Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s Website
Chevrolet Canada

Review and photos by Michel Deslauriers

Photo Gallery:
2013 Chevrolet Traverse

In my mind, there’s a difference between wants and needs. Most of us need a vehicle, but which vehicle we want is a whole different story. When I look at the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, I wonder if the typical buyer needs such a big crossover, or wants it.

Kids? Frequent road trips with family and/or friends? Lots of stuff to haul around? The Traverse can handle just about any people or cargo carrying task you ask of it, and will barely break a sweat.

Back in the old days, we use to drive full-size station wagons such as the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, the Dodge Monaco and the Ford Country Squire. Our fondest memories of these road behemoths normally concern family vacation trips, at a time when gas and motels were cheap. The 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, like its GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave cousins, can easily be considered a spiritual successor to these wagons.

The Traverse is big on the outside, and even bigger on the inside. It actually boasts more interior volume than the bigger Chevy Tahoe as well as every other mid-size SUV/crossover, including the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and even the redesigned Nissan Pathfinder. You benefit from up to 3,293 L of cargo room; that’s a lot.

You can choose between seven- or eight-passenger seating configurations in the Traverse; our 2LT tester comes standard with two second-row captain’s chairs and a flat-folding, three-passenger, third-row bench. While all rear seats are fine for kids, adults won’t remain comfortable for very long, as the low cushion height means you’re sitting with your knees high up. The rearmost bench’s reduced width can accommodate two adults or three children.

Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

For 2013, the Traverse gets a much-needed redesign of its dashboard. The new look is more upscale, with soft-touch materials but questionable turquoise contrast stitching that seeks to harmonize with the instrument panel backlighting. At night, ambient lighting seeps through the silver painted accents, a nice touch.

A new sound system interface, which still incorporates a good-sized touchscreen, also features touch-sensitive surfaces that act as buttons; unfortunately, they don’t react to finger pressure with gloves on. As for the touchscreen itself, it responds fairly well to finger input but some button zones are pretty small to aim for while driving. On the other hand, the stereo includes a USB port located in the dash-top storage compartment as well as Bluetooth streaming audio and satellite radio.

The revised heating and ventilation controls represent the biggest improvement, with rotary dials replacing the tiny old buttons and readouts in last year’s Traverse. Included in 2LT and LTZ trims, and optional in the 1LT, are separate automatic climate controls for rear-seat occupants.

Also optional is a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, which our 2013 Chevrolet Traverse was equipped with. It’s bundled with two wireless headphones and a remote control, while RCA jacks and a 115-volt power outlet make it possible to plug in a game console or another portable video device. Unlike during road trips in the good old days, parents might never hear the words “are we there yet?”

Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

Despite the improvements, some small ergonomic flaws are still present; the turn signal stalk also hosts the windshield wiper switch, and the driver must let go of the wheel to activate it. The rear window wiper/washer is still activated by a rocker switch mounted low on the centre stack.

Mechanically, not much has changed in the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse. Every version of the mid-size crossover is still equipped with a 3.6L V6 that benefits from variable valve timing and direct injection. While the top-shelf Traverse LTZ gets dual exhausts and 288 hp, the rest of the lineup makes do with a single exhaust, 281 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. No big deal.

Bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, the V6 engine provides the 2,177-kg (4,800 lb.) Traverse with surprisingly quick acceleration times. It belches out a fairly nifty growl at wide-open throttle, and at a steady 100 km/h on the highway, it spins at only 1,700 rpm. In addition, the 3.6L is so smooth at idle that I accidently tried to start it twice, thinking it didn’t fire up at the first twist of the ignition key.

Why doesn’t GM offer a V8 in such a heavy vehicle? Actually, the V6 does the job and when equipped with the optional trailer tow package, the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse can pull up to 2,359 kg (5,200 lb.) On the other hand, my fuel economy average over the course of the snowy test week was unimpressive; the Traverse consumed 17.0 L/100 km while driving around town, and 12.2 L/100 km during a 500-km highway trip.

