Chevrolet characterizes itself as the fastest-growing full-line carmaker in the U.S. But not all of its models are keeping pace with the overall score. The Traverse is a case in point. Chevy’s SUVlineup is among the most comprehensive in the business with six nameplates, and the Traverse operates at the larger end of the lineup. Based on front-drive architecture, it’s categorized as a crossover SUV, as distinct from rear-drive body-on-frame big boys like the Tahoe and Suburban.
It’s been a solid player for Chevrolet—but not solid enough, trailing the Jeep Grand Cherokee,Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder in the sales derby. Introduced in 2008 as a 2009 model, with its most recent refresh dating to 2014, the Traverse was clearly due for a major makeover. And that’s what Chevy unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The result is more Traverse in the next generation—and less: expanded dimensions and reduced curb weights, as well as all-new sheetmetal, which Chevy characterizes as a “bold and refined new look.”
The increase in overall length and width of the new body is very small—a little over a half-inch in length, and a tenth of an inch in width, to 204.4 and 78.6 inches, respectively. But thanks to its new architecture, the wheelbase stretches more substantially, from 118.9 inches to 120.9.
The net of the increase is a more voluminous Traverse—with the second- and third-row seats folded flat the rear cargo hold will now accept a 4 x 8-foot sheet of building material lying flat, according to Chevy. And it’s also a Traverse with increased structural rigidity plus revised suspension (improved ride and handling) and lower curb weights.
Chevrolet lists curb weights of 4713 and 4966 pounds, front-drive and all-wheel drive, respectively, for the current Traverse. According to preliminary specs, the redesigned model will be lighter by as much as 362 pounds.
That should result in livelier acceleration with the standard 3.6-liter V6 engine. Output is up—305 horsepower, versus 288 (with twin exhaust) for the current version—and the improved power-to-weight ratio is enhanced by GM’s new 9-speed automatic transmission, replacing the previous 6-speed.
Chevy engineers anticipate 0-to-60 mph in less than 7 seconds, as well as improved fuel economy. No specifics on EPA consumption forecasts yet. The current Traverse is rated 17 mpg city, 24 highway for front-drive models, 16/23 with all-wheel drive.
The V6 will propel most Traverse trim levels—there are six, two of them new—but the new RS model will have GM’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder under its hood making 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. RS distinguishes sporty models in Chevydom, and the marketing pitch will emphasize the turbo engine’s greater torque. Different wheels and minor trim elements will add visual sport to the RS trim, which will be front-drive only.
Interior updates include a central airbag between driver and passenger, an innovative touch to prevent the front occupants from hard contact with one another in hard crashes. The Traverse will provide more room to second- and third-row passengers, as well as improved third-row access according to Chevrolet.
There will be USB ports for all three rows, and auto open feature for the rear hatch—just wave a foot under the rear bumper, similar to the system introduced by Ford, and from the same supplier. And of course there will be a comprehensive array of standard and optional infotainment and connectivity features, including GM’s 4G-LTE onboard wifi, as well as new driver assist technology—automatic braking, for example—and improved small overlap crash protection.
Traverse vs. Tahoe
An interesting footnote: the new Traverse is very similar in size to the rear-drive, body-on-frame Chevy Tahoe, which has far more power (355 hp, 383 lb-ft, from a 5.3-liter V-8); fuel economy similar to current Traverse (16/23 rear drive, 16/22 4-wheel drive); and a much higher towing capability (up to 8600 pounds, versus 5000 pounds for the Traverse). But Chevrolet marketing execs don’t see this as a problem.
As noted, the 2018 Traverse will be offered in six trims: LS (two levels, very basic, and better equipped); LT, the new RS, LTZ, and High Country, also new. The latter will become the new Traverse flagship. In addition to increased sales, Chevrolet also seeks a bite of the action at the high end of the segment, with average transaction prices over $40,000. Current Traverse MSRP prices range from a little less than $30,000 to almost $45,000. The new Traverse will begin appearing in Chevy showrooms next summer.