Let’s cut right through the baloney straight away, shall we? Big ol’ crossover SUVs like this Chevrolet Traverse are nothing more than this generation’s minivans, and if you’re shopping for one of these family haulers right now because you wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan, you probably don’t want to hear that.
From the 1940s through to the mid-1980s station wagons were the paradigm choice for family transportation. In many instances they were massive, they seated half a team’s worth of kids and hauled around whatever family stuff needed hauling.
Then it was decided that station wagons were seriously uncool (maybe it had something to do with stick-on vinyl “wood” trim?) and Chrysler’s Caravan and Voyageur (also originally available with stick-on vinyl “wood” trim) became the pick of the modern family, laughing at all the sad sacks driving their Custom Cruisers and Country Squires.
But of course, by the 1990s, the minivan, too, became the very picture geekdom, replaced in all the cool family driveways by a more macho choice: the SUV. Tahoes, Explorers, 4Runners and the like delivered a rugged bravado that dorky minivans could never hope to emit, regardless of their superior practicality.
Those formerly truck-based Utes have been softened over time, like a so many of the parents who drive ’em. Once tough and capable, they’re now tired, a little overweight and dressed for comfort.
Don’t misunderstand; the Traverse here is a fine, contemporary family-hauling machine, replete with cavernous interior and enough cubbies to contain all the offsprings’ necessities for any road trip. And it can be spec’ed up with an impressively luxurious interior with leather, fancy infotainment systems and safety features. Or it can also be stripped down to the essentials – a wise move for families with children that are likely to climb over, spill stuff on and generally beat the heck out of anything nice that’s in the interior.
And as good as the Traverse is or might be, it’s still less space efficient than a minivan, yet – and let’s be honest – no better for the fragile parental image than a minivan.
But General Motors no longer offers North Americans a minivan, so for eight passenger hauling (or seven passenger, in the case of our test rig with middle row captain’s chairs), the Chevy Traverse is the go-to option unless you’ve got the wherewithal to purchase (and fuel) a full-size Tahoe or Suburban.
Sens Passenger Capacity: Three-Row Crossover Comparo
So what do you get in this $46,000 “True North Edition” Traverse? Well, there’s a unibody structure, which means this isn’t a truck, despite what the majority of buyers are likely to call it,. There’s also a decent 3.6L V6 engine that puts out 281 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, dispensed to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Inside this Traverse’s transmission casing, gears two and three seemed to be in disagreement much of the time, frequently resulting in strange stutters instead clean gearshifts under moderate load.