2009 Chevrolet Traverse

GM's marketing staff insists the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse is a "no-compromise" vehicle - but we beg to differ. That, however, is a compliment - with the seating capacity of a minivan, the towing capacity of a mid-size SUV, and the ride prowess of a large car, the Traverse may well be the ideal compromise for customers accustomed to large SUVs.

That may bode well for Chevy dealers. Not only does the Traverse loosely fit into the holes left by the departed Uplander minivan and Trailblazer SUV (finished after a brief '09 run), the capabilities - and better fuel economy - of the new crossover may help it attract customers who normally would shop for Tahoes and Suburbans.

Like the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, the Traverse rides upon GM's Lambda platform. Although GM engineers note the Chevy crossover shares more body structure with the Enclave than the Acadia or Outlook, the Traverse sports a considerable amount of unique sheetmetal.

In fact, the only Enclave-like cues are seen on the Traverse's chiseled quarter windows, fender kink and boat-tail hatch; even these subtly differ from those on its Buick sibling. Rear fenders rise upward with a distinct coke-bottle shape; the taillamps sport Chevy's trademark dual round lamps (albeit set in chiseled surrounds). Thanks to a lower license plate mount, the Traverse has a unique tailgate.

Up front, designers attempted to cop cues from the successful Malibu sedan as much as possible. Sure, the elongated headlamps evoke memories of the ungainly Uplander, but other cues - notably the smooth integration of the split-bar grille - tie the Traverse to Chevy's current design language. Panel gaps seem to be consistent (even on the pre-production vehicles we drove) and remarkably tight; GM claims gaps on the Traverse measure a scant 3.5 mm - reportedly equal to or better than most Lexus offerings.

The Malibu influence continues within, where an oversized version of the sedan's "dual-cockpit" dashboard can be seen. Materials are on par with those of other recent GM products (think Malibu), and while they may be a bit hard to the touch, their overall feel is solid. Our vehicles were all pre-production testers, meaning a few gaps - especially a large chasm between the dashboard and the front passenger's door panel - are reportedly being improved before production.

As with the other Lambda crossovers, seating for eight across three rows is standard on the Traverse; bucket seats in the second row are optional on LT and LTZ trims, along with a second-row center console. Those buckets may seem a bit narrow upon entry, but actually provide a decent amount of comfort - even for adults.

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