Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: Chevy Traverse

I've heard that it takes just seven days to form a new habit. I can absolutely vouch for that, and I have to admit that I am now bereft without the GM Traverse I've been driving for the past week.

I had a really hard time backing out of my relatively short and very straight driveway this morning without a backup camera to verify that my way was clear. I kept hitting the wrong side of my steering wheel for the cruise control. And I was once again without Bluetooth in my car, let alone the friendly people at OnStar who've been giving me directions.

Note: All photos taken from inside the vehicle which required the vehicle to be turned on were taken either while the vehicle was in park or when in a parking lot and not moving. Physical safety of myself and the vehicle was taken into consideration, and neither of us were put into any danger for the photos - which is why you won't see photos of some features I discuss below.

It's a neat looking car, all sleek and modern - and not at all a Mommy vehicle. If you don't already know, I don't drive a minivan and never will (famous last words and all, but I really mean it). Right now, my "real" car is a Honda Pilot, so most comparisons will be against the Pilot, since that's the car I know best that's most similar to the Traverse. In looks, the Traverse wins hands down.

The Traverse also has some other wins over the Pilot. Not only does my car not have a seat warmer (granted, higher end models do, but my car does not), but the Traverse also has seat air-conditioning for when it actually warms up in Chicago. I love love love that idea. In the meantime, I'm using the seat warmer in the Traverse ... in April. Fortunately it isn't just an on/off switch, it has three different levels of heating so I can adjust it down a little on the days where it's sunny enough to start to feel mildly pleasant. I sincerely miss that seat heater right now.

The other way so cool awesome feature that I've never had in a car and didn't have a chance to take advantage of but still have to gush over because it's so incredibly awesome and no my car doesn't even come close to having it? The car I drove last week - the way cool Traverse - is a rolling hot spot. Seriously, people. It has a wireless router in the trunk area (that black box on the wall on the right hand side in the next picture) that makes your car truly 21st century. Up to ten devices can use it at the same time. Sadly, I wasn't at soccer practice (it starts Wednesday) where I could really have taken advantage of it, but I am so getting this feature in my next car. All that waiting around I have to do wasting time? Not anymore!

The Traverse also has a bit more trunk space than my Pilot does. It's probably only a few more inches - the giant box from Costco fit nicely into the back of the Traverse where I have to carefully push it just so to close the tailgate on my car. Anyone carting kids around can verify the importance of storage space. The Traverse also has an auto open and close for the tailgate on the key chain, something my car does not (but again higher models of the Pilot have something similar). The only problem I have with the tailgate auto close is that if something mostly fits and just needs a good shove... the Chevy Traverse will simply pop back open and not let me push it closed. My Pilot allows me to do my best to ummm fill the space in back and then try to close the tailgate.

Another difference is the captain's seats. My car has bench seating in the middle row. When I drive five kids in carpool, that means children are climbing over the second row daily in order to get out of the car - not my favorite activity in my car. With the captain's seats, not only do the kids not have to climb over the rows, but they also are able to get out faster altogether by walking through, so we aren't holding up the line as much. Score on that point.

That said, the Traverse is slightly narrower than my Pilot. I have a carseat and three booster seats to fit in there, which is always a question. In the Pilot, I can fit three booster seats in the middle row. The back row has Little Miss's carseat and another booster seat. In the Traverse, it is more of a squeeze. I was able to fit two booster seats in the third row, but both children in boosters had to buckle up before the girl old enough to not be in a booster could buckle up. That isn't the case in my Pilot.

Both cars have sliding seats in the second row so that I can adjust who gets who much leg room in the second and third rows. I absolutely adore that feature. It really helps keep everyone comfortable. The seats all fold flat, too, which is huge when transporting any sort of cargo - although obviously I only played with this feature since I have kids as my cargo right now!

When it comes to fun features, I love the way the radio is set up in the Traverse. I listen to a variety of radio stations in my Pilot on XM, AM, and FM. When I want to switch between AM and FM, I have to hit band and then select the station I want from amongst my favorites. Check out how the Traverse set it up - I can press button one and get to my XM channel, then slide over to button two for my AM update. The favorites can store different types of channels - awesome!

As with most other vehicles now, there is a DVD system - although we didn't use it (mean mommy!). There is a remote control so passengers can control what's on the screen. Even better? There are wireless headphones so passengers can listen to the DVD while I - get this - listen to the radio or my mp3 player. Or they can use the headsets to listen to my mp3 player while I listen to the radio. While we didn't take advantage of this feature, you can bet that any road trips would see this in use constantly.

