2018 Chevrolet Traverse Buying Advice
This is the best SUV for you if you need the comfort and space of a minivan but wouldn’t dare be seen driving one. Traverse is fully redesigned for model-year 2018, with updated styling, drivetrains, and features. Chevrolet’s largest crossover, it seats up to eight and slots above the brand’s five-seat Equinox in size and price. It’s also sized between Chevy’s Tahoe and Suburban, but those are heavier-duty, truck-based SUVs with V-8 engines. Traverse is a crossover because it uses a car-type “unibody” structure that integrates body and frame. It uses four- and six-cylinder engines
Traverse shares much of its basic engineering with the premium-class Buick Enclave, which is similarly redesigned for 2018. These two crossovers also lend their underskin design to the smaller GMC Acadia, which was redesigned and downsized for the 2017 model year. Today’s second-generation Traverse’s physical footprint is slightly larger than its 2009-2017 predecessor. Passengers get increased room while total cargo volume shrinks slightly. Sport- and luxury-themed models join the lineup, along with its first available turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Unchanged is Traverse’s flexible, comfortable, and quiet interior and its polished demeanor.
Although Traverse is large enough to be a full-size-SUV alternative, its primary competition is midsize crossovers with three seating rows, such as the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot. The midsize-crossover category isn’t growing at the breakneck pace of the compact-crossover class, but overall sales improved 6.5 percent in 2017. Traverse saw a 6 percent boost and is on pace to at least repeat that performance in 2018. It’s unlikely Chevrolet will unseat the Explorer and Highlander for three-row crossover sales supremacy, but it is keeping pace with the Pilot, the vehicle we consider the segment benchmark for road manners, packaging, and value.
Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the ’19?
It might be worth waiting for the 2019 to see if Chevrolet democratizes driver-assistance features that for 2018, are exclusive to the most-expensive Traverse trim level. These aids include full-range autonomous emergency braking that can stop the vehicle to avoid a frontal collision, and adaptive cruise control that maintains a set following distance from traffic ahead. They’re currently available only on the flagship Traverse High Country, where they’re standard.
Otherwise we don’t see a compelling reason to wait for the ’19 model. You need not worry about the styling becoming dated; the next refresh is unlikely before model-year 2021, with the next full redesign coming a few years after that.
The 2018 Traverse lineup starts at the rental-fleet-special L, then ascends through LS, LT Cloth (cloth upholstery), LT Leather (leather upholstery), RS, Premier, and High Country. RS and High Country are new for 2018. The former has black-out exterior trim and wheels and is the first Traverse to offer a four-cylinder engine. High Country is a luxury-oriented model that targets similarly themed three-row crossovers, such as the Ford Explorer Platinum, Honda Pilot Elite, and Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium. All grades except the High Country come standard with front-wheel drive. Traction-aiding all-wheel drive (AWD) is included on the High Country and optional on all but the L and RS.
Styling: Smart design details make the 2018 Traverse look like it’s smaller than its predecessor when it is, in fact, a bit larger. The wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axles, is two inches longer than the 2009-2017 model, while overall length is up 0.6 inches. Its streamlined, yet muscular, styling starts up front with a grille inspired by Chevrolet’s full-size Tahoe SUV. Flared wheel arches and distinct cut lines further enhance this crossover’s profile. The rear end is a bit more derivative, but standard dual exhaust outlets are a welcome touch.
Traverse’s interior shines. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. L, LS, and LT Cloth models include a second-row bench seat. Optional on the latter grade and standard otherwise are a pair of captain’s chairs. Access to the third row is easiest through the passenger side, where that portion of the seat can be tipped forward to create a larger aperture, even with a forward-facing child seat in place. Once everyone is situated, they will find ample space. Legroom is outstanding in the first two rows. The aft-most seating area can accommodate two adults in respectable comfort. Headroom is great as well, even beneath the housing of the available two-panel sunroof.
From the driver’s seat, visibility is generally good, though tall headrests and somewhat small rear glass compromise the view directly aft. Chevrolet makes up for this by offering some clever video solutions starting at the LT Leather grade. Those models supplement their standard backup camera with a wide-angle version that can also project information inside the rearview mirror. They also include a 360-degree camera. Instrumentation is easy to read, with the screen mounted between the speedometer and tachometer offering a litany of readouts that you can tailor to your liking.
Similarly well integrated is Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. L, LS, and LT Cloth models have a 7-inch touchscreen display with standard support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Optional on the LT Cloth and standard otherwise is an 8-inch screen that adds imbedded GPS navigation. On all, the large icons can be arranged in any order you wish, and system responsiveness is very good, if not quite as fast as Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect. But unlike Chrysler, Chevrolet keeps the controls for the available heated and ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel outside of the infotainment controls, which is far more convenient.
Interior materials quality airs on the side of durability over richness, which is fine by us given Traverse’s family friendly credentials. The High Country tries to take things upmarket with “Jet Black/Loft Brown” leather upholstery and trim, but the contrast between the colors is rather jarring, so the effort falls a bit flat. Unfortunately, it’s the only interior color combination available on this model. The black and matte silver appointments in the RS are nicer.
Maximum cargo volume remains near the top of the competitive set. Despite an overall reduction of about 15 percent in the 2018 model versus the 2009-2017 Traverse, there’s still 23 cubic feet of space behind the third row, 58.1 behind the second, and 98.2 behind the first. This doesn’t take into account the huge center console and bevy of bins and cubbies scattered throughout the cabin, with one that’s cleverly hidden behind the infotainment screen. Chevrolet thoughtfully includes USB charging ports for occupants in all seating rows. The only other vehicle in the competitive set that can match Traverse for flexible passenger and cargo accommodations is the VW Atlas.
