Pros: Abundant passenger and cargo space; carlike handling; impressive fuel economy; pleasing ride; comfortable interior
Cons: Less capable than a big SUV; too large for parking-lot maneuvering; poor rear visibility; some hard interior plastics
America is about size. That’s one explanation for why the country’s highways and byways are overrun with large trucklike SUVs bouncing from work to school to soccer practice and anywhere else busy Americans need to be. But many are now finding their oversize utilities excessive for their daily needs and are seeking a more practical and efficient alternative. Behold the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse: a large, capable crossover with lots of functionality and a more modern approach to family motoring.
The Chevrolet Traverse won’t tow 8000-plus pounds and haul nine people around town as its Tahoe or Suburban counterparts do, but most people don’t need that kind of capability. The Traverse, on the other hand, can cart up to eight passengers and pull a 5000-pound trailer, which is more than enough for the average American household. In addition, the Traverse offers carlike handling, a plush ride, good fuel economy, a nice roster of convenience features and a stylish presence. What more could a family want?
For 2012, the Traverse arrives with very few changes. The LT and LTZ trim levels now get heated side mirrors with an auto-dimming feature on the driver’s side. The LTZ’s mirrors also offer a power-folding feature.
For those who don’t need an off-road-capable SUV and can’t see themselves driving a minivan, the Chevrolet Traverse crossover is a very viable choice in a sea of large family vehicles.
Comfort & Utility
The Traverse’s interior is well designed and appealing to the eye. Fit and finish are good, and most materials are soft to the touch, except for a few areas where cheap plastics have sneaked into the cabin. Gauges and controls exude a sophisticated look, and the optional two-tone color scheme across the sweeping dashboard gives the Traverse dramatic flair. There are also splashes of aluminum trim that convey a more upscale character.
Front seats are exceptionally comfortable, almost furniture-like. And the second row – defined by either a three-person bench or a pair of captain’s chairs – offers a Smart Slide feature, creating remarkable access to the Traverse’s third-row seating. And that third row is considerably more accommodating than that of many large SUVs. It’s wide enough to seat two adults comfortably, as long as they aren’t too big or tall. For two children, the rear seat is ideal. In addition to its seven- or eight-passenger seating configurations, the Traverse is laden with clever storage compartments from front to back.
Cargo-wise, the Traverse offers more space and versatility than the big Tahoe SUV. Its second-row bench is a 60/40 split folding seat, and its third row splits 50/50. Both rows can be folded flat to create a cargo hold large enough to transport a sizable love seat. And when the third row is upright, there’s still enough room behind it for a few pieces of luggage. That’s better than what most large SUVs can offer.
The 2012 Traverse comes in three trim levels: LS, LT and LTZ. Standard convenience features for the base LS include power mirrors, a manually adjustable tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo. The midlevel LT adds an eight-way power driver’s seat, tri-zone climate control, a power liftgate and a premium stereo. The range-topping LTZ adds leather upholstery, heated/cooled seats and push-button start. The optional dual sunroofs are a recommended feature.
From a convenience standpoint, the Traverse is as well-stocked as most large SUVs, and the cabin delivers a high level of comfort for family-style driving.
Technology content on the Traverse is not as rich as on some large SUVs. The LS has no notable advanced electronics features, but the LT trim includes a USB interface, rear parking sensors and a backup-camera system with a display screen in the rear-view mirror. The LTZ adds standard Bluetooth. Optional technologies include navigation and a rear DVD system.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The 2012 Chevrolet Traverse is available in front- or all-wheel drive configurations. Maximum towing capacity is 5200 pounds, enough to pull a small boat.
The Traverse is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 producing 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. This engine pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission with tap-shift manual shift control. The uplevel LTZ gains seven extra horses and four extra pound-feet thanks to its dual exhaust.
Estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 16/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. Both setups yield a combined fuel economy of 19 mpg.
The Traverse’s safety equipment encompasses six airbags including three-row head curtains. Also present is the OnStar telematics system.
The Traverse is armed with ABS and stability control with rollover mitigation technology to help keep it planted during sudden changes in direction and high-speed maneuvers.
The 2012 Chevrolet Traverse enjoys carlike ride and handling thanks to its unibody construction. Its road manners are significantly smoother and sharper than most large, truck-based SUVs. And in corners, it feels a good deal more stable. Body roll is minimal, and road grip is impressive. Drivers must still remain mindful of its sheer size, especially on tighter streets and in parking-lot situations, where maneuverability can be a challenge. Poor rear visibility is an added hindrance. But overall, the Traverse is very capable and comfortable for everyday driving.
The Traverse is not an off-road specialist. Those with all-terrain intentions should consider a more rugged traditional SUV. However, the Traverse is more than proficient in harsh weather conditions caused by snow, rain and mud. The LTZ’s large 20-inch wheels are an additional asset in these circumstances.
In terms of power, the Traverse feels adequate in traffic. It’s not particularly powerful, but it has the ability to accelerate with confidence when the need arises. In all other cases, power delivery is smooth, making for a quiet on-road experience with little drama. And that’s what you want in a family vehicle.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford Flex – The Flex offers better visibility, more expansive rear seating and a greater list of creature comforts and user technology. But the Traverse tops the Flex in handling.
Mazda CX-9 – The CX-9 is noticeably more sporty than the Traverse, and its smaller footprint makes it easier to manage. The Traverse, on the other hand, offers a roomier cabin for passengers and cargo, as well as a more supple ride.
GMC Acadia – Since it’s based on the same GM architecture as the Traverse, the Acadia is extremely similar on almost all fronts. The Acadia has a bit more truck flair, while the Traverse leans more in a family-centric direction. But these are primarily visual differences established by interior and exterior styling cues.
The 2012 Chevrolet Traverse LT makes the most sense to us. It’s well equipped without going overboard on amenities. Its 18-inch wheels are the perfect match for its chassis; the LTZ’s 20-inchers create a bit of a bouncy ride, especially for rear-seat passengers. We strongly suggest going with all-wheel drive to remain fully capable through all kinds of road conditions. Options such as dual sunroofs, navigation and rear-seat DVD are musts for families that frequently take road trips.