Driving a big, 3-row SUV is usually a telling sign that the driver has a larger family and needs the extra seating to pack everyone in one vehicle. This isn’t always true in Texas, as you’ll see many people driving Tahoe’s or Expedition’s and never carry more than 3 or 4 people at a time, but this is no Tahoe. The car we are reviewing this week is the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse. It’s built as a crossover SUV, and not an all out big SUV built on the frame of a truck.
Let’s get personal for a minute. As many of my readers know, I have a larger family. I’ve driven many 3-row SUV’s and have owned a Suzuki XL-7, so I know what the family guy is looking for in his family hauler. The big players like the Tahoe, Suburban, Expedition, and others are great looking and masculine SUV’s, but they are inevitably expensive and heavy, and thus, they drink a massive amount of fuel. If it is at all feasible to your budget to buy one of these SUV’s, that’s what you, as a guy, should buy. Crossovers are notoriously deemed “soccer mom” cars, and are not seen as being able to be very masculine. So how does the Traverse stack up? Is it too “soccer mom-ish” for the average Texas man to buy? Did it do well with my family? Read on and we’ll see.
The simple answer is yes. This is one of the biggest crossover SUV’s you can buy. Its seating configuration is two seats up front, two captains chairs in the middle, and a bench for three in the rear. With most 7 passenger crossovers, the third seat seems like more of an afterthought. You have the regular bench seat that is found in the SUV’s 5-passnger model and another pair of seats is thrown where all your groceries should go. This is fine as long as that 3rd row isn’t needed very often, but when you use it everyday and plan on keeping this SUV as the children grow, it can get old. When we reviewed the Mitsubishi Outlander GT, for example, the third-row might as well have been a few pieces of cardboard thrown in the rear of the SUV. The Suzuki XL-7 I owned, that was at one time built on the same platform as the Traverse, had the same problem. Getting to the 3rd row was troublesome and there was no way anyone over 12 would fit comfortably back there.
So the Traverse has it on size. Seating is comfortable and easy to get into by just about anyone of any size, and when you have passengers in that 3rd row, you can still manage to load up the rear with groceries or whatever you might be hauling.
All this space comes at a price though. The Suzuki XL-7 I owned was loaded with leather seats, a sunroof, a built in DVD player, and more. It cost me $28,000. The Mitsubishi Outlander GT we reviewed was also packed full of goodies, but had a MSRP of just over $32,000. Our fully decked out Traverse will hit your pocketbook at $43,895. That seems like a lot, and quite frankly, it is. You could pick up the GMC Acadia for the same kind of money. To be fair though, the Ford Explorer we reviewed, that was a 3-row and decked out, cost even more! The more cramped Explorer’s MSRP was just over $45,000. So for the size of this thing and the amenities we got, it’s not a horrible price compared to the market.
Even though this was a top of the line Traverse with leather, heated seats, rear DVD entertainment system, navigation, and the works, it never really felt premium. The leather was nice, and better than that which was in the Suzuki XL-7 I owned, but much of the other items in the car seemed to still be lifted straight from the 2007 model. The dash and steering wheel controls were laid out almost the exact same as my 07 Suzuki. I’d have to say that the interior in the $23k Chevrolet Cruze was much nicer and a more premium feel than this almost $44k SUV.
So what about the looks? The Traverse looks pretty good. It looks big, and it is big. It’s got stylish lines and the now unmistakable Chevrolet front grille. But when it comes down to it, it still has a more “mini-van-ish” look. This is a great look for the true “soccer mom” looking to haul her kids back and forth, but as a man, I’d probably look at the GMC Acadia.
We’ve established that I have a big family, and I’m actually in the market for this type of vehicle as I reviewed it, so here are my final thoughts. I do like this SUV; it rides good, it has plenty of room, it’s easy to get in and out of, and even though the interior isn’t as premium as I’d want for the price, it’s something I could easily deal with. After driving this Traverse, it’s helped me move another vehicle up on my list. Not the Traverse, but the GMC Acadia. The Acadia is built on the same platform and has the same seating arrangement and the same quality of interior, but for a man driving an SUV in Texas, I like the looks of the Acadia more.
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