Bigger than the average midsize crossover; better for it? Look ahead to the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse

2020 Chevrolet Traverse
2020 Chevrolet Traverse

What changes will make the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse different?

Ideally, the availability of key safety features beyond the most expensive trim level. Realistically, Chevrolet will limit changes to new paint colors — and to slightly higher asking prices.

This is Chevy’s largest crossover, with three-row seating for up to eight. It’s actually slightly larger than the Chevy Tahoe, although the Tahoe is a conventional SUV with a separate body attached to a truck-type frame. Traverse’s lighter-duty, car-type unified body-and-frame construction qualifies it as a crossover, one that competes in the midsize segment against crossovers like the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot.

Traverse’s near-full-size dimensions at midsize-class prices have helped make it a consistent seller, averaging more than 100,000 units annually since its model-year 2009 debut. Today’s second-generation Traverse premiered as a 2018 model and its calendar-’18 sales were its best-ever. Among three-row midsize crossovers, it finished fourth in sales, behind Explorer, Highlander, and Pilot, and ahead of the Kia Sorento, Dodge Journey, and GMC Acadia.

General Motors will again share the 2020 Traverse’s V-6 engine and most of its underskin engineering with the Buick Enclave and the Cadillac XT6 crossovers. A downsized version of this structure underpins the Acadia and Cadillac XT5.

Note that driving impressions and other subjective conclusions in this review are based on road tests of the 2019 Chevrolet Traverse. In areas where the ’20 might be different, we will reserve judgment.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy the 2019?

Wait to see if Chevy expands driver-assist features beyond the costliest trim levels. That would be the most important upgrade to a 2020 lineup that will likely repeat the seven-model 2019 roster. It should again begin with the base L grade and ascended through LS, LT Cloth (upholstery), LT Leather (upholstery), RS, Premier, and top-line High Country trims.

Front-wheel drive will again be standard on all models except the High Country, which will come standard with all-wheel drive (AWD). AWD will return as optional on all other 2020 Traverses, except the entry-level L.

For model-year 2019, key safety features that were standard on such top rivals as Pilot and Highlander were standard on the Traverse only on the High Country model and were available on the Premier only as part of a $475 option package. These features included forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning with automatic steering correction, and automatic high beam headlights. In addition, adaptive radar cruise control was a High Country exclusive.

Chevrolet needs to get with the times and make these important safety features standard – or at least available — on every ’20 version of this popular family vehicle.

Will the styling be different?

No. Don’t expect significant updates to Traverse’s exterior or interior design before the 2021 model year. For ’20, this handsome crossover should continue with the look that debuted with the 2018 redesign. We applaud Chevrolet’s effort to make this “large-midsize” crossover look and drive like a smaller vehicle, when in fact, it’s a bit bigger than the 2009-2017 first-generation model.

The ’20 Traverse’s front-end styling will continue to draw inspiration from the Tahoe SUV, with a large grille and angular headlamps and fog-light cutouts. The balance of the body is clean and contemporary, with no extraneous creases or odd proportions. Exterior brightwork multiplies and tire size increases as you ascend the model line, while the RS stands apart for its sportier, dark-trim appearance.

The simple design ethos continues inside, with clear gauges and a well-integrated infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto.

Eight-passenger seating, with second- and third-row benches, should remain standard on L and LS models and optional in place of seven-passenger seating on LT Cloth models. All other versions of the ’20 Traverse should return with second-row captain’s chairs, for seven-passenger seating.

Passenger accommodations are a selling point. Headroom and legroom are ample in the first and second rows, with the second-row captain’s chairs particularly delightful places to rest back and bottom. Traverse’s third-row is among the most spacious and comfortable in the competitive set, with adult-adequate legroom and surprisingly good headroom. Passengers back there also get their own USB power points, a nice touch.

Cabin-materials quality could be a bit nicer, especially since Traverse pricing can approach the upper echelon of the class. Leather upholstery is standard on all but the L, LS, and LT Cloth models, and while no trim level’s cabin looks cheap, most rivals feel richer.

Cargo space will continue as another 2020 Traverse asset. Maximum volume of 98.2 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded is among best in class, as is the 58.1 cubic feet with the third row stowed. Even with the third row raised, there’s still a surprisingly generous 23 cubic feet. Small-items storage will also remain excellent thanks to the huge center console and an assortment of bins and cubbies scattered throughout the cabin.

Any mechanical changes?

No. All but one 2020 Traverse model will again use a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that produces a near-class-leading 310 horsepower but a middling 266 pound-feet of torque. Torque is what matters most for acceleration, and this Chevrolet doesn’t feel as strong off the line as a Pilot or Highlander, and certainly isn’t as quick as an Explorer with Ford’s twin-turbo V-6. Still, GM’s smartly tuned nine-speed automatic transmission and competitive curb weights of 4,362-4,403 pounds should continue to mitigate any sensation of the ’20 Traverse feeling underpowered.

