Chevrolet never got the minivan formula right, either when trying to go their own way, with the Chevrolet Lumina APV and the Chevy Astro, or the more conventional (read: like the Dodge Grand Caravan) Chevrolet Venture which was in turn replaced by the Chevrolet Uplander. Don’t remember them? There’s the proof of the pudding. They’re unloved and unremembered.
And if that first paragraph looks familiar, it’s because we started a review of the 2013 Ford Flex much the same way, detailing a litany of minivan disappointments wearing the Blue Oval. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, but General Motors came up with the same idea as Ford, with the Flex, and for Chevy, that means the Chevrolet Traverse.
Like the Flex, the Traverse abandoned the minivan’s characteristic sliding door, despite that kind of door’s practicality for a large multi-row family-type vehicle, adaptable for power operation and unlikely to be banged into the car parked alongside it. But front-hinged doors seemed to have been favored on the Ford Flex and the Traverse, as well as the Dodge Journey (and Fiat Freemont, the Journey’s equivalent in Italy ).
The Chevrolet Traverse debuted in 2008 as a 2009 model as a relatively new concept, not a car, not an SUV and please, not a minivan. Powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 but weighing in at two-and-a-half tons, the Traverse had sufficient performance, and the engine sounds like good mechanical things are going on under the hood, and it’s is never harsh.
The LTZ trim has dual exhaust. It’s not just cosmetic. Improved exhaust flow allows an extra seven horsepower at 288, and more torque, increasing from 266 to 270 lb-ft of torque. It’s not a huge jump but at least there’s something for your money other than just looks.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard and it can be shifted manually if there’s ever a reason to. We can’t think of any, other than perhaps engine braking downhill, but it’s done by a rocker switch on the side of the shift lever.
The Traverse is adequate in the go-around-corners duties, but there’s a lot of weight and it’s not easy to get it turning. Nimble is not in its vocabulary. It feels big in a supermarket parking lot, too, wide and with a 40-foot turning circle, the Traverse isn’t the most maneuverable vehicle.
But its real strength of the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse is what’s inside. It is capable, with 2-3-3 seating, of carrying eight, or seven with the second-row individual buckets.
The second row slides fore and aft, giving a choice of whether the second or third row gets the extra leg room, but either way, the third row is the cheap seats, better suited for the shorter. And if the second row seat is all the way back, the third row loses all leg room. The second row would be better off, too, if the front seats had any toe room under them, but they don’t.
Be advised, however, that using the third row limits cargo space. That 24 cubic feet listed in the specifications is deceptive. There’s not much room between the seatbacks and liftgate.
But if it’s maximum cargo space that’s desired, the second and third row seats will fold flat all the way to the backs of the front seats. Cargo volume totals 116.3 cubic feet. That’s less than a Dodge Grand Caravan, at 143 cubic feet, but trumps the Dodge Journey at only 67 cubic feet and the Ford Flex at 83 cubic feet.
It might take a 2012-and-earlier Traverse owner to notice unprovoked, and we saw more than one do a double take, but the Traverse gets a mild makeover for 2013 that goes a long way. The front of the Traverse loses the big body color bar through the grille, something that has been a Chevy family trademark, but at the rear, the taillights have been tidied up, a smoother C-shape replacing the outgoing four-eye design.