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2011 Chevrolet Traverse ReviewThe Good
Seating for eight, as well as a comfy ride, cavernous cargo area, tons of standard features, and a five-star safety record should generate some sales for the 2011 Chevrolet Traverse.The Bad
The bulky 2011 Traverse crossover loses a bit of luster with some side visibility issues, an overabundance of hard interior plastic, and its adult-challenged third row.
The CarGurus View
Sure, it’s not perfect, but the 2011 Chevrolet Traverse offers so much cargo room, performance, and practicality that its at-best-average gas mileage and a few chintzy interior materials ought to be overlooked by those in the market for an otherwise well-wrought CUV. Great safety scores and eight-passenger seating don’t hurt, either.
At a Glance
It’s obvious that GM has a winner in the 2011 Chevrolet Traverse midsize crossover. Family-friendly, capacious, quiet, and reasonably quick, this eight-passenger mini-‘ute, mounted on GM’s Lambda frame, shares a platform with its Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia stablemates and admirably fills the niche between a honkin’-size SUV and the effective, but, let’s face it, punch-less minivan. Heck, with 116 cubic feet of seat-down cargo space, the Traverse boasts more capacity than most SUVs or minivans. As a bonus, it has a hefty 24 cubic feet of grocery/luggage space behind the third-row seat. Altogether, interior space alone has put the Traverse near the top of this ultra-competitive class. Add in plenty of standard gizmos and goodies, better-than-adequate V6 power, and nearly sedan-like ride comfort, as well as a likeable base price, and this convivial crossover seems destined to dominate the market for some time to come.
Three trims, the base LS, midlevel LT, and top-shelf LTZ grace the 2011 Traverse lineup, with the LT further divided into LT1 and LT2 gradations. All trims and sub-trims are available in either front-wheel-drive (FWD) or full-time all-wheel-drive (AWD) variations, and all feature V6 power, a rear spoiler, and three rows of seating. Furthermore, due to its rather recent introduction for the 2009 model year, the Traverse has undergone only minor changes. For 2011, this sizeable crossover sports only optional heated cloth seats for the LT1, while the rear-seat USB port has been relocated for easier access.
The most serious competition for the Traverse, besides its Enclave and Acadia cousins, includes the Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9. With similar pricing, brand-specific creature comforts and performance features, and three rows of seating across the spectrum, perhaps only the Traverse’s class-leading cargo-carrying ability will separate the haves from the have-nots.
The sole engine choice for the 2011 Traverse is a 3.6-liter variable-valve-timed V6 available in a 281-hp (at 6,300 rpm) configuration for the LS and LT trims, and a 288-hp version, again at 6,300 rpm, in the LTZ level. A standard six-speed auto-manual transmission comes with all three trims and allows 266 lb-ft of torque in the LS and LT and 270 lb-ft in the LTZ, all at 3,400 rpm.
Towing capacity is maxed out through the entire lineup at 5,200 pounds, while mileage for all three trims is estimated at 17/24 mpg in FWD versions and 16/23 in AWD trims. Additionally, full-time-AWD traction on trims so equipped is managed by a mechanical center-mounted, limited-slip differential.
Most reviews find the Traverse’s V6 power to be more than adequate for merging and passing, while one test of the 281-hp V6 had it scoot from 0-60 in 8.6 seconds. Reviewers additionally note that FWD trims seem marginally quicker off the line than do AWD trims. The six-speed auto-manual transmission is described by most reviewers as smooth and responsive. Several reviews, however, mention a disturbing hesitation to downshift on the highway when in full automatic mode. Also mentioned in passing by a few reviewers is that the 288-hp V6 in the LTZ sounds a bit throatier on acceleration than does the 281-hp mill equipping the LS and LT trims. Performance-wise, there seems to be little difference between the two.
Ride & Handling
Depending on the trim level selected, three different standard wheel sizes are available for the 2011 Chevy Traverse. The LS mounts 17-inch steel wheels, the LT trims roll on 18-inch alloy wheels, and the LTZ comes with standard 20-inch polished alloy wheels. An independent front suspension and MacPherson front struts are complemented by front and rear stabilizer bars and a multi-link rear suspension.