I also fell in love with the backup camera. The Traverse offers the backup camera without requiring a GPS (the Pilot has a backup camera integrated with GPS in models higher than mine). It's in the rearview mirror - thought you can see things in the mirror behind the camera as necessary. It is a color camera, which is very cool. As you get closer to an object, it beeps faster and faster at you to help you know where you're going. As someone who's parallel parked in Chicago with the best of them, the beeping was a bit cautious for me. I really really miss this feature especially right now.

Another very cool feature in the Traverse? The side mirrors have "pop out" mirrors - it's the best way I can think of to describe them. The mirrors don't just show your traditional side view but an extended view so you can see into some of the blind spot. I really liked the extra vision, and it made me feel more comfortable driving.

The OnStar features were also very cool - they can help you with just about anything, though I primarily asked for directions. The best feature? If you're in an accident and the emergency OnStar contacts you but you don't answer, it will send not just one ambulance to the scene (yay GPS) but one ambulance for every seat belt in use, as there is a sensor in the buckles that knows how many "people" are in the car. How awesome is that? And not that you should need more motivation, but here's yet another reason to buckle up!

The directions are also nifty. OnStar finds your desired location then downloads the directions to your vehicle. It doesn't only provide verbal directions, but it also has a visual of your next turn in the radio section of the dashboard. I liked the big arrow telling me where to go next and the beep as I got close to my turn. That said, I still prefer the GPS on my phone that offers me a color view, real time traffic to offer alternate routes, and the like. For those who don't have access to Google Maps on their phones though, this is a nifty feature.

Another feature my car doesn't have is Bluetooth connectivity. While it is again offered in higher end Pilots (my dad's has it), the one in the Traverse is superior. It was a snap to set up, just pressing the phone button on the steering wheel, saying "Bluetooth" then "pair" and finding the match on my phone. Done. And the sound quality? As my mom put it, "It's a thousand times better than trying to talk to your dad on his Bluetooth" because it's actually clear and doesn't constantly cut out. Some friends found it more clear to talk to me on the Bluetooth in the Traverse than it is to talk directly over my phone. Go fig. That's a huge win - and bonus? The gas mileage part of the dash shows the phone number of incoming calls so you can more easily determine if you want to answer them or not.

That said, there was one major negative with the Traverse. I could not get the Traverse to average above 16.9 miles per gallon. The listed mileage is 17 city and 24 highway. Where I was driving was suburban/highway type driving (e.g., long stretches of open road where I averaged 42.9mph - yes, there's a setting that tells me that - with periodic stoplights). I tend to be a conservative driver. I drive with the cruise control on almost all the time. I coast to stoplights. I accelerate gently. My Pilot offers 17mpg city and 22 highways. Driving my Pilot the same way for 65 miles today and yesterday running errands, etc as I did while driving the Traverse, I averaged 19.8mpg. That is almost a 3mpg difference, with a big deficit to the Traverse. Frankly, I was shocked by the mileage of the Traverse as it is two years newer and slightly smaller than my Pilot.

My only other pet peeve was the cruise control, but that's minor. When I drive on cruise control by me, speeds change a lot. We go from 45 to 55 to 45 to 35 to 30 back to 40 and the like. When the acceleration is 5mph, I use the res button on the cruise control one mph at a time to get to the new speed limit. On my Pilot, it's pretty accurate, gently speeding up a single mph each time. With the Traverse, pushing the res one time would eventually get me one mph faster, but it would overaccelerate and quickly push me past the desired speed before coasting and getting back to the set speed. I would have liked to have seen this work smoother, as it does for my Pilot and did for the Explorer I owned before that.

All in all though, I really enjoyed the Traverse. It was great for carpooling, and Little Miss really misses not having it now, as she's informed me repeatedly. It was roomy and had some truly great features. There were all kinds of toys for the driver that were designed to keep my hands on the steering wheel - almost too many - and I love many of the features Chevy now offers. It will definitely be on my shopping list the next time I look for a car!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with a Chevy Traverse to test drive for a week for review purposes by GM. I was provided with no compensation. All opinions expressed are my own, as always.


  1. Outstanding review Michelle! Thanks for such a thorough going-over of just about every feature. We appreciate you really putting our vehicles to the test. Most of all, I'm glad Little Miss and Mister Man enjoyed :-)

    Connie Burke
    GM Communications

  2. Augie Dawgs is considering buying the Traverse so this review was awesome. She is looking for comfy car seat space and extra seating so we don't have to smoosh or take two cars.


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