SUVs are all the rage these days. Small ones. Big ones. Huge ones. There’s an SUV for every life stage and lifestyle – from urban cute utes to mountain-loving rock crawlers.
So, why would you buy a Chevrolet Traverse over, say, a Volkswagen Atlas or Mazda CX-9? While a lot of vehicular purchases are based on brand loyalty, below are five good reasons to consider Traverse over its 7-passenger competition. And maybe one that could be a deal breaker.
Comfy seating for 7 or 8
The test vehicle was a 3LT model with leather seats, and it came with plush second-row captain’s chairs that slide forward or backward to allow for more or less space depending on legroom needs of second- and third-row passengers.
Access to the third row is easily accomplished between the captain’s chairs for those of the kid-sized variety, with plenty of legroom if the second-row passengers don’t slide their seats all the way rearward.
The cushions of the third-row seats had some squish to them, so anyone riding in the back row won’t feel like they’re sitting on concrete after a few minutes – this tends to be the downfall of a lot of SUVs with a third row. Atlas included.
A middle bench seat is standard on the L and LS trims and available at the LT trim level.
Neither Atlas nor CX-9 offer 8-passenger seating.
Rear camera mirror
This is one of the coolest new features I’m starting to see pop up in vehicles.
Basically it turns your rear-view mirror into a camera display. It takes some visual reconditioning because things do appear differently, but in the end it’s a huge help.
The biggest advantage is when you’re in a vehicle like the Traverse and have passengers and cargo to contend with. The camera on the rear of the vehicle essentially makes visual obstacles disappear.
Plus, the digital display brightens up the image portrayed on the screen, which creates overall better visibility at night or during inclement weather.
So far, we’ve only seen this on General Motors vehicles, though we’ve heard it will make its debut in the Nissan Armada for 2018.
The Traverse offers two engine options, a fuel sipping 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder and a peppy 3.6-liter, V-6. The test vehicle had the V-6, which delivers 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque.
This is just the right amount of power for the 4,362-pound vehicle. You won’t win any drag races, but you won’t stress out over highway merges either.
It’s worth noting that neither the Atlas nor the CX-9 offer this much power. Atlas wrings out a measly 276 horsepower from its V-6, and CX-9 only has a 4-cylinder engine that delivers 250 horsepower.
Cavernous cargo space
The redesigned Traverse has a bigger, blockier shape. This not only serves to give the SUV a more handsome, masculine appearance, but it also creates more usable cargo space.
I picked up my in-laws at the airport during the test period, and their two carry-on suitcases were able to lay flat, head-to-head on the floor of the cargo area. But they easily could have stood upright as well. In that position, at least five carry-on cases could fit behind the third-row seats, with plenty of room to lay garment bags, pillows or additional suitcases on top.
The third-row seats also fold flat, as do the second row captain’s chairs, which opens up space for larger objects like bikes or book shelves.
USB ports galore
I firmly believe there should be at least one USB port per seat in the car. Few automakers agree with me.
You see, most modern families have at least one mobile device per person. Whether it’s a cell phone or a tablet, these devices are invaluable on a long road trip. Until said devices need to recharged before you reach your final destination.
The Traverse test vehicle had seven USB ports to match the seven seats, and it had the added bonus of an actual 120-volt plug in the second row. So, it’s a win-win-win in my book – eight devices can physically all charge at the same time.
Most three-row SUVs forget the back row passengers altogether, and if there are any USB ports in the second row, you’re lucky.
Auto stop/start engine
In an attempt to increase fuel economy ratings, many automakers have started to adopt the auto stop/start engine feature, which turns off your engine when you bring the vehicle to a complete stop – like when you encounter a red light. The idea is that if your engine isn’t idling, you are saving fuel and your fuel economy numbers will increase.
I loathe this feature because it also mutes your HVAC settings and occasionally creates too long of a pause when you stop quickly before turning into traffic. Plus a lot of the systems out there are still herky jerky, with loud engine noises and noticeable shudders as the engine turns on and off.
Most automakers allow you to turn it off, but General Motors does not. And that, to me, is a deal breaker.
I would also argue that the whole reason it exists is a bust in urban driving where there is a stop sign on every corner. For the engine to turn off and then back on at each intersection, the vehicle seems to use more – not less – fuel. Case in point: In mostly city driving, I averaged 15.6 mpg. The EPA estimates that you should get 17 mpg in city driving.
A Facebook friend found a way to cheat the system by placing the transmission in low mode and then tapping it into 9th gear and driving like that. I asked the engineers at Chevrolet if this would hurt the engine or transmission, and they said no. But they also said they couldn’t guarantee that this cheat would work every time.
The Bottom Line
The 2018 Traverse is a handsome vehicle. It has a base price just more than $30K, and proves to be a nice family vehicle with excellent legroom and plenty of USB ports to charge mobile devices. When you add the available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot into the mix (subscription required), you can keep the peace among family members on long or short drives.
The test vehicle was a 3LT model, which included features such as the rear camera mirror, second row captain’s chairs, passive entry and push-button start. Add in the heated front seats, and you have something that’s both useable and comfortable.
The as-tested price was $44,185, which seems like a fair price to pay for functional family vehicle.
For reference a comparably equipped Atlas would cost $44,240 and a CX-9 would cost $45,255.