Nearly all reviewers find the 2011 Traverse’s ride to be comfortable and steady, with surprising agility for such a large and heavy vehicle. Steering is described as straight and true, with little body lean when taking corners at some speed. Additionally, reviewers find braking to be above average, with no noticeable pedal squish. Many reviewers also find this hefty CUV to be remarkably easy to maneuver in city traffic, despite its considerable size. Notwithstanding its domesticated ride and handling characteristics, more than a few reviewers mention that the Traverse won’t even pretend to mimic the typically more nimble sedan or coupe.
Cabin & Comfort
Though not as elaborately appointed as, for instance, a Cadillac CTS, the 2011 Traverse's interior nevertheless provides decent bang for the buck. The LS trim is delivered with standard premium cloth upholstery, split-folding and reclining second-row seats, split-folding bench third-row seating, power windows, door locks, and mirrors, cruise control, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, OnStar vehicle diagnostics, hands-free communications, and navigation functions, front and rear air conditioning, simulated alloy dash and door accents, and a single-CD player with six speakers and XM satellite radio.
The LT1 sports a trip computer, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, heated exterior mirrors with blind-spot-assistance insert, and steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. The LT2, meanwhile, adds standard tri-zone climate control, ten Bose premium speakers, including a subwoofer, additional noise insulation, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
The flagship seven-passenger Traverse LTZ boasts such additional standard amenities as a power liftgate, leather upholstery, second-row captain's chairs, multi-heated, power adjustable front seats, reverse-tilting outside mirrors, universal remote garage door opener, rear-view camera, memory settings for two drivers, front and rear USB connections, and Bluetooth communications technology.
Options for the 2011 Traverse include heavy duty trailer-towing equipment, featuring heavy-duty engine cooling, hitch and wiring, for the entire lineup. Lower level trims can be optioned with many of the standard features found on the higher trims, while LT1 and higher versions can be equipped with available rear-seat DVD entertainment, touch-screen DVD navigation, a power sunroof, and remote engine start.
Reviews are universally favorable regarding the Traverse’s copious cabin storage, easily readable gauges, and thoughtfully located controls. One glitch, however, is the liberal use of low-grade hard plastics throughout the cabin, lending it a rather low-end appearance in the minds of more than a few reviewers. Third-row accessibility, meantime, is noted by virtually all reviewers as better than usual, and sliding, tilting second-row seats combined with large rear passenger doors means entry and exit, even from the third row, is reasonably trouble-free. Those third-row seats, however, though easy to get to, have been panned by many reviews as a bit cramped and uncomfortable for average-size adults.
An additional strong point for the 2011 Traverse is its outstanding safety scores. Basic safety equipment, standard across the lineup, includes four-wheel disc ABS with emergency brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, StabiliTrak traction and stability control, dual front side-mounted airbags, three-row head airbags, remote anti-theft alarm, daytime running lights, OnStar collision and airbag deployment notification, as well as Crisis Assist and a post-collision safety system. The LT1 and higher trims additionally tack on turn-signal-integrated outside mirrors and rear parking sensors as standard safety equipment.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Traverse five stars across the board in front and side impact testing, as well as four stars for both FWD and AWD trims in rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also weighs in with equally high scores for front and side impact protection.
What Owners Think
Though owners generally find few faults with the 2011 Traverse, the most glaring include somewhat tepid fuel economy, the pint-size third-row seat, a few chintzy cabin materials, and a distracting whine from the 281-hp V6 during heavy acceleration. A few owners complain that the Traverse seems a tad underpowered, while the LTZ trim level strikes an owner or two as a bit overpriced. At least one owner, additionally, complains of a disconcerting roll on even slight inclines before the transmission engages.
On the plus side, interior and exterior styling, as well as capacious passenger space and ride comfort, snags the praise of owners, as does, of course, that humongous cargo area. The quiet cabin, easy-access third-row, respectable handling characteristics, and scads of standard features, even in the lower trims, also bring kudos from owners.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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