"It’s about memories." That was the answer one of Chevy’s designers gave when asked to pinpoint the specific connection between Walt Disney World and Chevrolet. It stuck with me during the 4 days my family and I spent at the most magical place on earth, both driving and being driven around in the redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse.
Let me back up a little. The premise of the trip was this: Travel to Orlando with your family and experience the all-new Traverse as you would on a real family vacation — car seats, cookie crumbs and cries of "are we there yet?" included. Turns out there are some things a new car cannot fix.
I have to be honest. Before this trip, I hadn’t paid much attention to the Traverse. As Autotrader’s managing editor, I’ve spent time in both the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave, both of which I liked a lot. And as a mom of two young kids, I see a ton of Acadias and Enclaves in the carpool line of my kids’ school … but not many Traverses. Our executive editor said the previous generation looked a bit like a "big station wagon," which might be why I wasn’t seeing tons of them in the preschool parking lot. But when I walked out of baggage claim and laid eyes on the rugged, modern, super-attractive SUV waiting for us at the curb, my first thought was that based on looks alone, the new Traverse is a total winner.
Before we set off for the hotel, I paired my phone to the car, which was quick and painless. I was thrilled to see the Traverse offers Apple CarPlay, giving the SUV immediate brownie points in my book. However, instead of immediately connecting to CarPlay for Maps, I decided to try Chevy’s native navigation system to see how it worked. I found it to be pretty intuitive, and the system has a great way of saving destinations as favorites across the bottom of the screen.
I’ve spent the past few months driving long-term press cars like the Chrysler Pacifica and Nissan Armada, both of which are outfitted with dual rear-seat entertainment screens. My kids, ages 6 and 3, were definitely disappointed by the lack of screens in the Traverse. But we quickly realized that 4G LTE is just as good … if not better. As any parent with young kids knows, tablets (not to mention plenty of snacks, coloring books and stickers) are the key to easy travel with little ones. We had two iPads with us, so we quickly connected them to Wi-Fi for later use (we’d be driving out to Cocoa Beach the next day and would surely need a distraction for the kiddos).
One thing I’ve always said about parents with kids still in convertible car seats is that if you need/want a third row, second-row captain’s seats with a clear pathway to the third row are absolutely essential. Convertible child safety seats are typically installed via the LATCH system, and once they’re installed properly, it’s REALLY hard to get them out. Without that easy access via a central pathway to the third row, your additional passenger has to climb in through the cargo area. Not a huge deal if your third-row passenger is a big kid or teenager … bigger deal if your third-row passenger is grandma. Surprisingly, there aren’t a huge number of midsize SUVs with this feature. Minivans, yes … and full-size SUVs, sure … but the midsize SUV market doesn’t have a ton of options, as many of them have consoles blocking your way to the back row. Thankfully, the new Traverse offers captain’s seats with center-console-free access to the third row. But they’ve also managed to one-up the competion with one of the most parent-friendly features I’ve seen in the past few years. They call it the "Enhanced Smart Slide" second-row seat, which essentially means the second-row captain’s seat behind the passenger can tilt up and slide forward at the pull of a lever, even with a child safety seat installed. This. Is. Huge. Other automakers should take notice, because this feature alone could convince parents of small children to buy this car.
Chevy clearly wanted us to experience the Traverse both as driver and passenger, so they had one of their team members pick us up in "our" car that night to take us over to Epcot for dinner. I sat in the far back (which I got into quite easily, thank you very much), and I definitely wouldn’t call it roomy. I was fine for a short distance, but I’m also not a large person. Compared to the third row of the Honda Pilot, the Traverse is more cramped. Also, our test car was a 3LT Leather version, which meant no sunroof. Personally, I would never buy a 3-row SUV without a panoramic or 2-panel sunroof — I felt too claustrophobic back there! Of course, you can get that on some of the upper trim levels, so it’s just something to consider.
On our second day of the trip, we got to spend some good family time in the car. There were a few suggested routes, and we decided to head to Cocoa Beach, about an hour’s drive from Orlando. This is where the car’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot came in reallllly handy. One of our two iPads is pretty old, and to free up space, lots of the movies/TV shows on it are stored in iCloud and have to be downloaded (over Wi-Fi) before they can be watched. We were able to quickly download a show, and off we went. As rugged as this SUV looks, the ride is surprisingly quiet, comfortable and carlike, with tons of family-friendly features sprinkled throughout. From multiple hidden compartments (one behind the infotainment screen, another beneath the cargo area) to a giant center console, tons of USB ports and cupholders, and Surround Vision (giving you the ability to see a 360-degree view around the car, an absolute must-have as a parent, in my opinion), we kept finding small details that impressed us on our way out to Cocoa Beach. We arrived to find the Salty Sweet Women’s Pro/Am Surfing Competition in full swing, which was super cool. We had lunch on the pier as we watched the surfers do their thing, and then we headed back to Orlando.
Connect the Dots
I couldn’t help but notice how much of a connection Chevy and Disney have during my time there. We got a behind-the-scenes look at the Chevrolet Test Track ride at Epcot, which was awesome, and we could clearly see the rich history between these two iconic brands. But beyond the high-profile ride, there were other little things. All of the Walt Disney World security vehicles around the parks are Traverses. And Disney recently partnered with both Lyft and Chevy to offer resort guests something called "Minnie Van service," where you can arrange for a private vehicle from your Lyft app — and the car that picks you up is a polka-dotted, Minnie Mouse-emblazoned Chevrolet Traverse.
Which brings me back to making memories. Over the course of our 4 days at Disney, my family laughed, cried, smiled for pictures, ate yummy snacks and saw tons of new, exciting things. But I realized we did the exact same things during our time spent in the Traverse … and it’s not just because we were at Disney. We do these things together, as a family, every single day as we drive around our city just living our normal life. A family car like the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse just makes everything a little bit easier … and a family destination like Disney just makes everything a bit more magical. Either way, memories are being made … and these ones will surely last a lifetime.