2009 Chevrolet Traverse | road test

Posted on Apr 9, 2009 by

Oh . You’re doing so well, in such difficult circumstances, but you’re not quite there yet. As the world around you burns, fuelled by economic catastrophe, departing CEOs and a litany of substandard cars, the Traverse is much better, a valiant grasp for survival, but it’s just not as good as it should be.

Very much like meeting someone that seems thoroughly personable, witty, charming and funny, but then has appalling body odour, the Traverse appears to be a great leap forward, but then ruins things once you investigate.

In all fairness, this seven or eight-seat SUV is a big leap forward for Chevrolet, which has for many years not produced the quality of car to compete with rivals from Japan and Europe. The Traverse is US-designed and built and certainly looks the part – bold and aggressive, chunky and athletic. To the eyes, it’s packing muscle underneath that taut skin and gaping grille.

2009 Chevrolet Traverse

Its proportions are all as they should be on an SUV of this type – jacked up with decent clearance between wheels and body, a shoulder line that swoops up towards the back for a bit of added dynamicism. It looks good and the design team has done an excellent job of hiding its bulk with some clever penmanship. Only the back end seems a little bulbous, but it fails to dent the overall impression of handsomeness.

Inside, the story is also a happy one – the design is modern and attractive, with the dashboard swooping out of the centre console and out towards the wing mirrors. All the controls are easy to find and there are just enough buttons to be useful without the cockpit becoming unnecessarily cluttered.

There’s plenty of room inside – two captain’s chairs in the second row and a third-row bench mean seven can be accommodated in total, although legroom is at a premium for the rearmost passengers. The third row splits in a 60/40 ratio and each side folds down to increase boot space. With the seats up, the space under the tailgate is less than cavernous, but certainly better than the token space-for-an-envelope that a lot of seven-seaters offer.

2009 Chevrolet Traverse

The Traverse’s big failing, and what takes it from being really-quite-good to really-quite-disappointing is the quality of interior materials. It’s pretty dreadful. At the launch of the Traverse earlier this year Chevrolet made a big song and dance about how the quality of its materials and build had improved, but on the basis of our test car, much more work needs to be done.

 

 

The overall feeling when getting into the car is of cheapness. The brittle trim around the centre console literally comes off if you press it, the buttons feel undamped and plasticky and the whole rooflining moves when you turn on the interior lights. It’s just not good enough, especially when you look at what the likes of Toyota and Volkswagen can do.

2009 Chevrolet Traverse

It’s a real shame, because in every other area the Traverse is decent and at times even impressive. It even drives well, the 3.6-litre V6 engine, with 313bhp and 389nm of torque zipping the car up to 100kph in around 8.5 seconds. And for a tall SUV it handles well too, remaining composed around bends with body roll kept to a minimum.

Three trim levels are available with a choice of either front-wheel or four-wheel drive. The top-level LTZ that we tried included satellite navigation, leather seats and dual zone air conditioning.

It’s an incredibly frustrating car, the Traverse. It looks good, it drives well, it seats many. But the expectations that the looks build up are far from met by the general experience of being in the cockpit. If GM can sort out its build quality and interior materials, it’ll be well on the way to recovery. Product-wise, anyway.

Price: From 130,000AED

Engine size: 3.6

Engine type: V6

Driven wheels: Four wheel drive/ front-wheel drive

Max power (bhp): 313

Max torque (Nm): 389

Trim levels: LS, LT, LTZ

Standard safety features: ABS, VDC, Electronic Brake Assist, driver and passenger airbag, rollover sensor, front active head restraints

 

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