Day three of the OnStar Road Trip started in Durango, Colorado, and ended in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with some additional Santa Fe exploration the following morning. OnStar’s involvement during this stretch was minimal. The hotel I ended up selecting, Inn of the Governors, is featured on Priceline.com, so it’s in the system’s database; however, due to issues discussed in the previous article, I ended up doing my own research and reserving online at a rest stop via the excellent 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection. The takeaway, I think, is that while OnStar is undoubtedly handy to have, it’s not the full-spectrum, smartphone-supplanting concierge service that it theoretically could be. Not yet, at least. In this case, it’s clear that the addition of in-car Wi-Fi was the exact right move for OnStar equipped vehicles. We’re not sure there will ever be an end all solution for in-car communication, but OnStar seems to be covering as many bases as possible.
In any case, I’m glad that all was quiet on the OnStar front, because I’ve been waiting for a chance to talk about the Trax itself. I’ve taken a lot of road trips in a lot of different rides, and I can confirm that there’s no better way to get to know a car than to pound the pavement for hundreds of miles at a stretch. Here are a few things I’ve learned about the Trax during our extended time together.
"The cabin stays respectably quiet except for some booming engine noise north of 4,000 rpm."
The engine-noise issue is an unfortunate fact that’s been confirmed anew every time I lay into the throttle. When you’re on a road trip, though, you don’t spend much time taking the engine to redline. Instead, you’re mostly cruising at high speeds, and I’ve concluded from many hours of doing so that the Trax is actually exceptionally quiet on most surfaces. In my conversations with both OnStar operators and personal contacts (via Bluetooth), I’ve heard every single word. Listening to EconTalk podcasts at 79 miles per hour? No problem at all. Occasionally I hit a stretch of coarse pavement, and that’s when the Trax gets raucous like a typical economy car. But the vast majority of the time, it’s been a very quiet car by segment standards. Bravo, Chevy, for building an affordable crossover that drives like a luxury model in this important respect.
It Handles Well
OK, not necessarily when you’re really pushing it, but other than an automotive writer, who’s going to drive a Trax like a sports car? I’m talking about when you’re on a secondary road with sweeping turns, such as Route 84 from Durango to Santa Fe, where I took some of the photos above. The Trax feels confident and planted, with only moderate body roll, even at a spirited pace. Like the Sonic on which it’s based, the Trax has quick, accurate steering and a pleasantly responsive character overall. Sure, I could go for something a bit sportier on these deserted southwestern byways, but the Trax has been a surprisingly engaging steed for what it is.
It’s a Little Rough Around the Edges
When I’m writing reviews, it’s irrelevant whether I’d consider buying the car myself, but I always ponder that question anyway. So, would I buy a Trax? No. But as you can tell, that’s not because I dislike driving it. Rather, it’s because I’ve identified a few deal breakers, starting with the sun visors, which don’t slide back to cover the whole window when you swing them sideways. I remember discussing this with a Chevy engineer at the launch event. "You need a Buick Encore for that," he replied. In my opinion, that’s taking cost-cutting one step too far, because it means that lanky folks such as myself have no way of blocking the afternoon sun, a basic luxury that should be a given in any car.
I also don’t dig the narrow trunk, which necessitates folding down one of the rear seatbacks if you want to load a golf bag. If I ever buy a crossover or an SUV, it’s going to have a big trunk that can handle just about anything I throw at it. Furthermore, I have a moderate problem with the Trax’s bare-bones interior materials. You can buy a relatively sumptuous (and comparably spacious) VW Golf for the same price as a 2015 Trax LT FWD, and to be honest, that’s probably what I would do if I had to spend $23,000 or so on a new car.
But I won’t be at all surprised if the Trax proves to be a best seller. It’s downright pleasant to drive, and that unexpected quietness at speed gives it a premium character that a lot of shoppers might find hard to resist.
The truth is, Trax buyers will probably be more impressed with the little SUV’s in-car Wi-Fi than how it handles golf bags. OnStar and in-car W-Fi are exactly the kind of connected features anyone shopping for a budget friendly, compact SUV would expect.
Up Next: Barbecue in El Paso, the White Sands National Monument and the long drive home.