Chevrolet Traverse — Now with a new face

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Since it hit showrooms in the fall of 2008 as a 2009 model, the large Chevrolet Traverse crossover has sold more than 400,000 copies to families who desire the room of a minivan, but who want the panache of a sport utility vehicle.

While the Traverse was neither the sharpest looking big crossover on the road nor the most attractive inside what it did have was a large, useable cabin; a comfortable driving position; and performance from a large, relatively fuel-efficient V-6 engine.

For 2013, the Traverse becomes somewhat more appealing with an exterior styling makeover, a redesigned cabin with more upscale materials, a new MyLink infotainment system, and new safety features. At the same time, Chevrolet has left the rest of the vehicle unchanged, which is generally a good thing. The crossover's 116 cubic feet of cargo capacity and 69 cubic feet behind the second row seats is a big draw for large families and its maximum 5,200-pound towing capacity is better than all but a handful of SUVs.

Gone is the signature Chevrolet split grille, replaced by a more traditional design that will also grace the 2014 Chevy Impala. The rear has definitely been improved with a new attractive tailgate design angled lights that give the Traverse a trimmer appearance from the rear.

The interior has gained a new level of style with better soft-touch materials, first-class fit and finish, ambient lighting, relatively simple controls for audio and climate, a 6.5-inch LCD screen that imparts radio information and as an option the new MyLink interface. A backup camera has been added as standard equipment.

The Traverse retains the same 3.6-liter V-6 that it was originally endowed with making 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The top LTZ trim comes with twin exhaust outlets that increases horsepower to 288 and torque to 270 pound-feet.

Despite its rather corpulent 4,713 pounds in front-wheel drive and 4,956 pounds in all-wheel drive (the crossover's heavyweight stance was not addressed in the refresh), the engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, seems up to the task of moving people and cargo in an expeditious manner. It has been measured in the mid 7-second range from 0-to-60. Chevrolet says it has made slight tweaks to the transmission calibration in an effort to improve response and gas mileage.

We never encountered a performance hiccup from the Traverse in our more-than 300 miles behind the wheel in various types of driving situations. Whether moving quickly from a stoplight or merging into rapidly moving interstate traffic, our Traverse LTZ edition with the extra horsepower was up to the task. Full disclosure: Our biggest load consisted of three adults and luggage.

While the adequate performance w
as about what we expected, we were pleasantly surprised as to how nimble the Traverse felt on our favorite stretch of back-road twists and turns — considering it's size and weight.

The Traverse has two n
oteworthy additions for 2013. On the safety side, the Traverse gets a unique driver-seat side airbag. When a severe impact occurs, the air bag deploys in milliseconds from the inboard side of the driver’s seat and inflates between the driver and front passenger, providing added protection for both front occupants. It's optional on the base LS trim, but standard on the other trims.

The other is the aforementioned MyLink, which enables occupants to seamlessly integrate their smartphones for hands-free calling through the audio system and Bluetooth streaming of popular internet radio favorites Pandora and Stitcher. It includes large, easy-to-use controls and intuitive menus that help the driver chose the level of connectivity that works for him.

The big Chevy's flexible seating should appeal to any size family. Traverse’s second-row seat comes with a pair of captain’s chairs or a three-passenger bench giving the crossover eight-passenger capability. Each incorporates Traverse’s child-friendly, second-row SmartSlide feature that enables unobstructed access to the third-row bench seat with one hand.

The Traverse comes in four trim levels — LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ — starting at $31,333. All trim levels can be configured with all-wheel drive as a $2,000 option. The 1LT starts at $33,335, the 2LT at $37,405, and the LTZ at $41,250.

Standard features across the lineup include keyless entry, full power accessories, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rear air conditioning, 6.5-inch touchscreen display, six-speaker satellite and HD radio, Bluetooth, and OnStar.

The Traverse comes with all the usual safety features including airbags, traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes and rearview camera. A blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring system is available on the LTZ trim level.

Our well-equipped LTZ test vehicle came equipped with rear entertainment, navigation and trailer-tow package options and priced out for $44,015.

Base price: $31,335; as driven, $44,015
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 288 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 270 foot-pounds @ 3,400 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 118.9 inches
Length: 203.7 inches
Curb weight: 4,713 pounds
Turning circle: 40.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 24.4 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 116.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 5,200 pounds
Fuel capacity: 22 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 24 highway, 17 city
0-60: 7.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Mazda CX-9. Ford Flex, Dodge Durango

The Good
• Seating for up to eight people
• Quiet cabin
• Styling updates give vehicle fresh look

The Bad
• Extremely pricey in top trim

The Ugly
• Heavyweight status affects performance, mileage