Want full-size space at midsize prices? The 2019 Chevrolet Traverse is your family-crossover value

What changes will make the 2019 Chevrolet Traverse different?

Coming off a full redesign for model-year 2018, very few. We’d welcome, however, expansion of some safety features beyond the costliest models. Otherwise, expect little more than minor feature shuffling and perhaps some new colors for a crossover that will again boast full-size-segment dimensions at midsize-class pricing.

With seating for up to eight, this is Chevy’s largest crossover, slotting above the midsize, five-passenger Equinox. Car-type unibody construction distinguishes Traverse from Chevy’s true-full-size-class but heavier-duty Tahoe and Suburban, which are built on truck frames. The ’18 redesign did, however, toughen Traverse’s styling, adding visual cues from the Tahoe and Suburban.

It also separated Traverse from its corporate cousin, the GMC Acadia. Both continue to share structural and powertrain elements, but Acadia’s 2018 redesign downsized it to the midsize-crossover class, where it competes with the likes of the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot. This second-generation Traverse actually grew slightly, sacrificing a smidgen of cargo volume in exchange for roomier passenger accommodations. Indeed, for everyday family duty, it’s a strong alternative to less space-efficient full-size SUVs, such as the Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Nissan Armada.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

Mostly to see if you’ll no longer need to buy one of the two most expensive models in this seven-tier lineup to get full-feature safety coverage. Tops on that list is the safety of full autonomous emergency braking that can mitigate or avoid a frontal collision. On the 2018 Traverse, a state-of-the-art system that can automatically stop or slow the vehicle from any speed was exclusive to flagship High Country model, which was priced at $54,040.

A less-complete system that brakes automatically between 5 mph and 37 mph was available on the second-most expensive model, the Premier. (It was standard on the $49,340 all-wheel-drive (AWD) Premier and a $475 option on the $46,440 front-wheel iteration.) Some rivals make full autonomous emergency standard on all or most models in their lineups. In the same vein, we’d urge Chevy to also expand adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from traffic ahead, beyond just the High Country, where it was standard for 2018.

Regardless of possible changes to safety-system availability or features content, waiting for the ’19 Traverse won’t saddle you with a vehicle about to become dated. Don’t look for alternations to styling until this second-generation’s midcycle facelift, which won’t come until model-year 2021 or ’22. The next full redesign will follow a couple of years after that.

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

Yes, if your budget or your disinterest in full-feature safety coverage has you shopping below the most expensive trim levels. And most definitely if you’re considering a Premier or High Country, which already edge the lower-tier models for the driver-assists. Either way, you’ll be getting a thoroughly modern family crossover with laudable driving manners, plenty of space, and fuel-economy ratings on par with less roomy crossovers.

The 2018 lineup offers a broad range of pricing and equipment, including the first four-cylinder engine available in a Traverse. It begins with the entry-level, rental-fleet-worthy L model, and ascends through LS, LT Cloth (cloth upholstery), LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country. The RS is the first Traverse with a dash of sporty flavor, with its black-out exterior trim and shadow-finished wheels. It’s also the only model with the four-cylinder engine and, along with the L, the only one available only with front-wheel drive. All other grades come with a V-6 engine, with AWD standard on the High Country and an extra-cost feature for the LS, LTs, and the Premier.

Expect this roster to carry over for model-year 2019, so buying an ’18 will get you essentially the same trim and equipment but without the inevitable model-year inflation. The most important caveat, of course, is whether Chevy decides to alter its safety-feature strategy for 2019.

Will the styling be different?

No, apart from a possible new color choice or two. The restyling that came with Traverse’s 2018 redesign brought an attractive blend of streamlined forms, crisp bodyside creases, and a new muscularity to the nose and wheel arches.