Maybe, just maybe, GM’s 5.3L V8 with cylinder deactivation wouldn’t be any worse on fuel than the V6, although judging by the small engine bay, a V8 might not even fit anyway.

On the highway, the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse is a solid performer. It tracks straight and true with excellent steering feel, even in the middle of a snowstorm. The all-wheel-drive system favours the front wheels under normal driving conditions, and when the electronic sensors detect wheel slippage, power is automatically sent to the rear wheels, maximizing traction. On city streets, the AWD system reacted quickly and the Traverse lunges forward with little delay, making good use of all four of its wheels, 18 inches in size on our 2LT trim tester, by the way.

Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

The Traverse’s safety features list grows for the 2013 model year. Obviously untested was the new front center airbag, which pops out of the side of the driver’s seat in the event of a crash in order to protect front-seat occupants. According to GM and to the best of my knowledge, this type of inflatable restraint is an industry first. A blind spot monitor is also available, but only on the LTZ.

The Traverse benefits from a decent turning circle radius, a blessing in shopping mall parking lots. This crossover is still a challenge to park into a tight spot because of its width and length. Fortunately, a rear-view camera is standard on every trim level and rear park sonar is included on all but the base LS.

As for the 2013 model’s facelift, well, it’s an effort that might go unnoticed in the eyes of the average car shopper. The taillights have been revised for the sake of being different, and that’s it. Still, it’s a clean design that won’t offend anybody, and potential buyers are probably more interested in function over form. It’s a personal opinion, but I think the 2013 GMC Acadia looks better.

Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

The Chevrolet Traverse starts out at an affordable $32,995, which is less than the 2012 model. However, the price climbs quickly once you start adding AWD as well as comfort and convenience features. Our $43,125 Traverse 2LT AWD tester comes standard with amenities such as a remote engine starter, a power liftgate, three-zone automatic climate control and heated front seats. Adding leather upholstery, a dual-pane sunroof, a tow package and the aforementioned DVD entertainment system jacks the MSRP up to $49,485. For that sum, you still don’t get heated second-row seats, a navigation system, adaptive cruise control or an intelligent key system. An auto-up feature for the power windows would also be nice.

Similarly equipped seven- and eight-passenger rivals include the Dodge Durango Crew Plus ($50,340), the Ford Explorer XLT 4WD ($45,449), the Honda Pilot EX-L RES ($45,265), the Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4 ($40,798) and the Toyota Highlander 4WD V6 Limited ($45,100). The three Japanese models don’t feel and drive as big as the Chevy; however, as previously mentioned, none of these can match the Traverse’s interior volume.

By sacrificing some features such as the leather seating, the power liftgate and the climate control system, you can get a nicely equipped Traverse 1LT AWD with a second-row bench for less than 40 grand before taxes and freight charges, which isn’t bad; you’ll just have to settle for a third-party rear-seat DVD player.

Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet Test Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse car test drives reviews chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

Now, about your needs and your wants: like the great American family wagons of yesteryear, the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse has room for the kids, the pooch – and then some – to fulfill your road tripping needs. If a big utility vehicle is what you want, its towing capacity is sufficient for you and you’re not too concerned with its fuel consumption, the Traverse makes GM’s current full-size SUVs seem like dinosaurs.

2013 Chevrolet Traverse 2LT AWD
Base price (2LT AWD): $43,125
Options: $6,360 (rear-seat DVD entertainment system – $2,255; leather seating surfaces – $1,870; Dual SkyScape Sunroof – $1,685; trailer tow package – $550)
Freight: $1,500
PDI: $250
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $51,335

Competitors
Ford Explorer
Ford Flex
Dodge Durango
Nissan Pathfinder
Honda Pilot
Toyota Highlander
Mazda CX-9
GMC Acadia
Hyundai Veracruz
Subaru Tribeca

Crash test ratings
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety