Test Drive: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD  car test drives chevrolet
2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD. Click image to enlarge
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2009 Chevrolet Traverse

Surrey, British Columbia – It’s not a car, not a wagon, not an SUV and not a minivan; yet, to some degree it’s all of them, as it can tow a good-sized trailer and seat seven or eight people. The Chevrolet Traverse is a ground-up crossover vehicle, according to Chevrolet.

A crossover vehicle is typically based on the lighter, unibody structure of a car. The Traverse uses GM’s dedicated Lambda platform, which also underpins the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.

Introduced at the Chicago Auto Show last February, the Traverse comes with a new direct-injection, 3.6-litre V6 engine with variable valve timing. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and it’s offered with either front- or all-wheel drive.

It’s an impressive V6 that can produce more power than some V8 engines. Up to 288 horsepower is available, and 90 per cent of its 270 ft.-lb. peak torque is generated between 2,500 r.p.m. and 6,000 r.p.m. So, it possesses excellent pulling power. It’s capable of towing up to 2,359 kilograms (5,200 lbs.).

Test Drive: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD  car test drives chevrolet
Test Drive: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD  car test drives chevrolet
2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD. Click image to enlarge

AJAC clocked the Traverse at 8.3 seconds to 100 km/hour during October’s 2009 Canadian Car of the Year evaluation event, which also makes it one of the speedier vehicles in this class. In addition, its fuel economy is also better than you might expect, especially on the highway. The front-drive version only uses 8.4 litres/100 km on the highway and 12.7 litres/100 km around the city, according to Energuide. The all-wheel-drive version is just a little thirstier and both versions use regular gasoline.

Ride comfort is another area where the Traverse excels. A long 3,000-mm wheelbase and independent front and rear suspension systems are positive contributing factors. The front suspension is a MacPherson-strut type with a direct-acting stabilizer bar. The rear suspension is a linked-H design. Isolated mounting systems front and rear help deaden the transfer of noise or vibrations.

The Traverse has a smooth, organic shape and a roomy interior that’s both practical and appealing. It sports the new global face of Chevrolet, a clean look that’s similar to the new front on the Malibu. When you get up close to the Traverse you realize this really is a big, wide vehicle. Yet, viewed from some angles, or from a distance, its shape looks deceptively compact.

There are lots of nice exterior detail style touches, such as the chrome surround on its black-mesh grille, turn signals integrated in the outside mirrors and an integrated spoiler over the rear liftgate window. I also liked the small “blind-spot” convex mirror that’s integrated into the side mirrors.

Test Drive: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD  car test drives chevrolet
2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD. Click image to enlarge
Interior impressions

The 2009 Traverse is offered in three trim levels: LS ($35,260), LT ($37,860) and LTZ ($50,200). My Traverse AWD 2LT test vehicle ($44,860) came with navigation system, a panoramic dual moonroof and a power rear liftgate and was priced at $53,560, which included $7,300 of optional equipment and a $1,300 Freight charge.

My test vehicle had a mainly grey-and-black interior with chrome and aluminum-look accent trim pieces. Two-tone cloth upholstery covered all three rows of seating positions. The second row seats were the most interesting as they slide fore and aft. Combined with a fold-away entry feature, getting into the third row was a lot easier than I expected.

Test Drive: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD  car test drives chevrolet
Test Drive: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD  car test drives chevrolet
2009 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD. Click image to enlarge

The third-row seat offers decent head room, and with some co-operation of a second-row passenger (by sliding forward) I could actually sit back there quite comfortably. Mind you, a third, third-row seat passenger would have to be a very skinny fellow.

The Traverse was recently awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top Safety Pick for 2008, which means it met the Institute’s highest occupant-protection rating in front-, side- and rear-impact tests. The Traverse comes with side curtain air bags that offer drop-down protection in a collision for all three rows of seating. GM’s electronic stability-control system, Stabilitrak, is also a standard safety feature.

Driving impressions

The Traverse is an exceptionally quiet vehicle at cruising speeds on the highway. The tachometer needle was under the 2,000 r.p.m. mark at about 100 km/h, which indicates the high gears are genuine overdrive gears. And it also helps explain the good highway fuel-economy numbers.

To counter the reduced pulling power available in higher (overdrive) gears, its six-speed Hydra-Matic 6T75 transmission has a unique towing feature. Shifting it to “L” limits auto gear changes to the first four gears and the driver can manually up-shift to the fifth and sixth gears (on a level road), by using a toggle switch built-into the shift lever — a clever idea.

The all-wheel drive system works on a 90/10 front/rear torque split in most driving situations, but it can send 100 per cent of torque to the rear wheels, when necessary. Distribution of torque is completely automatic (based upon vehicle speed, throttle position and individual wheel slip) with no driver involvement.

Around town, the size and bulk of the Traverse, plus its fairly wide 12.3-metre (40.4 ft.) turning circle, is more evident. A backup camera is standard on the LT2 and LTZ editions and great to have when negotiating a tight parking situation.

Verdict

The new Chevrolet Traverse offers extra inside space, seating for seven or eight and good pulling power in a modern-look package that’s both fuel-efficient and attractive.

Pricing: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse AWD 2LT

Base price: $44,860

Options: $7,300 (Sunroof, DVD & Navigation Package: 2-panel sunroof, DVD navigation, rear seat DVD player, 110-volt outlet, rearview camera, XM satellite radio, $6,750; Heavy Duty Trailering package, $550)

A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,300

Price as tested: $53,560
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse

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