Machine Design

Test Driving the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse FWD 1LT

2009 Chevrolet Traverse 1LT FWD
2009 Ford Flex SE FWD
Length (in.)
Width (in.)
Wheelbase (in.)
Height (in.)
Cargo space (cu ft.)

It’s not as headline-grabbing as the Volt, but the Chevy Traverse is a solid car that will appeal to a broader audience than the all-electric sedan. With competition like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Flex, the Traverse, which joined Chevy’s lineup this year, will need that mass-market pull.

Like competing crossovers, the Traverse is too tall to be rightfully called a station wagon and less trucklike than Chevy’s full-size SUVs. Still, this five-foot-four driver quickly discovered that it took a big step to boost herself into the front seat. And the vehicle’s generous 7.2-in. ground clearance didn’t make it any easier.

Most importantly for the current market, the Traverse boasts better fuel economy than its SUV cousins — 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Our tester averaged 18 mpg in mixed highway and city driving over 360 miles.

All Traverses are powered by a 3.6-liter, six-cylinder, direct-injection powerplant coupled with a sixspeed automatic transmission. The combo delivers 281 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque.

Towing capacity is 5,200 lb, and the vehicle also has decent cargo room — 116 ft.3 with both the second and third rows of seats folded. Setting both rows of seats upright still leaves about 24 ft.3 for luggage or groceries.

Another potentially important interior feature is the set of six airbags, including head-curtain side airbags that protect all three rows. The protection helped the Traverse earn five-star safety ratings for both side and front impacts. A four-star rollover score, no doubt due to the vehicles higher stance, is offset by a rollover sensor coupled to antilock brakes and traction control.

While stability control and ground clearance certainly helped the ride while we tested the Traverse on slippery roads, the vehicle drove more like a truck than other crossovers we’ve tried. The higher stance makes itself felt in corners. Variable-assist steering, on the other hand, made attacking the corners effortless.

An infotainment system in all Traverse features navigation, XM satellite radio, and OnStar. Upgrading to the LT models adds enhanced side-view mirrors, 18-in. wheels, and ultrasonic parking sensors. Bluetooth, a power liftgate, and rear-view camera are standard on 2LT models.

The LTZ version offers a larger touchscreen for navigation and other displays. There’s also a 115-V three-pronged outlet, heated windshield washing fluid, and heating and cooling in the front seats. The entry-level LS starts at $28,990 including destination charge. 1LT trim of our tester rang in at $31,545, while the LTZ adds over $8,000 for a final price of $39,810.

— Jessica Shapiro

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