That look won’t change for ’19, and neither will most of the touches that visually differentiate the trim levels. These include 20-inch wheels — darkened on the RS and polished bright on the High Country– versus 18-inch alloys of various finishes on the other models. Expect fog lamps, roof rails, and body-colored mirrors with integrated turn signals to again begin at the LT Cloth level. The Premier and High County should return with rectangular dual-exhaust outlets, bi-LED headlamps, and chromed exterior trim. And depending on its popularity with 2018 Traverse buyers, Chevy’s apt to reprise the Redline Edition package that trims a Premier with shadowed touches similar to those on the RS; it was priced at $2,495 for ’18.

Inside, look for the same handsome, well-arranged instrument panel. Expect L, LS, and LT Cloth models to retain a 7-inch central-dashboard infotainment screen, with the other models keeping their 8-inch display with an imbedded navigation system (an option for the LT Cloth in ’18). In either size, the display and its menus are easy to navigate and quick to respond, though some rivals offer a center-console mounted controller as an alternative to Traverse’s fingerprint-susceptible touchscreen. Outward vision is good, except to the rear, where it’s crimped by the undersized hatch window and the headrests. That’s partly mitigated by the standard rearview camera and, starting with the LT Leather model, a clever inside rearview mirror incorporating a wide-angle video feed. Those models also expand their standard rearview camera dashboard display with a 360-degree bird’s-eye image.

RS, LT Leather, and Premier should again come with leather upholstery, and the High Country with exclusive combination of suede and brown leather. Traverse’s full-size-class dimensions make it roomier than midsize-segment rivals, although the Volkswagen Atlas’s smart interior packaging gives it similar spaciousness with less exterior bulk than the Chevy. Anticipate 2019 Traverse L, LS, and LT Cloth models to return with a second-row bench seat standard, for eight-passenger capacity. Second-row captain’s chairs, optional on the LT Cloth and standard on the LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country will again make these models seven-seaters.

Either way, room and comfort in the first two rows will remain exceptional, with the third row acceptably hospitable for two grownups (or three kids) – something that can’t be said of most midsize-class rivals. Access to the third row is helped by a right-side second-row seat section that tips forward, even with a front-facing child seat in place.

Cabin storage and cargo volume are also highlights, despite losing 15 percent of maximum capacity in the redesign. The 23 cubic feet behind the third row gives Traverse truly useful carrying space even with all seats in place. Bolstered by 58.1 cubic feet behind the second row and 98.5 with second- and third-rows folded, Traverse is tops among midsize-class crossovers for cargo volume. Look for the High Country to again boast a power-folding third-row seat as an exclusive standard feature.

Any mechanical changes?

None likely, unless Chevy discovers that sporty-minded RS shoppers expect more muscle than its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers. Every other 2019 Traverse will return with a 3.6-liter V-6. It should again rate 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force that gets you going and horsepower as the energy that keeps you moving). That output is about average for a V-6 midsize crossover, though it’s far less robust than the V-8s common in the full-size class. Still, it works splendidly with Traverse’s smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission to furnish fine throttle response and no-fuss acceleration around-town and in highway-speed passing and merging.

We haven’t yet tested a Traverse RS, but it’s almost certain to return with 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, promising a different driving experience than the V-6. The RS uses the nine-speed automatic, as well, but like the L model, it comes only with front-wheel drive. AWD is available on the LS, LTs, and Premier and is standard on the High Country. It’s a basic system, normally operating in front drive and automatically shuffling power to the rear wheels when sensors detect front-tire slip.

However, the Traction Mode Select control introduced for 2018 and sure to return for ’19, gives the driver a center-console dial to tailor the drivetrain for various road and weather conditions. On front-drive models, it includes normal and snow settings, and if you get the trailering package, a tow/haul mode. On AWD models it has a setting for tow/haul, automatic AWD, and for maximum traction at low-speeds in light-duty off-roading. It also enables the driver to disengage the rear axle, locking in front-wheel drive for better fuel economy. Finally, the High Country has rear torque distribution designed primarily to improve on-road handling by distributing power laterally at the back wheels.