Mechanical: All Traverse models except the RS come with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Horsepower is near the top the class at 310, but its torque rating of 266 pound-feet is no better than midpack among three-row crossovers. As part of its 2018 redesign, Chevrolet’s engineers put the Traverse on a diet. The new model weighs more than 350 pounds less than its predecessor. It’s not as outright fast as a Honda Pilot or V-8 Dodge Durango, but its now class-competitive curb weight and slick-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission mean you’re never wanting for more muscle.
Traverse’s first four-cylinder engine is exclusive to the RS. It’s a 2.0-liter of 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It pairs with 9-speed automatic transmission. We haven’t tested this model, but we suspect it will be a bit snappier off the line than the V-6. At the same time, the larger engine will more easily stretch its longer legs when it comes to highway passing and merging response. Aside from the different engine and unique exterior treatment, the RS does not include any sort of suspension or steering upgrades.
We don’t consider that a bad thing, though, because the Traverse is a confident crossover on the road. The steering lacks on-center feel, and its sheer size means that it leans into corners rather than cutting into them. The tradeoff is a stable and planted ride, even with the 20-inch tires that are included on the LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country. They allow a bit more impact harshness to register in the cabin than the 18s that are standard otherwise, but the difference is not great enough to be a deal-breaker. Close-quarters maneuverability is decent given the vehicle’s size, but we would like to see power-folding exterior mirrors become available to provide some extra clearance for tight garage or parking spaces.
All Traverse models include Chevrolet’s new Traction Mode Select control. It’s a dial on the center console that allows drivers control over certain aspects of the car to suit different road conditions. On those equipped with front-wheel drive, it includes normal and snow modes, as well as a tow/haul setting if your vehicle is equipped with the available trailering package. All-wheel drive functions for automatic AWD, front-drive only, and maximum traction at low speeds for heavy snow. We generally recommend all-wheel drive for the extra measure of grip it can provide. However, our test front-drive Traverse LT Leather handled fresh snow in its normal mode without issue, so unless you live in an area where weather is consistently poor, you can save the extra $2,000 it costs.
Features: Despite its rental-fleet intentions, the Traverse L is surprisingly well equipped. You get the V-6 engine, LED daytime running lights, 18-inch wheels, GM’s OnStar telematics with 4G LTE connectivity to turn the vehicle into a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot, Teen Driver that allows parents to set limits on things their young drivers can control, CarPlay and Android Auto, six USB charging ports (two for each seating row), keyless access with pushbutton engine start, and three-zone automatic climate control. The only notable upgrades the LS includes are deep tinted glass and the ability add all-wheel drive.
The LT Cloth grade gains bright silver wheels, fog lights, roof rails, satellite radio, second-row captain’s chairs (which lowers seating capacity to seven), and a power driver’s seat.
RS and LT Leather add 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, power front-passenger seat, programmable power rear liftgate, rear-obstacle detection, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, 8-inch infotainment display with imbedded GPS navigation, Bose-brand audio system, remote engine start, and camera display in the rearview mirror.
Premier grades have LED headlights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, chrome exterior trim, hands-free power liftgate, driver-seat memory, power tilt and telescopic steering column, ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, and wireless device charging. They also include some driver-assistance features, including lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction to keep you in your lane, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, and low-speed automatic emergency braking that operates at speeds between 5 and 37 mph.
The range-topping High Country receives AWD, trailer-tow package, automatic high-beam headlights, full-speed autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, dual-panel power sunroof, and a power-folding third-row seat.
Traverse pricing generally falls in line with other three-row midsize crossovers, with the High Country rivaling the Explorer Platinum as one of the most expensive models in the competitive set. Note that the starting prices we list here are for models with front-wheel drive and include a $995 destination fee. All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the LS, LT Cloth, LT Leather, and Premier.
The L grade starts at $30,925 and the LS at $33,595. The LT Cloth is priced from $36,095 and the LT Leather from $42,695. Base price is $43,595 for the RS and $45,995 for the Premier. The High Country is AWD only and starts at $53,595.
Extra-cost paint colors range in price from $395-$995. Rear DVD entertainment is $1,995. The LT Cloth’s $1,795 Convenience and Driver Confidence Package includes remote engine start, power liftgate, 8-inch infotainment screen with imbedded navigation, heated front seats, rear-obstacle detection, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic detection.
A dual-panel power sunroof is $1,400 on the LT Leather and Premier. Note that to get the sunroof on the Premier, you must also order the $475 Driver Confidence II Package that adds low-speed automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlights, lane-departure warning with steering correction, and forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection. The Premier-exclusive Redline Edition package ($2,495) includes the dual-panel sunroof, gloss-black wheels, black door handles, and grille, and red trim accents.
If you can live without the full suite of driver-assistance features, a front-drive Traverse LT Cloth with Convenience and Driver Confidence Package is an excellent value with a sticker price of $37,890. For its sporty looks and promise of increased fuel economy, the RS is an intriguing proposition at its $43,595 base price.
Traverse’s EPA ratings are no better than average for its competitive set. V-6 models rate 18/27/21 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 17/25/20 with AWD. The four-cylinder RS rates 20/26/22 mpg. Our test front-drive LT Leather averaged 22.3 mpg with a city/suburban driving bias and some low-speed snow slogging.
All models use regular-grade 87-octane fuel.
Probably not much for the next couple model years. We would like Chevrolet to make the High Country’s full suite of driver-assistance features available across the model lineup, at the very least as optional equipment. Otherwise, there’s little of consequence we can think of that would make Traverse an even better vehicle than it is.
Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas