As a result, despite sharp steering, the Traverse didn’t deliver the responsive handling that characterized the best in the segment. Despite having the most powerful engine in the class, it felt sluggish, due to a since-abandoned transmission shift strategy that dumped unsuspecting drivers in fifth or sixth gear at school zone speeds. Further, it delivered the worst observed fuel mileage in its only comparison test appearance, where it finished fifth out of six. (The crossover class has moved further onward and upward, too, as that comparo’s winner finished third of three in its most recent showdown.) And unlike its Buick Enclave sister ship, the Traverse was finished inside with rude, hard-plastic surfaces and ill-fitting trim misaligned from dash to door panels.
Nip Here, Tuck There
For 2013, the Traverse gets a major face lift, and several of these problems are addressed. The clean-shaven liftgate of the 2012 Traverse has now been replaced with a more-conventional-looking rear hatch sporting a proper license-plate holder. Size and (unfortunately) weight have not changed, as most customers seem happy with the Traverse’s space and utility. But Chevy has upgraded the interior with a new soft-touch dashboard and door uppers.
The center dashboard stack is also new and includes a 6.5-inch LCD that can control the optional Chevy MyLink system, which brings connectivity with apps such as Pandora and Stitcher. The overall ambience is improved, although it’s still not exactly plush. Earnestness, however, has its rewards, including the relative simplicity of the controls, which are a clear alternative to the high-tech center stack in the current Ford Explorer.
One new safety feature for 2013 is the first front center side airbag in the business (it is also available on the other current Lambdas). The bag inflates from the inboard side of the driver’s seat to prevent the front-seat passengers from banging heads in the event of a side impact.
The direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 remains unchanged for 2013. It develops either 281 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque with a single exhaust or 288 and 270 with duals. Why Chevy would bother with such a trivial choice is beyond us. But the engineers have reprogrammed the six-speed automatic so that it’s not so obsessed with finding sixth gear and staying there. On a drive through hilly freeways and back roads in northern California, the 2013 Traverse downshifted willingly and seamlessly when needed, although the V-6 remains coarse-sounding and less than refined at high revs. EPA fuel-economy ratings are within 1 mpg of most of the class competitors in both city and highway measures.