2018 Chevrolet Traverse trades sleek for buff [video review]

It was a pretty risky move, nearly a decade ago, for Chevrolet to drop its mini-van and mid-size SUV, then replace both with a full-size crossover. Following the similar Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook, the bow-tie gang hit it out of the park. The big ute was quiet, comfortable, and elegantly styled. An all-new model transforms from sleek to buff while adopting new architecture. Is it as good as the original?

I think most crossover buyers will prefer the new sheetmetal, which looks more like a smaller Tahoe SUV. Styling echoes current Chevrolet themes established by the Malibu and Equinox, which means the brand’s trademark “twin port” grille, crisp side sculpting, upturned chrome window line, and wrap-around LED taillamps. It looks especially suave over 20” wheels and glistening with HID headlamps. It’s more formal attire that presents as decidedly less “mommy wagon”.

There’s a lot to like inside, too, beginning with a two-tone dashboard dominated by a large center control hub and stitched contrasting-color coverings. In the middle is a new touchscreen for the navigation, media players, and radio controls. A 10-speaker Bose audio system, tri-zone climate control, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto make drives comfortable. Connect to the world via 4G Wi-Fi.

Our model came with heated leather seats, thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, and fold-flat third-row seat. Up to seven passengers fit, with twin middle-row captain’s chairs that slide forward for convenient access to the aft row. Our vehicle didn’t come with the full suite of crash mitigation systems, but did enhance safety with a surround vision camera, rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, and blind zone alert, plus a child reminder for the rear seats. The interior looks classy, but start tapping fingers and you’ll find swaths of hard plastic.

Chevrolet offers a 255 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine on RS editions, but I prefer the 3.6-liter V6 delivering 310 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s plenty of smooth power for acceleration or towing up to 5,000 lbs. Even better, it comes with GM’s new 9-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, it also comes with annoying and undefeatable stop/start that pauses the engine at rest. All of this adds up to 18/27-MPG city/hwy (front-drive).

A hallmark of the previous-generation Traverse was its smooth and quiet ride. The new version is still relatively smooth and quiet, but less so. The large wheels and stiff four-wheel independent suspension enhance handling, but ride rougher over imperfect pavement. On the plus side, it drives like a much smaller crossover and is significantly more enjoyable on curvy roads.

Chevrolet had a good thing going with the original Traverse–a full-size crossover that delighted customers for nearly a decade. That said, the new Traverse offers all of the space and utility so many appreciated, but adds a stylish body and interior that should attract even more fans. A base price of $29,930, or $44,185 as-tested, puts it against the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Hyundai Santa Fe, Volkswagen Atlas, and upcoming Subaru Ascent.

Storm Forward!

Watch Casey’s video review of the 2018 Traverse above; follow him on YouTube and Twitter: @AutoCasey.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse
Seven-passenger, fwd Crossover
Powertrain: 310 hp 3.6-liter V6, 9-spd trans
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, space
Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs. Fuel economy: 18/27 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Lansing, MI
Base/as-tested price: $29,930/44,185