Two thumbs up for the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse Premier

By Roy J. Eaton | Published Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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Chevrolet Traverse

2018 Chevrolet Traverse Premier

On this 100th anniversary of the first Chevrolet truck, the Bow-Tie division of General Motors has a new vehicle that Chevrolet says will someday outsell a Texas favorite – the Tahoe.

The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse that I’ve spent the last few weeks with is indeed an impressive vehicle – a far cry from that 1917 truck, which was about as basic as a truck can be. It was a one-ton flatbed with no cab, no roof, doors or padding on its wooden bench seat. It was literally a horseless carriage, a mild adaptation of the age-old design that put a 36 horsepower four-cylinder engine in front of the driver where a horse would have been a year earlier.

My co-worker Mark Jordan and I put the 2018 Traverse from James Wood Motors in Decatur on a true, long-distance comfort test with a 10-hour round trip drive to Brownfield, west of Lubbock. It passed with flying colors.

The new Traverse is a significant improvement over the former design. The time I recently spent in a ragged-out 35,000-mile vehicle from Budget Rent-a-Car in Philadelphia was probably not a good comparison. To say it was awful would be an understatement. The 2018 Traverse is a marked improvement.

To get back to the Tahoe comparison, the Traverse is simply more car-like, and the Tahoe is truck based.

But the Traverse is larger in many important ways. It’s built on a 120-inch wheelbase compared to 116 for the Tahoe, and overall, the Traverse is slightly longer, 204.3 inches compared to 204 for the Tahoe.

Second row leg room – a significant measure for many families – is almost identical, but the Tahoe has a slight edge 39 inches to 38.4 for the Traverse.

Under the hood the Traverse is powered by a 310 horsepower, 3.6 liter V6 while the Tahoe has the traditional 5.3 liter V8. The Traverse has GM’s new nine-speed automatic transmission. On our West Texas trip, Mark and I racked up about 25 miles per gallon in highway driving. That’s important because in some small West Texas towns, there are no gasoline stations.

The Traverse faces stiff competition from the legendary Ford Explorer and to a lesser extent the Dodge Durango and a number of similar vehicles from Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.

Those mid-sized sport utility vehicles have quickly become the family vehicle of choice for many Americans. Because they “sit higher” and have better visibility, they are quickly replacing the family sedan on customers’ shopping lists.

The new Traverse looks significantly different than the 2017 model it replaces and is similar in design to the smaller Equinox. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think both look great.

The new design makes the Traverse the largest in its class beating the Explorer, Toyota Highlander and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Unlike the Grand Cherokee, the Traverse, Durango and Explorer offer third seats.

There is one feature that while important for fuel economy will take a little getting used to. When you are stopped at a signal light with your foot on the brake, the engine turns off. If the light is long, after about 20 seconds the engine starts up again with a shudder. But you will hardly notice it on other occasions as you release the brake and touch the accelerator immediately.

The new Traverse comes in a variety of trim levels from the basic LS to the plush High Country. The Premier is right next to the High Country in the luxury pecking order and the one we were driving has dual sun-roofs which can really brighten up a dreary day.

Brandt Wicker, general sales manager at James Wood in Decatur, said the new Traverse is a hit with dealership customers. That’s a good sign for Chevrolet, and it will be interesting to see how the Traverse/Tahoe battle shapes up.

I wouldn’t take bets either way.

Roy Eaton is publisher of the Messenger.

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