All this adds up to a rewarding driving experience. Traverse can’t mask the effects of its size in turns: it leans into a corner rather than cutting into it. And the steering could use a bit more directness on-center. But grip and balance are impressive, and this big crossover feels composed and confident in any situation. Aided by a notably solid structure, the ride quality is laudable, even though the 20-inch tires register more impact harshness on bumps and tar strips than the 18s.

Will fuel economy improve?

Very unlikely. That’s not a bad thing, considering Traverse’s EPA ratings would be good even for a smaller, five-passenger midsize crossover. AWD versions benefit from the front-wheel-disconnect capability. And both Traverse engines feature a stop/start system that shuts down the engine when the vehicle’s stationary (leaving accessories running) and automatically restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal.

Expect 2019 Traverse EPA ratings for V-6 models to repeat at 18/27/21 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 17/25/20 with AWD. The RS, with its turbo-four and front-drive powertrain, should repeat at 20/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined.

Will it have new features?

Probably nothing new, per se, but we’ll renew our call for a more liberal approach to safety-systems availability. For 2018, the LT Cloth AWD, LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country came standard with blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic detection, plus rear parking warning. These features were available on the front-drive LT Cloth as part of the $1,795 Convenience and Driver Confidence Package, which also brought the heated front seats, universal home remote, remote engine start, and power liftgate standard on the higher-tier models.

For 2018, lane-departure warning was optional on the LT Cloth model, unavailable on the L and LS, and standard otherwise. Lane-maintaining automatic steering correction was standard only on the High Country and the AWD Premier. Those models also came with autonomous braking (low-speed only on the Premier), plus forward-collision alert, automatic headlamps, and a following-distance indicator. These driver assists were optional for the front-drive Premier through the $475 Driver Confidence II package.

Expect every 2019 Traverse to again come with keyless entry and pushbutton start, tri-zone climate control, USB charge points in all three rows, and GM’s well-engineered OnStar assistance with 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. Every ’19 Traverse should also return with GM’s Teen Driver system that allows parents to set certain controls on speed and location and then review their teen’s performance. Also returning as standard across the board will be the Rear Seat Reminder chime intended to get you to check the passenger compartment before exiting the vehicle. It’s operative if you opened and closed a rear door at the start of your trip.

A power liftgate likely will remain optional on the LT Cloth and standard on the LT Leather and RS models. A power liftgate with hands-free operation should again be included on the Premier and High Country – and feature a wonderfully helpful illuminated Chevy bowtie logo projected on the ground beneath the rear bumper to indicate where you should swipe your foot. Those two top-line models will also likely return with a heating steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated outboard rear seats among exclusive standard features.

How will 2019 prices be different?

They’re almost certain to rise, fueled by increased demand for the 2018 Traverse even as sales of large crossovers and SUVs were leveling off. Even with some increase, the 2019 Traverse should remain a strong value for its utility, comfort, and road manners.

Prices for the 2019 Traverse were not released in time for this review. But for reference, here are 2018 base prices, including Chevy’s $995 destination fee. The L model started at $31,920. The LS was priced from $34,040 with front-wheel drive and from $36,040 with AWD and the LT Cloth from $36,449 and $40,340, respectively.

The LT Leather began at $43,140 with front-drive and at $45,140 with AWD. Base price for the RS, which came only with front-drive, was $44,040.

The Premier was priced from $46,440 with front-drive and from $49,340 with AWD. With its standard AWD, base price for the 2018 High Country was $54,040.

When will it come out?

Look for a release date for the 2019 Chevy Traverse during the third quarter of 2018.

What are the top alternatives?

Among midsize three-row crossovers, consider the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, and VW Atlas. Several full-size SUVs are priced within the upper range of the Traverse model range, and among these we’d recommend shopping the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia for their roomy third-row seating.

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com 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 HowStuffWorks.com, 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]