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  • 2009 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ

    Posted on February 7th, 2009 jwoodman

    Seven-passenger crossover vehicle appeals to active families

    By Nina Russin

    Chevrolet’s newest crossover vehicle is perfect for families who need the passenger space and cargo capability of a minivan, but won’t drive a car that looks like one. The Traverse seats up to eight passengers when equipped with a second-row bench seat.

    2009 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ

    2009 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ

    Second and third-row seats fold flat to create a long load floor for carrying large cargo. With all three rows in place, there’s enough room in back for groceries or a weekend’s worth of luggage. Standard roof rails make it easy to stash additional cargo up top.

    A standard V6 engine has a flat torque curve for towing. The Traverse can haul up to 5200 pounds. A six-speed automatic transmission maximizes fuel economy: about 24 miles-per-gallon on the highway.

    Curb weight is 4720 pounds: not surprising for a well-equipped seven-passenger car. Its weight makes for soft acceleration off the line, and gives the Traverse poorer gas mileage than smaller cars in the segment.

    The test car is the upscale LTZ model that retails for $39,075. Standard features include twenty-inch alloy wheels, heated and cooled front seats, tri-zone climate control, a power liftgate, sunroof, a Bose audio system with satellite radio, navigation and a rear-view camera backup system.

    The interior is thick with storage bins, cup and bottle holders and power points: in other words, all the comforts of home. Option packages add a second-row center console positioned between two captain’s chairs, a rear sunroof and engine block heater. MSRP on the test car is $41,585.

    Innovative side mirror design minimizes blind spots

    Its long wheelbase and thick rear pillar create large areas to the side and rear of the Traverse that would ordinarily fall outside the driver’s sight range. Knowing that, designers added wide-angle inserts to the side mirrors that minimize blind spots, and give the driver better visibility across several lanes of traffic.

    A standard rear backup camera displays a wide-angle view in back of the car whenever the driver shifts into reverse. It’s an invaluable feature to families with small children who might walk behind the car where the driver can’t see them.

    The six-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission provide adequate power for most driving situations. I noticed a slight lag in throttle response when I passed other vehicles.

    But power is excellent in the twenty-to-fifty mile-per-hour range. Merging into highway traffic off an entrance ramp is a non-issue.

    Variable-effort steering has more assist at low speeds for maneuvering around parking lots, while providing good on-center response at speed. There is noticeable steering wheel play at slower speeds: up to about forty miles-per-hour. It shouldn’t be a problem unless the driver needs to make a sudden evasive maneuver that requires going off the shoulder of the road.

    A fully independent suspension provides a compliant ride for all three rows of passengers. Cornering is softer than a sport sedan, but the car doesn’t roll excessively. I was impressed by how flat the chassis stayed when taking a cloverleaf ramp at speed.

    Engineers did an excellent job of isolating the passenger cabin from wind and road noise. The only exception is a pleasant belch from the dual exhaust pipes when the driver opens up the throttle.

    Versatile interior for families on the go

    Although the LTZ grade is on the pricier end of vehicles in its segment, buyers should be pleased by the high level of standard comfort and convenience features. Captain’s chairs in the first and second rows are extremely comfortable. Smaller drivers shouldn’t have a problem adjusting the driver’s seat for good forward visibility.

    Standard two-position memory makes it easy for multiple drivers to share the car

    A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables small drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. Dual-zone climate and audio controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position.

    The navigation screen doubles as an information display for audio settings and the rear-view camera. A digital readout in the gauge cluster includes the trip meter and ambient temperature.

    Redundant audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.

    All three rows of passengers get dual overhead reading lamps, and have access to twelve-volt power points. A 115-volt inverter behind the front-row center console allows passengers to plug in video games.

    Second-row passengers can adjust fan and temperature settings using controls on the back of the center console. Four ceiling vents keep all three rows of occupants comfortable during temperature extremes.

    Both center consoles have storage bins. The armrest on the front console slides fore and aft for the driver’s comfort.

    A deep bin under the armrest is large enough for a small pack. The locking glovebox is also quite large: a woman’s purse will fit inside it.

    Second-row seats have adequate legroom for most adults: tall men may feel cramped. A lever on the side of the seat flips up the seat cushion and moves the seat forward to ease access to the third row. It allows third-row passengers to enter the car without having to climb over the rear wheel arch.

    Equally impressive is the head and legroom in the back row of seats. As a five-foot, six-inch adult, I was quite comfortable.

    Large, configurable cargo area

    Both second and third-row seats fold flat by pulling straps to the sides or backs of the seats. There is a gap between the seats with both rows folded down: it allows the seatbacks to fold flat without removing the headrests. The down side is that handlebars and bike pedals can get stuck on the way in and out of the cargo area.

    A power liftgate allows drivers to load up the back of the car with cargo and not struggle with a latch release.

    A small under-floor storage area is ideal for stashing valuables out of sight at the trailhead.

    Standard safety

    The Traverse LTZ comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Standard OnStar automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel if the airbags deploy.

    All models come with a five-year/100,000 mile warranty. Chevrolet builds the Traverse at its Spring Hill, Tennessee assembly plant.

    Likes: Extremely well-designed interior with a high level of standard comfort, convenience and safety features. The side mirror inserts and rear-view camera display do an excellent job of minimizing blind spots to the sides and back of the car.

    Dislikes: Steering wheel play at low speeds, slight throttle lag during hard acceleration.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Chevrolet
    Model: Traverse LTZ FWD
    Year: 2009
    Base price: $39,075
    As tested: $41,585
    Horsepower: 288 Hp @ 6300 rpm
    Torque: 270 lbs.-ft. @ 3400 rpm
    0-60 mph: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 17/24 mpg city/highway

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