The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, a full-size crossover, is fully redesigned.
With fresh SUV styling, the 2018 Traverse features a new chassis and a new powertrain with 3.6-liter V6 engine making 310 horsepower.
The engine has all the right stuff: double overhead cams, aluminum block and head, variable valve timing, direct high-pressure fuel injection. Even with 20 more horsepower than the old V6, the new 3.6-liter gets better fuel mileage: 21 Combined miles per gallon with front-wheel drive, versus the previous 18 mpg EPA ratings.
The new chassis adds 2.0 inches to the wheelbase but only 0.7 inch to the length, while dropping 111 pounds overall to tip the scale at 4362 pounds. Chevrolet claims class-leading passenger space for eight people (seven with captain’s chairs), class-leading legroom in the third row, and class-leading cargo volume.
Two new models are added for 2018, Traverse RS, with a new turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 engine, and the luxurious Traverse High Country. Both the I4 and V6 engines use a smooth 9-speed automatic transmission, but only the V6 gets all-wheel drive.
Rivals among full-size crossovers include Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder.
The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is available in seven models and trims: L, LS, LT Cloth, LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country. The stripped L model ($30,925) is mostly for fleet use. The 3.6-liter V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission are standard.
Traverse LS ($33,045) is equipped with premium cloth, three-zone climate control, six USB ports, HID headlights with LED running lights, rearview camera, keyless ignition, 18-inch wheels, 7.0-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, and infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Traverse LT Cloth ($35,545) gets different 18-inch wheels, SiriusXM satellite radio, and power driver/passenger seats. A ($1,795) Convenience and Driver Confidence Package adds remote start, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment screen, heated front seats, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and a power liftgate.
Traverse LT Leather ($42,145) includes leather-appointed seats on the first and second rows, 20-inch alloy wheels, surround-view camera system, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, a larger display in the instrument cluster, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Chevy’s trick Rear Camera Mirror. The LT Leather also includes the Convenience and Driver Confidence Package as standard, and adds a navigation function for the 8.0-inch infotainment system.
Traverse Premier ($45,445) adds LED headlights, 20-inch wheels, a memory function for the driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, vented front seats, and a heated second row. The ($475) Driver Confidence II Package adds active safety systems, including lane departure warnings with active lane control, forward collision warnings with low-speed automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, active front lights. A ($2,495) Redline Edition Package adds a range of sporty, blacked-out options, as well as a panoramic sunroof.
Traverse High Country ($53,045) adds a standard twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, front pedestrian braking, high-speed automatic emergency braking, and upgraded interior materials.
All-wheel drive is a ($2,000) option on LS, LT Cloth, LT Leather, and Premier.
All versions of the 2018 Traverse come standard with GM’s latest OnStar technologies. While 4G LTE wifi connectivity gets a lot of attention, Chevrolet’s Teen Driver and Family Link programs will give parents peace of mind. The former delivers reports on a young driver’s on-the-road behavior, while the latter allows parents to set boundaries on things like speed and the volume of the audio system. It also allows parents to set a maximum driving range. The system can also send text and email alerts.
Chevy designers wanted the Traverse to look like an SUV, not a crossover, and it does. It will fool everyone. It has the lines and shape of a classic Chevy Tahoe, as intended.
But it’s not a truck, it’s a crossover, built on a chassis shared with the Malibu. The truck demeanor is just pretend, and retro to boot: ironically, the previous generation Traverse, unashamedly a big crossover, looked smoother and cleaner, on its rounded lines.
It stands upright, with tall sides. The front is smooth, having a big grille with a gentle shape (unobtrusive black plastic in lower trims, handsome and modest chrome rails in higher trims) and discreet sweeping headlamps, available in Chevy’s D-optic LED design. The nose rolls up to the hood, and down over a black horizontal air intake to the body-colored bumper.
The C-pillar is thick and angled aggressively forward, conveying forward motion. The rear window is pinched at the bottom to give the pillar room to stretch; the corner shape adds to the flow of the shoulder line and roofline.
The straight wraparound rear glass nicely complements the roofline. The slim wraparound red taillamps are high at the shoulder line, which gives the rear end an uplifted look, at the same time creating a blank face that needs to be filled on the tailgate with a ridge and some sharp concavery. If it weren’t for the Chevy bowtie badge on the rear liftgate, it could be almost anything.
The cabin is also truck-inspired, so much that it seems to be shouting that it wants to be a Tahoe. The centerstack is high and wide, and meets a big flat dash. The quality of materials is highly dependent on the trim level, but even the LS has attractive plastics with a solid, durable feel, and bits of leather trim on the doors. The range-topping High Country shares some of the same plastic, however it comes with its own rich reddish leather called Loft Brown, which contrasts nicely with the bits of black plastic throughout the cabin. With door panels and dash trimmed in synthetic suede and wood, it’s one of Chevrolet’s best cabins.
The front seats are wide and supportive, and even the LS seats are eight-way power adjustable. We did 250 nonstop miles in an LT Leather model in comfort.
The second row, whether a bench or captain’s chairs, feature GM’s SmartSlide feature, improved for 2018. The bench seat splits and folds, while the curbside captain’s chair flops for easy access to the third row.
In the third row, the legroom is best in class with 33.5 inches, a fraction more than the Ford Explorer with 33.3. The Honda Pilot drops to 31.9 inches and the Nissan Pathfinder to 30.7. We squeezed a large person into the third row, 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, and he managed to climb back without struggle and found a comfortable position, or so he said. Then we put three smaller persons in the third row, and they complained about lack of legroom. They didn’t want to hear “best in class.”
That made a full eight passengers for a test run, with three more in the second row, complaining about lack of shoulder room. We were glad for the new 310-horsepower V6 engine.
Realistically, it’s a six-adult vehicle. The optional captain’s chairs are four-way adjustable, to make it with more space.
The Traverse offers a ton of cargo space. There’s a vast 23 cubic feet behind the third row, much more than any sedan. With the third row flat it swells to 58.1 cubic feet, as much as some smaller crossovers have with their second row dropped. With both rows flat, it’s a vast 98.2 cubic feet, blowing the Explorer, Pilot and Pathfinder out of the water.
The new 3.6-liter V6 is much more pleasant than the old 3.6-liter V6. It makes 266 pound-feet of torque to go with its 310 horsepower, and it comes on low for a non-turbo engine, at just 2800 rpm. It’s very lively from a standing start, with an aggressive throttle response, and it’s smooth and linear up into high rpm. It has a new sound, too, deep and resonant under hard acceleration. The powerband is perfect for passing, whether at 45 mph on a two-lane or 65 mph on a freeway.
The 9-speed automatic transmission is also a big improvement. It’s slick and barely noticeable under gentle throttle, then quick-shifting under hard acceleration. Importantly, it’s consistent and the shifts come at predictable times.
If only the steering were as good as the powertrain. It’s heavy, numb on center, and offers little feedback. But something makes the Traverse feel lighter in the corners, so it’s easier to make the corrections demanded by the lifeless steering. That something might be the independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and five links in rear, trying to make the handling more nimble and predictable.
Still, it handles better than the last Traverse. Nothing like a Mazda CX-9, but it won’t trip over itself in the twisties. The brakes are stouter in 2018, as well.
The Chevy Traverse looks like an SUV, a slightly smaller Tahoe, but it’s really a crossover. We like the new V6, new 9-speed, and new cabin with all its space. If you’ve got a big family, four or five kids, we recommend checking out the Traverse against its many worthy rivals.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.