looking at the Traverse as a potential rival to the Enclave. We think they should anyway, though, because moving from the Buick shields to the Chevy bowtie means a lot of savings and not a lot of content loss as a result.
We like the exterior design of the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse with its well-defined, but simple hood lines angling towards the slight point at the front clip of the crossover. Wide gaps in the wheel wells keep the Traverse looking capable without sacrificing the generally smooth design of the vehicle overall.
Under all of that is a well-tuned 3.6-liter V6 that mates with a 9-speed automatic transmission in front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive as an option. We drove the FWD version and were surprised at not only its excellent power delivery for the vehicle's size, but also the unusually good capability in inclement weather. Outputting 310 horsepower (231 kW) at peak, the engine has a broad band of power delivery that motivates the Traverse well.
Out and about in the Traverse, we found that its relatively tight chassis and good turning radius translated into lots of maneuverability when getting through parking lots or obstacles around town. The good visibility and the standard rearview camera were a big help there as well. On the highway, it is a solid driver with the transmission offering plenty of gearing for getting into a pass or pushing hard to get up the on-ramp or over a mountain – whatever the passenger load. That kind of confidence comes from a well-designed drivetrain and good chassis, something Chevy put a lot of work in on for this new generation platform.
Most of the improvements come from not only the tuned engine and well-considered steering rack, but also the increased use of high strength steels and more robust weld points in the Traverse's body framing and mounts. These decrease body roll and improve maneuverability by adding stiffness.
Fuel economy in the 2018 Traverse is also good thanks to the drivetrain's design. The V6 and 9-speed trans are EPA-rated at 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway in FWD and 18/25 in AWD (12.4/8.7 and 13/9.4 l/100km). In the real world, our FWD Traverse averaged 22 mpg overall with varied passenger and cargo loads in mixed driving. Given our altitude and the cold temperatures, we'd say that the Traverse performed very well in terms of fuel efficiency.
Inside, the larger overall design translates into more interior space. The front driver and passenger seats are well executed with controls for the driver being well-placed and intuitive. Storage for things large and small is ubiquitous and includes a handy storage space (with USB) behind the infotainment screen, which is a perfect spot for phone.
In the second row, seating is also very good with a three-seat bench being standard. This split-fold bench offers good seating at the outboard positions and an adult-friendly center position that doesn't cramp too much. The second row bench can be swapped out for two captain's chairs with space between on most trim levels, which we prefer. It drops the total seating down to six, but adds a lot of interior spaciousness and easier access to the third row.
The third row in the 2018 Traverse is far better than expected. Normal-sized adults and smaller folks will do just fine back there with more legroom and headroom than might be expected. Few in the three-row segments can boast that. Access to the third row comes primarily from the second row seats tilting forward, but with the captain's chairs option, there is space to walk between those second-row seats to access the third row.
We have a few notes about the interior of the Traverse that could be important. First, seating is great all the way around, which marks this as a good people mover. With the second row bench and third row folded, the loading floor is almost completely flat and gives tons of room for cargo. With the second row captain's chairs, however, things aren't as flat (the chairs dont' go all the way down) and the space between leaves a big gap. There is still lots of cargo space, but less than there would be with the benches and it's not as simple to access with large, flat objects.
Turning to technology, the Traverse sports the latest edition of Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. This has faster responses and a more robust design to it, which we've noted in other Chevy vehicles recently. The interface can be a bit tedious at times, especially when menu digging to find specific settings or defaults to change, but everyday use is simple and easy. There are two USB charge ports in the back for passengers plus the two up front. Upgrading to higher trim points and infotainment options adds even more USBs to the rear.
Apple CarPlay and the latest edition of Android Auto are also included in the MyLink system. Several of Chevrolet's app-enabled options are also available on the fully upgraded infotainment system.
The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is not in the sexiest automotive segment, but it offers a lot to the buyer. It's set a new bar to which the former champion of three-rows, the Toyota Highlander, now has to play second fiddle. Where the 2018 Enclave has more bling and luxury, the 2018 Traverse is more budget friendly. It's one of the better consumer-focused vehicles we've driven this year.
The 2018 Traverse has a beginning manufacturer's suggested retail of US$29,930.
Product Page: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse
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