Perhaps the most interesting ’20 Traverse will again be the front-drive RS model. It should return with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It also has a nine-speed automatic transmission. The turbo’s extra torque is most apparent when accelerating from a stop, but the V-6 provides slightly better highway passing and merging response. Still, the turbo four is a very smooth and surprisingly strong engine, and we’d like to see it offered on more than one trim level.

More important to every ’20 Traverse buyer would be some improvement to this big crossover’s handling. Steering feel has been lackluster, and body lean in fast changes of direction greater than with an Explorer, Highlander, or Mazda CX-9. Despite its sporty appearance and low-profile 20-inch tires, the RS has no steering or suspension revisions to improve its handling response.

Traverse balances lackluster road manners with excellent ride quality and a very quiet cabin. Both engines sound very refined when accelerating and recede into silence at cruising speeds. Frankly, it’s a tradeoff most three-row-crossover buyers support.

Will fuel economy improve?

Very unlikely, meaning the 2020 Traverse’s EPA ratings will remain decent with front-wheel drive and mid pack with AWD. Remember, though, most rivals aren’t quite as larger or roomy. Among three-row “large-midsize” crossovers

Expect the front-drive, four-cylinder ’20 Traverse RS to again rate 20/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined. With the V-6, ratings should remain 18/27/21 mpg with front-wheel drive and 17/25/20 with AWD. Our front-drive LT Leather review sample averaged a 22.3 mpg in a test that included driving in sub-freezing weather.

The V-6 engine will again use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline while GM would recommend, but not require, premium for the turbo four.

Will there be new features?

We hope so but aren’t counting on it. As mentioned above, we’d urge Chevy to make the full array of safety features available on more than just the Premier and High Country. This could happen if Traverse is refreshed for 2021. Otherwise, the ’20 should be a carryover in terms of feature availability.

The only differences between the L and LS are the latter’s deep tinted glass, optional all-wheel drive, and much wider retail availability. Key standard equipment for both grades includes CarPlay, Android Auto, six total USB ports, keyless access, pushbutton ignition, and tri-zone automatic climate control.

The LT Cloth replaces a second-row bench seats with buckets, shrinking total capacity to seven. It adds fog lights, satellite radio, and power driver’s seat. LT Leather grades get more than just leather upholstery. They also have heated front seats, power front-passenger seat, remote engine start, power liftgate with programmable height adjustment, rear-obstacle detection, and blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection.

RS grades have specific exterior trim, with AWD versions retaining the V-6 engine while front-drive versions get the above-mentioned turbo four-cylinder. Also standard imbedded GPS navigation, Bose-brand audio, surround-view camera, and an imbedded camera in the rearview mirror.

Premier models add full LED headlights, chrome exterior trim, hands-free power rear liftgate, driver-seat memory, heated power tilt and telescopic steering column, ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and wireless smartphone charging.

High Country would include AWD, a trailering package that increases maximum towing capacity to 5,000 pounds, full driver-assistance features, panoramic sunroof, and power-folding third-row seat.

Will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll likely rise, but barring significant content upgrades, the 2020 Traverse shouldn’t be much costlier than its ’19 counterpart. Base-price estimates here include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $1,195 on the 2019 Traverse.

With front-wheel drive, estimated base prices are $31,500 for the L model and $34,250 for the LS. Look for the LT Cloth model to start around $37,000 and the LT Leather around $40,500. Estimated base prices are $44,500 for the four-cylinder, front-drive RS and $47,000 for the front-drive V-6 Premier. AWD should remain a $2,600-$2,900 option on these models.

With the V-6 and AWD standard, the 2020 Traverse High Country should remain among the most expensive vehicles in its competitive set, with a starting price of about $54,500.

Returning options should include extra-cost paint ($395-$995) and rear-seat entertainment system ($1,995). The High Country’s panoramic sunroof would return as a $1,400 option on the LT Leather and Premier. The LT Leather would return with a $475 Driver Confidence II Package that includes low-speed automatic braking that operates at speeds between 5 and 37 mph, lane-departure alert, steering correction, auto high-beam headlights, and forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection.

The LT Cloth’s Convenience and Driver Confidence Package would include most of the LT Leather’s standard amenities for $1,795. Also returning should be the Premier’s $2,495 Redline Edition package that includes a sunroof and blackout exterior trim.

When does it come out?

Look for a fall 2019 release date for the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse.

Best competitors

Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Sorento and Telluride, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]