No brand has been hurt more by the fall from grace of big SUVs than Chevrolet.  Fortunately, Chevy was already working on an alternative and it’s now ready to roll. The seven and eight passenger Chevrolet Traverse is the fourth full-size crossover utility based on GM’s advanced Lambda platform. But, while Traverse may be the youngest of its clan, being last out of the shoot has its advantages.

Making multi-purpose utility vehicles more fuel efficient is the top priority of every manufacturer. The result is a sea of new, lighter weight crossover utilities, with the latest family-size edition being the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse crossover.

Like the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook, the Traverse is a full-size seven and eight passenger hauler. But, being the newest team member, it was designed to be even more efficient. 

Aero improvements to Traverse include a smoother flush-fitting grille and headlights, a reshaped hood, and a splitter in the front air dam.

The front roof pillars and wheel openings were also refined, as were the tail-lights, rear fascia, and rear spoiler. The result is a drag coefficient of 0.33; the lowest in the large crossover segment to date.

First to the segment are integrated Blind Spot Mirrors, standard on the Traverse. They worked nearly as well as electronic blind spot systems.

Having a sleek shape like Traverse means nothing if you have a gas guzzler under it, so GM has added direction injection to the Lambda’s twin-cam 3.6-liter V6. In the Traverse it delivers 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque in single-exhaust LS and LT models, and 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque in the dual exhaust LTZ.

Direct injection, new to large domestic crossovers, delivers both more power and economy than the previous Lambda V6. Traverse Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 17 city/24 highway with front-wheel drive, and 16 city/23 highway with all-wheel-drive. Our front-drive LTZ drew a solid average of 21 miles-per-gallon on regular gas. That’s better than a Tahoe Hybrid.  All models use a 6-speed automatic with markedly improved shift manners.

While easier on gas, the three-row Traverse still provides the kind of room and versatility demanded from a full size utility.  Hard trim and seat fabrics are not as upscale as the Buick Enclave, but it’s a similar very efficient control layout, with a big, clear, if simple gauge cluster.

Ditto the Smart Slide second row seats, in twin buckets or split bench, and adult-sized third-row bench.

And Traverse can be ordered with plenty of amenities. Our LTZ sported heated and cooled front seats, a Bose audio system with Bluetooth, satellite radio and traffic, tri-zone climate controls and touch screen navigation.

DVD entertainment for the second and third-row seats is available as an option.

Cargo space access is by the LTZ’s standard power lift-gate.  It measures 24.4 cubic feet behind the third row; 68.8 cubic feet behind the second row; and 116.4 cubic feet with both rows folded.  Again that’s more than Tahoe. Traverse towing capacity, 5,200 pounds, is a thousand less, however, 

When driving the Traverse, we quickly came to appreciate the stable sedan-like feel delivered by its front MacPherson strut and independent rear linked H-Arm suspension. Electronic stability and traction control are standard.

The direct-injection V6 with revised 6-speed also delivers power better. 0-60 times have improved from adequate to good at 7.8 seconds. A quarter-mile of 16.2 seconds at 89 miles-per-hour is also better.

Handling is solid, with quick turn-in speed and moderate front push. The steering has a very direct feel, delivering quick response to driver inputs.

As with other Lambda-based vehicles, braking is stable, and while a 135 foot stopping distance from 60 to 0 is also consistent, it is also longer than it should be.

Pricing for the Chevrolet Traverse is broad and competitive. They range from $28,990 for the front drive LS, to 41,810 for the LTZ with all-wheel drive. 

As gas prices go up and SUV sales go down, leading people mover brands like Chevrolet have no choice but to make their big family haulers more fuel efficient.

The 2009 Chevrolet Traverse is a step in the right direction. A direction that might even make the full-size utility segment thrive once again.



  • Engine: Ltz Twin-cam 3.6-Liter V6
  • Horsepower: 288
  • Torque: 270 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.8 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 16.2 Seconds @ 89 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 135 Feet
  • EPA: 17 MPG City/ 24 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 21 MPG