2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Simon Hill
Chevrolet has always quite done well with its trucks and SUVs, and less well with minivans. The Lumina was just plain weird. The replacement Venture was more mainstream, but failed to really challenge the Dodge and Chrysler twins. As for the Uplander, it clearly wanted to be an SUV with that long, squared off nose. So it makes sense that when Chevrolet replaced the Uplander for the 2009 model year they replaced it not with a new minivan, but with the three-row Traverse crossover.
The Traverse was well received from the get-go, with first-year US sales numbers double that of the outgoing Uplander and indeed slightly ahead of the Dodge Grand Caravan. It was a different story in Canada, however, where former Uplander buyers flocked to Dodge dealers instead, and the Traverse sold only about 25 to 30 percent as well as the Uplander had. Chevrolet moved 16,133 Uplander minivans in Canada in 2008, but only 4,351 Traverse crossovers in 2009, and five years later the sales numbers remain similar, with Chevrolet selling 3,281 examples of its modern family hauler north of the border last year.
So apparently if you’re a Canadian who wants a minivan, you’re not about to be sold into a crossover no matter how much more macho it might look. But what if really do want a three-row crossover? If the option of AWD for winter driving seems appealing? In that case, the Traverse is certainly worth a look.
Since its introduction, the Traverse has changed only slightly, with a refresh for the 2013 model year that saw it get a new (and to my eye far better looking) grille and front fascia, together with redesigned Camaro-like taillights and a nicely refreshed interior that features improved materials and a restyled dashboard to create a distinctly more upscale ambience. For 2014, the only new changes are the addition of a couple extra USB charging ports, and newly available lane departure warning and forward-collision alert (standard on LTZ models and optional on the 2LT trim).
2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD engine bay & dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The Traverse is a well proportioned and handsome machine, with a certain sturdy honesty about it. Power comes from a 3.6L V6 hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 281 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque in stock form, and the LTZ trim adds a dual exhaust that bumps the power up to 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of twist. The drivetrain is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configuration, but for my money I’d get the all-wheel drive – if I’m going to go for a crossover rather than a minivan I’ll go all-in, thanks.
2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD gauges. Click image to enlarge
On the road the engine and transmission do a perfectly good job of motivating the 2,196 kg all-wheel-drive Traverse, and I found that the big crossover had plenty enough power to get ahead of traffic when needed. Acceleration from 0-100 km/h takes about 8.5 seconds, which is pretty good for a vehicle of this size, but you can definitely hear the engine labouring away when you push it, partly because the transmission keeps the revs quite high in order to provide reasonable performance. The EPA city/highway/mixed fuel economy ratings for the AWD version are 14.7/10.2/12.4 L/100 km, and in mostly city driving I got north of 15 L/100 km which is about on par with what I’ve previously managed in the Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda Pilot and even the Dodge Grand Caravan in similar city driving.
Ride and handling are both better than in a typical minivan or full-size SUV. The Traverse isn’t quite sedan like, but it does have reasonably precise steering, a solidly planted feeling around corners, and a smoothly comfortable ride. It is large, however, and you notice this when maneuvering in tight quarters. That said, it’s smaller than a full-size Suburban, and not really much different from your average minivan, and it does come with a standard back-up camera, which helps a great deal. The brakes react with confidence to provide decently quick stops, and independent testing ranks the Traverse as better than the average crossover in this department.