2010 Chevy Traverse: Audio Review

2010 Chevy Traverse: Audio Review

The Chevy Traverse can be brushed off as an overpriced, oversized crossover as well as yet another spin on GM's long-in-the-tooth Lambda platform. Or it can be considered a practical, roomy vehicle that comfortably straddles the line between functionality and entry-level luxury.

Truth is our long-term 2010 Chevy Traverse LTZ falls somewhere in between. That it has all the bells and whistles helps make the case that it's a contender in its class; that it also has a bloated sticker price of $42, 050 doesn't. But you don't have to spend a dime over the base price of $37,985 to get the standard Bose Surround Sound System on the LTZ trim level. And even if the Bose system is buried in the base price, we still wondered if it's worth it and how the system performs.

The Setup
The Bose system in the Traverse LTZ comes with 10 speakers. These include a 3.5-inch "Twiddler" high/midrange speaker in the center of the dash, a 1-inch tweeter in each A pillar, a 6.5-inch ?wide-range? speaker in each door, another 3.5-inch Twiddler on each side of the third-row seat and a 5.25-inch woofer in a sealed enclosure in the center console. Bose doesn't supply power ratings for some unknown reason, and will only say that the Traverse system has eight channels of "custom equalization."

The Sound
A favorite pastime of audiophiles is bashing Bose, and in certain instances the criticism is justified since the performance of the brand's products can be inconsistent, particularly in the car. But Bose practically invented the category of premium OEM audio decades ago and that experience can translate into really good car audio. The system in the Traverse is an example.

Tonal balance, timbre and tonal accuracy were good if not great. The system had the characteristic midbass boom and high-end harshness of most midgrade OEM car audio systems. Distortion, particularly on the bottom end, was noticeable but not too distracting. And I had to listen hard on high-pitched notes from, say, an acoustic guitar or cymbals, to hear a slight sizzle. The lowest bass notes were perceptibly blunted and dull, with a weakness of the 5.25-inch woofer dedicated to those frequencies easily revealed. But overall the system had an open, spacious and pleasing if not perfect sound.

We're seeing more systems with A-pillar tweeters and a center-channel speaker, and the setup is hard to beat when it comes to soundstaging and imaging.  In the Traverse this translated into an expansive soundstage and near-precise imagining. The system easily nailed the non-audio tracks used to judge soundstaging and imaging: voices mixed left, center and right and seven drumbeats that march across the dash at precise intervals. With two tracks used to gauge linearity — a measure of how well sound is reproduced at low- and mid-volume levels — the system scored poor and fair, respectively. But it easily passed a zero-bits/absence-of-noise test.

The Sources
The Traverse comes with a single CD/DVD player in the dash and AM, FM and XM radio. A USB port buried deep in the center console allows a portable media player like an iPod or a USB drive loaded with music files to be plugged in, without requiring an extra-cost proprietary cable. An aux-in jack is next to the USB port for an old-school device hookup, which came in handy since the system didn't play nice with my iPhone 3GS after a while.

The primary interface for a USB-connected device is the in-dash touch screen, and it's fairly intuitive, although somewhat slow to respond. It also requires much more eyes-on time to navigate than a system with good voice activation. The head unit provides full iPod menu options, including audiobooks and podcasts, along with the usual suspects of songs, albums, artists and playlists. A similar menu scheme is used for files on USB drives, minus the extra categories.

The system has a convenient set of rear-seat audio controls that's not very common in this vehicle class. Located on the back of the center console, they allow rear-seat passengers to plug headphones into a pair of jacks and listen to and control any audio source except the one being listened to by the front-seat passengers.

What We Say
A couple of months shy of its one-year anniversary in our long-term fleet, the 2010 Chevy Traverse LTZ has become a go-to vehicle for hauling cargo, kids and up to eight passengers. That the standard Bose audio system does an above-average job of reproducing audio fits with the over-achieving yet low-frill feel of the vehicle.

The Scores
Sound: B-
Source Selection: B
iPod Integration: B-
Cost: A

To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.

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