Having arrived in the fall of 2008, the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse’s grey hairs are starting to show. It’s a powerful but thirsty beast. The considerable size emphasizes passenger comfort, while many newer three-row crossovers have sacrificed some cargo room and shed weight for better fuel efficiency. .
Still a practical family hauler, the Traverse offers plenty of comfort, flexibility, safety and value, but is outstanding in none of these areas. In this class, the Koreans seem to have the lock on value, the Japanese auto makers on fuel efficiency (especially the hybrid models), while the Ford Flex brings a better-damped ride, similarly impressive roominess and more sure-footed handling to the hometown table.
My week with this Traverse in snowy and super-cold winter weather happened to coincide with a one-day run through six of its mid-size three-row crossover rivals. The Traverse still provides the roominess and comfort that so impressed early in its life – enough room to throw a hockey bag, full-size jogging stroller and a set of golf clubs behind the third row seat, and still not have anything blocking your view. Many smaller three-row crossovers need at least part of the third row to fold before swallowing that much cargo, or in the alternative, smushing the gear between the rear glass and the roof.
The Traverse’s interior was refreshed for 2013 with upgraded materials, highlighted by the availability of the touch-screen MyLink infotainment system. It allows 36 radio station presets, while Bluetooth hands-free capability permits drivers to hit a button and request calls to contacts (though it was cause for celebration when it finally understood what I was asking for on the first try). The touch screen could often be operated while wearing large gloves, which helped compensate for the lack of a heated steering wheel on this otherwise well-loaded $51,460 2LT model. That option does come standard on the top-line Traverse LTZ – and an increasing number of its less expensive Korean and Japanese rivals as well.
The remote start on the key fob was useful to at least take the chill out of the interior before the kids climbed in. However, the capacity to use the remote function from further away, with an app that goes through OnStar, was tricker.
Much less modern is the fuel consumption used by the 3.6-litre V6 powertrain . The direct-injected engine is not a dinosaur by any means. But without start/stop, a downsized turbo engine or any hybrid option – as the new Toyota Highlander or Pathfinder 7-seaters offer – its fuel consumption is becoming more of a detriment. Though the official NR Canada fuel economy figures suggest an overall average of around 11L/100 km, the trip computer suggested it was hitting closer to 14.1L/100 km.
From a safety standpoint, the Traverse hits the highest rating of good for crash protection all around on the IIHS and NHTSA scales. It also features an innovative centre airbag, which prevents the driver and passenger from colliding with each other or the centre console. But the Traverse scored only a basic one out of six in collision prevention or mitigation features in the IIHS’s recently expanded tests.
2014 Chevrolet Traverse 2LT AWD
Type: mid-size 7-seat crossover
Base price: $43,345; as tested (including freight) $51,460
Engine: 3.6-litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 281 hp/266 ft-lbs
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 13.0 city/8.6 highway
Alternatives: Dodge Durango, Ford Flex, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Kia Sorento, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander