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2018 Chevrolet Traverse offers up minivan function in SUV form

Robert Duffer, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Automotive News

Minivan haters, SUV lovers, take heart: The redesigned 2018 Chevy Traverse is one of the few three-row crossovers as convenient as the minivan with the looks of something like an SUV.

With its first full redesign since it was introduced nine years ago, the new Traverse grows into its role as midsize crossover while trimming 350 pounds. It's designed to look more like the full-size utilitarian giants known as the Suburban and Tahoe. The rounded, pod-like edges of the old Traverse, which bore many minivan comparisons, have been swapped out for boxier ends and a broader, wider grille for an overall more rugged character. It's more than half a foot longer than its most spacious competitors in the new Volkswagen Atlas and the 2017 Honda Pilot.

Inside is where the car's personality shines. The added length gives second row passengers more space, the third row can actually fit two adults and the cargo space in back is functionally large. Reports of the Traverse shrinking in volume are misreported, Chevy says: The SAE recommended a new way of measuring cargo volume behind the front seats that if compared with the 2017 would result in 7 percent greater interior volume. Whatever the case, it feels like one of the largest in its class. The minivan generally has more vertical space back there, but that's also why it looks like a turd on wheels.

We fit our hockey bag, basketball bag and hauled half a team without having to reconfigure seats or put gear in their laps. We can't say the same for some full-size or luxury SUVs. Third-row seats fold down with a simple two-action process: pull the strap, push the seat. Headrests fold themselves.

In the second row, safety meets minivan-type convenience. Sensing that sliding doors can't be sexy, Chevy made a sliding seat that tilts forward so a front-facing child seat can stay put as third-row passengers slide easily in and out. The opening feels as big as a minivan. The tilting seat is only available on the passenger side for curbside drop-off safety. Pulling the truck-like latch and sliding the seat forward will take both hands for most kids; an adult can one-hand it.

Well-integrated technology convenience abounds as well. There are up to seven USB ports, an available wireless charger, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for unlimited data at $20/month and a power liftgate button on the driver's door to open the gate at various heights. Simple, subtle, convenient.

Chevy's infotainment system is the best of mainstream makes. The dynamic dash display being accessible by steering wheel controls and high-fidelity voice commands means the touchscreen doesn't need much touching. The cabin in top-of-the-line Premier trim is cushioned with black, soft-touch materials. It's modest and understated, like the exterior.

The Traverse is powered by an efficient 310-horsepower V-6 engine mated to a smooth 9-speed automatic transmission. It's responsive, capable and quiet, even with the panoramic sunroof as equipped in the tester. While other 9-speeds have gotten off to shaky starts, Chevy's does the job without whine or hesitation, almost as unnoticeable as an automatic can be.

The big knock on the new Traverse is the price tag. Starting out reasonable at just over $30,000, the near top-of-the-line Premier trim in front-wheel drive is $44,450, about six to seven percent more than the Atlas, Explorer and Pilot in similar configurations. For minivan function in SUV form, the new Traverse may be worth the price if a little more legroom and extra cargo room hits your sweet spot.

2018 CHEVY TRAVERSE PREMIER AT A GLANCE

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