Short Take Road Test: 2009 Chevrolet Traverse AWD
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2014.
By Jared Gall of Car and Driver
Despite the fact that both are subject to inexplicable cravings — pickles and ice cream, Chevrolet's irrepressible urge to build the SSR roadster/pickup — pregnant women share little else with automakers. Shocked? Consider that the birth of the first three General Motors Lambda SUVs — the GMC Acadia, the Saturn Outlook, and the Buick Enclave — took place between the fall of 2006 and summer of 2007, and the fourth, the Chevrolet Traverse, just emerged in fall of 2008. That's a long labor.
Like quadrazygotic (otherwise known as fraternal) quadruplets, the Lambda family shares a lot of stuff under the skin — powertrain and chassis mechanicals, interior measurements — but the four are differentiated by unique faces and bodies. The Traverse's Chevy genetics dictate a trapezoidal grille bisected by a body-color bridge, like that suggested by the Impala and Cobalt but perfected by the Malibu.
The Traverse's elephantine body is curvaceous, sharing more with the Enclave than the blocky Saturn and GMC. A stylish up-kick in the beltline toward the rear adds flair to the outside but adds only despair inside, where it hinders visibility for the driver and makes for a more claustrophobic back seat. The tapered side glass leads to a trapezoidal rear window that is likewise exciting visually but annoying practically next to the comparatively wide-open window of the GMC Acadia or Saturn Outlook.
Regardless of brand and resultant styling details, all Lambdas share a spacious and flexible interior. The middle row of seats adjusts fore-and-aft to better balance legroom between rows two and three, although there is more livable space in the third row than in that of a Chevy Tahoe regardless of the middle bench's position.
But inside is also where the Traverse's siblings appear to have gobbled up all the good genes. Whereas the cockpit styling clearly demonstrates more creativity than that of many other Chevrolets and recalls the Malibu's swoopy décor, the finish is disappointing, with materials that look and feel cheaper than the competition's — particularly those of the Hyundai Veracruz and Mazda CX-9, not to mention the other Lambda siblings.
You won't notice much of a difference in driving dynamics versus the other Lambdas, though. For 2009, all four vehicles add direct injection to the 3.6-liter V-6s underhood, which adds 6 hp and 14 lb-ft of torque for totals of 281 and 266, respectively. (Those numbers rise to 288 hp and 270 lb-ft if you opt for the dual exhaust.) Anyone claiming to notice either in a vehicle weighing 4954 pounds is more likely full of baloney than actually observing anything. The Traverse we tested had all-wheel drive and managed 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, quick for a vehicle this size but still 0.6 second behind the 553-pound-lighter Toyota Highlander. We've also sampled front-wheel-drive Traverses, and although the lighter weight might drop a 10th from the acceleration times, torque steer appears on the menu, and the Traverse's light steering exacerbates the effects.
The steering is direct, if light, and like its platform mates, the Traverse exhibits refinement nothing short of amazing for a humongous SUV. Wheel and body motions are controlled, and noise from the wind and the tires is muted. Thanks to the light steering, the Traverse never feels excessively large or heavy, although a long 194 feet to stop from 70 mph betrays the segment-topping mass.
The Traverse's base price is $28,990, about two grand cheaper than that of the next step up the Lambda ladder, the Saturn Outlook. The GMC checks in another $1600 above the Saturn, with the Enclave about five grand above that, at $37,805. Our Traverse rang up at $41,385; if you were so inclined to spend a similar amount on a Lambda, we'd suggest starting with the quieter Enclave and getting a nicer interior in the process. The Lambdas are mechanically identical and, with the exception of slight variations in cargo volume, offer the same interior space. They offer lots of choices to haul your growing brood, and one among the four ought to please even the most nitpicky customers — including moms-to-be.
C/D TEST RESULTS: