2018 Chevrolet Traverse First Drive

Bigger Is Better When It Comes to Family Crossovers

When the Chevrolet Traverse debuted for 2009, its most obvious design attribute was size. It was just far bigger than any of its rivals. That meant more passenger and cargo space inside, even if the Traverse had reduced fuel economy and a less agile feel as a result. It was a calculated risk for Chevy, but the risk paid off — the Traverse was a hit. While the competition spent the last nine years getting bigger, the Traverse was already the perfect size.

For the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, it's not about size. Instead, Chevrolet took its popular formula and refined it in ways that make the Traverse more efficient and comfortable without giving up the space inside that made it so popular in the first place. There are new features, improved safety and even a new sport model that are all designed to make this Traverse an even more competitive three-row midsize crossover SUV.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

More Room Where It Counts
Most dimensions of the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse haven't changed much. It's still one of the largest three-row midsize crossovers on the market in terms of length, width and height. The one dimension that has changed significantly is the wheelbase, which is now 2 inches longer. That extra space between the front and rear wheels frees up more legroom for third-row passengers and additional cargo space behind the seats.

Chevrolet lists the maximum cargo space at 98.5 cubic feet, which is considerably more than what you'll find in competitors such as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. It's worth noting that if you're comparing the old Traverse with the new one, the new one actually seems to have lost some cargo space. But there's a difference in how Chevy is calculating overall cargo space now. Using the latest measurement method, the old Traverse would have come in at around 91 cubic feet. The new Traverse also boasts more room behind the third-row seat than most competitors, an important factor to consider if you're often carrying a full load of passengers.

The rest of the cabin is equally as spacious, with head-, hip- and legroom that are competitive with any vehicle in the class. Chevrolet's designers wanted to give this Traverse's cabin a more trucklike look and feel, so there's a broad dashboard, simple controls and a huge center console. Gloss black trim around the central touchscreen and on top of the instrument panel is designed to add some refinement to the design, but it's out of place on a family-oriented crossover. Some higher-quality materials on the door panels would have given the Traverse a higher-quality look and feel.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

New Things That You Won't See
Although the Traverse is still one of the larger vehicles in the midsize class, the 2018 model is significantly lighter than its predecessor. The engineers at Chevrolet used a variety of high-grade steels throughout the body along with some aluminum suspension components to help reduce the weight of the Traverse while maintaining the strength necessary to deliver excellent protection in an accident.

Less overall weight also translates into improved performance and efficiency. The standard engine in the Traverse is still a 3.6-liter
V6, but various upgrades have pushed horsepower up to 310 hp and 266 pound-feet of torque. A new nine-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the front wheels unless you opt for all-wheel drive. Even then, the front wheels do most of the work in dry conditions in order to improve efficiency. All the changes are helpful, too: The Traverse is rated to deliver 21 mpg in mixed driving conditions, a 3 mpg jump compared to the previous model. The maximum tow rating has been reduced from 5,200 to 5,000 pounds.

One optional engine is offered, but only on the sport-themed RS trim level. It's a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that has less horsepower (255 hp) but 295 lb-ft of torque. It also uses the same nine-speed automatic transmission to put the power down, but it's only available with front-wheel drive. Other than that, there are no mechanical differences between the RS models and the standard Traverse.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

Does It Feel New?
Given how much has changed underneath the skin, you'd expect the Traverse to feel much different from behind the wheel. Out on the road, however, this Traverse feels much like the previous model. It has the same elevated driving position, the same clear sight lines, and a similar relationship between the driver and the cabin controls. It's an easy vehicle to get comfortable in thanks to the wide, accommodating seats and simple controls. In other words, it hasn't lost any of the things that made it so popular over the past eight years.

We do like how the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse feels a bit more nimble than before. Some credit goes to the reduction in weight. It also comes from the additional power, precisely tuned transmission, and a great set of brakes that are both powerful and easy to modulate. The nine-speed transmission keeps the engine speed down when you're cruising on the highway, but it's quick to drop a few gears to deliver solid passing power when you need it. The smoothness of the standard engine stop-start system is also impressive. It's rarely noticeable, which is exactly as it should be.

The overall ride quality of the Traverse is similar to that of most vehicles in this class. It's soft enough to soak up rough roads without feeling sloppy, yet it goes around turns with minimal body roll. You don't get much road feel through the steering wheel, but it's responsive and predictable in a way that will reassure you over a variety of roads.

Cabin noise is one area in which it could use improvement. On rough roads, the thumping and clunking from the tires are a little too intrusive. The 20-inch wheels on our test vehicle certainly didn't help in this regard, but that's likely what you're going to find on most dealer lots since only the base models get the smaller 18-inch wheel-and-tire combination.

A Predictable Follow-Up
Given the initial success of the original Traverse, the new design of the latest model is exactly what we expected. It addresses the shortcomings of the original without changing any of qualities that made it so successful. It's still sized right, yet it's more efficient and feature-packed. There's a total of seven trim levels this time around, starting at just under $30,000, so you can get everything from a cloth-upholstered base model to a leather-lined High Country model that tops $50,000. It's available at dealers now and worth checking out if you're in the market for a three-row crossover that has enough room for an entire family and then some.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse