By on September 1, 2014

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWDMy, haven’t you matured.

You’re a few years removed from realizing that a society’s population must grow if it is to thrive over the long haul. Yet instead of traditional government tactics like recruiting doctors from the other side of the Atlantic and engineers from the other side of the Pacific, you made the hilarious decision to utilize an in-house solution.

You’ve expanded the population all right. By way of the womb.

Child number one brought with him a surprising amount of stuff. Child number two takes up a lot of space, as well. But it’s the third and fourth kids that suddenly made the first bungalow and the first CR-V seem so very small.

Odds are, you’re not about to buy a minivan.

In July, Americans registered 46,519 new minivans. The Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, and Dodge Durango combined for 53,467 sales. (Another 12,649 sales were generated by premium three-row crossovers from Acura, BMW, Infiniti, and Audi.)

And then there are the very popular Lambda platform crossovers from General Motors. Of the three, the Chevrolet Traverse stands out as the most likely minivan comparison tool because of its lower base price: $31,870 for an LS front-wheel-drive Traverse, $34,745 to add all-wheel-drive, $40,565 for an AWD Traverse 2LT with rear seat entertainment.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD profileOn paper, none of the three three-row crossovers which sell more often than the Traverse in the United States encourage as favourable a comparison with the ultimate family vehicle, the minivan. The Traverse offers greater available cargo space behind the third row, second row, and first row than the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot.

Not much wonder. The Traverse is 6.6 inches longer than the Explorer, 12.6 inches longer than the Highlander, and 12.3 inches longer than the Pilot. It’s longer than the Dodge Grand Caravan, as well, and comes within three-tenths of an inch of stretching as far as the Chevrolet Tahoe from bumper to bumper.

Traverses can also tow in quite a truck-like fashion, with a maximum rating of 5200 pounds, slightly more than the Explorer and Highlander; 700 pounds more than the Pilot.

The Traverse is more.

But as we know, less is actually sometimes more, and bigger is not always better.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT rearThe third row in the Traverse that GM Canada sent our way in August is more challenging to access than the third row in the Nissan Pathfinder, in part because of the Traverse’s flimsy second row levers. It’s roomy enough back there for typical third row occupants, but the seats themselves are torturous little items, hard and flat afterthoughts in what should be a contemporary minivan alternative.

Second row passengers are granted more space and comfort. Our test Traverse didn’t have the expansive glass roof, however, so one glance up reveals a fuzzy headliner. (One look around also reveals great deal of unfortunate grey-beige.)

For the driver and front passenger, there’s no arguing with the comfort level in highway cruise mode. This is a huge cabin with very adjustable seats. But almost all of the controls felt as though they were mounted too low, particularly in comparison to the very intelligent design of the latest Toyota Highlander’s cabin, where the screen is mounted high, a shelf holds items you want to easily grab hold of, and a massive centre bin swallows the lunch order for a family of eight.

GM’s MyLink is still slow, a trait which was admittedly exacerbated by the fact that during the Traverse’s stay, I also spent time with a Tesla Model S’s fast-acting touchscreen.

It’s not that there are any great complaints regarding the Traverse’s on-road behaviour. The ride quality could be slightly firmer, just enough to remove a hint of float. There’s something to be said for the way a modern near-5000-pound high-rider can handle. If 3000-pound sedans had made these kinds of advances over the last 15 years we’d be in awe. Even the brakes offer real bite, and the 281-horsepower 3.6L/6-speed automatic combo never struggles to adequately motivate the Traverse. More low-down torque would be appreciated, as thoroughly wringing out the V6 to locate that adequate motivation feels somewhat out of character for this not-a-minivan.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD interiorIn fact, the most significant dynamic issue isn’t found under the hood or near the wheels, it’s in the cabin. The steering wheel is pencil-thin, as if GM is saying, “You were never going to have fun piloting this behemoth, so we’ve made sure the steering wheel reminds you of the least sporting Oldsmobile you’ve ever driven.”

So the Traverse is vast, it doesn’t need to be expensive, and it remains surprisingly composed in motion. It nevertheless feels like a product designed as a Saturn Outlook for an introduction in late 2006. That was a while ago.

There’s a cheapness to the often-touched interior parts that’s out of keeping with the huge cabin quality increases we’ve seen over the last seven years. That roughness around the edges – from the gravelly second row seat operation to the crude operation of the driver’s armrest and a sliding panel in the centre console – would disappoint in a vehicle of any price.

Even with the 2013 redesign, the Traverse looks like a bloated second-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, which wasn’t ugly, but isn’t exactly current.

Although the fuel economy our Traverse achieved during a mostly low-speed week on the highway easily beat its EPA ratings, the all-wheel-drive Traverse is rated at 16 mpg in the city. The Pathfinder is rated at 19; the Highlander and stretched Santa Fe at 18. Consuming between 12% and 19% more fuel in city driving isn’t a way of winning friends, nor will it positively influence buyers.

The Traverse is undeniably showing signs of age. That it remains relatively competitive is perhaps a symbol of some level of inherent goodness. It may also relate to the idea that, for many family car buyers, bigger is simply better. Though you may frequently have doubts about how accurately that maxim applies to the size of your own family.

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43 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD...”

  • avatar

    I recently completed a trip to and from CT from PGH, with considerable miles to and from Trumbull and Hartford/New Britain. Though I hate to make generalizations, I have to say that this vehicle and it’s cousins in the GM family always gave me the most trouble on the road. Not the vehicle itself, but the way they were driven. Usually by a middle-aged woman speaking on their phone. Passed on the right? Traverse. Tailgated in the fast lane? Traverse. 25 under the posted speed limit in the middle lane? Traverse.
    I’m not the target market for these, and for that I am grateful. I just hope the AWD and airbags will be enough to protect the unfortunate spawn in those 2nd and 3rd rows.

    • 0 avatar

      No matter how much I look at this vehicle, and TRY to give it the benefit of the doubt, it is still an UGLY ASS BIG VEHICLE. And for some reason, every Chevy I see (bar maybe the Corvette) just looks plain CHEAP. I don’t know if it is the paint quality or just the ridiculously large bowtie badges on their vehicles, but they just scream cheap and low quality. And from what I know, that really isn’t the case, as the “General” has made great strides in quality.

    • 0 avatar

      “Passed on the right? Traverse.”

      In the left lane despite room to pass on the right? Volvo.

  • avatar

    The second row of the Traverse may have room, but not comfort. GM is severely bungling the back seat comfort in lots of its vehicles in the last 10 years. For adults, too short bottom cushions, seats too low to the floor, make one wonder if the people who design these really use them. Even the newest full size SUVs have suffered in the rear seat compared to prior models. Despite its over-styled instrument panel, the Traverse is a credible choice against the competition, with a proper rebate of course. I’d give up that towing capability for 2-4 more MPGs any day. In all, I’d rather buy a used Suburban for more room, more comfort, maybe 1-2 mpg less, and a better repair history.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    No buttons on the steering wheel?! I am shocked. How cheap.

  • avatar

    I suspect that the low controls and thin steering wheel rim comments are likely due to the target market being women, who are typically shorter and smaller handed than men. Women often also express greater perceptions of safety when vehicles are physically large, which may also be a reason for the popularity of these GM cross-overs. But the biggest reason they are popular with women is that they are not called minivans – modern women don’t want to drive the same type vehicles as their mothers.

  • avatar

    Its easy to look past the steering wheel buttons as they are black and within the center ring. As the prior owner of a Buick Enclave they are quite well positioned and effective. I was always fine with that set-up.

  • avatar

    “Traverses can also tow in quite a truck-like fashion, with a maximum rating of 5200 pounds, slightly more than the Explorer and Highlander; 700 pounds more than the Pilot.”

    That would be 700 pounds more then the 4WD Pilot. It’s 3200 more pounds than the 2WD Pilot’s puny 2000 pound towing capacity.

    • 0 avatar

      Considering 95% (at least) of the crossovers sold here are FWD, that’s shocking. I didn’t know 4WD made such a difference in towing. There’s an AWD Pilot from a 631 area code dealer (Long Island) at my school, and it looks exactly the same as a regular Pilot.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s not much difference when you tick the AWD option as far as “looks”.

        Can’t tell an AWD from a FWD Explorer.

      • 0 avatar

        Front-drive is asking for issues trailering: load the tongue of the trailer more and it will push down on the rear of the towing vehicle, slightly lifting the front wheels.

        I don’t think I’d ask a front-drive transaxle to pull a five-thousand-pound crossover loaded with six hundred pounds of people, a hundred pounds of stuff and _then_ a five-thousand pound trailer. That seems like a recipe for a Check Gearbox light.

        Now, mind you, most of these vehicles don’t ever tow, but still…

        • 0 avatar

          I’m not exactly sure how the gearbox would benefit from throwing in an additional 300lbs plus the drag of an awd setup, unless the awd comes with an upspec gearbox as well. The traction control light may turn into a disco strobe when towing heavy with fwd, but that’s another story..

          Honda probably realize the limiting tow task of most Pilots, will be getting the boat and trailer up a semi steep, slick ramp. For steady state towing of Airstreams down the highway, gypsy style, the FWD ought to do pretty much just as well, as long as all other parts of the drive line remain the same.

  • avatar

    These seem to be decent vehicles. I am not particularly a fan of white cars, but strip the badges off a White Diamond Tintcoat Traverse LTZ and it looks far more prestigious and expensive than it has any right to.

    Even with the refresh, this is still a “Transitional GM” product. In the form of the new full size trucks, Impala, Corvette and SS, we’ve seen what new GM is capable of. Hopefully the next generation of this and the Equinox live up to those expectations.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      The Acadia, Traverse, and Enclave were far ahead of their time when they were introduced, ostensibly to displace the Tahoe and Tahoe-sized iterations from GM. (Saturn is dead.)

      Instead, the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse, took off on a tangent all their own with better ride, handling and fuel-economy than the Tahoes, but the BOF Tahoes clung on to their own loyal following, still selling every single one that GM can make, each and every year.

      The only vehicle better in the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse class and size is Fiatsler’s 2011-and up Grand Cherokee which offers three engines, modern transmissions and a range of trims ranging from austere to opulent.

      • 0 avatar

        3 Rows from Chrysler = Durango, not the Grand Cherokee.

        I’d pick the Durango for the on road handling, and if you’re going to get caught in conditions that are not favorable at least the AWD won’t stop working as the system shuts down because it’s overheating.

        • 0 avatar

          Lots of people do not need 3 rows, as sales of the Grand Cherokee reflect.

          While styling preferences are subjective,the styling of the Grand Cherokee, over that of the Enclave, is what got the attention of my wife.

          The 4X4 Durango is the vehicle of choice with our Sheriff’s Department but several of the Deputies chose to buy a Grand Cherokee because of the better ride.

          I guess spending 8-10 hours a day in a Durango takes its toll.

          • 0 avatar

            You mentioned “class” and “size”, which is 3 seat rows of SUV’s.

            The Durango is equally matched to the Traverse/Acadia/Enclave/Pilot with 3 rows of seats in the Chrysler stable.

  • avatar

    Solid review. Good to see Timothy getting in the mix.

    My takeaway is that GM isn’t giving consumers much reason to buy new. Might as well get a well optioned Outlook or Acadia Denali CPO. Or Flex, or Pilot or even Tahoe.

    If you absolutely HAD to buy new in this class, I guess the Highlander is the belle of the ball. Or maybe splurge and grab an MDX.

    • 0 avatar

      Flex resale values are oddly high. I say “oddly” because the sales are terrible but the residuals are high. That kept me out of the Flex when buying gently used. AWD non-ecobost examples with 75,000 miles were still mid to upper $20K and god forbid you wanted one of the fire-breathing turbo monsters like I would have wanted.

      Pilot and Highlander resales were fairly equal for comparably equipped models. I lucked into an odd duck Highlander that had everything I wanted for a good price. It was a “base” model that had V6, AWD, three rows, mirror defrost, roof rack, cloth interior, rear AC, and under $50,000 miles – it was basically an SE model minus the badges and back up camera. Now that the baby has come the large back seat has been great. The car-seat fits behind me (5’11”, 160 lbs) with room to spare.

      This is a class that is a bit spoiled for choice right now. Honestly decide what your priorities are (price? resale? third row room? type of AWD system? etc.) and pick one.

      • 0 avatar

        Those high Flex resale values don’t really make much sense. and responding to VoGo’s comment, the CPO Lambdas represent a good value with good warranty coverage. My dad went that route and got a 2007 Acadia SLT, 4 years ago (car was 3 years old) basically loaded save navigation. About 15-16K less than new, and was able to buy an extended warranty through GM for 2 years of bumper-to-bumper coverage. Other than some electrical issues mostly related to the common-seeming roof leak issues, which were replaced at no cost under warranty, along with the timing chain, it’s been a good car. Not paying $42k+ for it was a bonus. He went with the Acadia because it was better looking than the Traverse, and had a bigger cargo opening (less slope to the rear end) as he often loads it up.

  • avatar

    Drove one of these on a 4-person Southwest winter vacation. It’s the size of a Tahoe, but easier to drive, with slightly better ride, handling, space efficiency, and fuel economy.

    The third row in any non-minivan is a non-accessible joke. If you have actual kids, and you’re not towing a boat, a minivan makes more sense.

    Where the Traverse shines is as a modern version of Grandpa’s Buick. High roofline, big doors, enormous space in the first and second rows, mammoth cargo area (without the third row up), floaty ride — perfect for transporting four morbidly obsese adults and their golf clubs.

  • avatar

    My elderly father ended up buying one of these after deciding that there was no appropriate replacement for his decade-old Grand Marquis among the conventional sedans currently on the market. He thought the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Chevrolet Impala, Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, Kia Cadenza and Hyundai Azera were all too small.

    He liked the Suburban and Tahoe, but thought they just didn’t get good enough gas mileage was not that great. He would have preferred that the Traverse come with bench seats though. The gas mileage with the Traverse isn’t great, usually 21 to 22 mpg on the highway and not nearly as good as the Grand Marquis which got 27 to 28 mpg.

    Yeah, the interior is a bit cheap and the vehicle has some annoying rattles and vibrating sounds. I find the front seats very uncomfortable as the bottom of the head restraints cut into my upper back. My father suffers from osteoporosis and has become a bit hump-backed and the head restraints don’t bother him. He likes the elevated seating position.

    The performance and handling are fine. He rarely uses the third-row seat, and mostly it is folded down.

    • 0 avatar
      Austin Greene

      Coming from a grand marquis a DTS would have been a perfect car for him. Except they last built them in 2011.

      I’ve driven the previous gen traverse and enclave. Both impressed me greatly as mommy mobiles. I was switching out my Tahoe.

      In the end I went with a Cruze diesel and more than a year later I haven’t regretted it even once.

    • 0 avatar

      It really sucks that today’s car companies have completely abandoned the aging/elderly population when it comes to comfortable easy to get in/out of large sedans. It is hard to keep explaining to folks with bad backs, arthritic joints etc that the only bench seat somewhat comfortable vehicle we can sell them is a gas guzzling truck or used 3-5 year old Panther sedan. All of today’s so called full size sedans are really just mid sizers with a slightly larger trunk or added wheelbase length but narrow width, tiny hard to see out windows, rock hard buckets seats, ridiculous small trunks or technology laden complicated dashes and interiors.

      Perhaps that is why sales keep dropping on these pretend full size sedans. They are not really what people want including your folks and mine!

      • 0 avatar

        Toyota Avalon, Chevy Impala, Kia Cadenza/Hyundai Azera are all upgrades on the Panther sedans and should be on the shopping list of any older folks who want a large, comfortable sedan without getting into $40K+ territory (base price, at least). Though if my octegenarian parents are any indication, old people are shopping minivans and crossovers quite regularly. My folks are on their third Odyssey. They could care less about minivan stigma and love the fuel economy, cargo space, and ease of access. A minivan with its low floor and high seats is actually easier for them to access than lowering and lifting themselves in and out of a car.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I never got the “hate the minivan” thang. They are the modern Swiss army knife if you have 2+ kids and all their debris.

    My brother is about to transit out of their well-worn minivan as we speak. While his price range is significantly lower than where these crossovers are, he’s in the ballpark of the base Santa Fe, Rogue, etc.

    Or as I pointed out, the Dodge GC 30th anniversary. Huge amount of value there for low-mid 20’s. Space would be hugely helpful on the away ball tournaments, etc. But they’re “mini-vanned” out….

    Anyway, the new Highlander seems to be the one to beat these days….hopefully the new Pilot will be more competitive than the current monstrosity….

  • avatar

    Finally a good looking truck from GM, ruined by hideous bowties. Those things wouldn’t make it off the car lot with me. Even if I had to break them off in front of sales staff. They’d probably applaud.

  • avatar

    I rented a 2015 Traverse in August. So there!
    Huge and thirsty.
    Lousy access to the third row, though the kids didn’t mind climbing over the seats.
    A backuo camera but no proximity alarm, so you can watch in colour as you back into something.
    The centre thing is a horrible sloppy mess of sliding “arm rest” with a nasty surface and some subdivided bins that wouldn’t hold anything.
    One quarter of the instrumentation display area is taken up by a voltmeter, an analog gauge that nobody has needed since 1956. It stayed on 12 volts the whole time. What a surprise! The alternator light was one of the first idiot lights and for good reason. It might never actually come on in the life of the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      makuribu, one of my wife’s sisters had a loaner 2014 Acadia when her 2014 Grand Cherokee was in the shop for three days and they had to take a trip. They came to much the same conclusion as you did.

      “Thirsty, Lousy access to the third row, and A backup camera but no proximity alarm, so you can watch in colour as you back into something.”

      • 0 avatar

        Why do you need a proximity sensor when you can see in the camera when to stop so you don’t hit anything?

        There are lines there (at least on mine) to let you know when you’re getting too close. I can get within 2 inches of a parked car when I’m doing a difficult parking maneuver – and I don’t have to hear any beeps.

        • 0 avatar

          The view backup cams offer is pretty limited. Acoustic backup sensors offer a broader range and are more reliable at actually detecting things that the vehicle might interfere with.

          • 0 avatar

            I suppose both is the BEST answer.

            But if I have to pick one, I’m picking camera. Beeps don’t tell me when I am as close as can be to the car behind, or how close the back of the car is to being aligned with the curb.

            Mine has an orange box that shows up when you turn the wheel, indicating where the back of the car is going to end up based upon your current steering angle. That’s helpful too, once I made myself trust it.

          • 0 avatar

            My car has a camera and also the beeps. I dont use the camera, I back up by turning my head on my neck and looking around, and using my mirrors. The beeps are much more useful, especially the cross traffic alert.

          • 0 avatar

            I can’t do that! :(

            My M has terrible rearward visibility, the ass is way too high. Say I’m backing into my garage. The lowest thing I can see out the window is the top of the handlebar on my push mower. The rear window doesn’t work in parking situations at all.

          • 0 avatar

            >There are lines there (at least on mine) to let you know when you’re getting too close. I can get within 2 inches of a parked car when I’m doing a difficult parking maneuver – and I don’t have to hear any beeps.

            I trusted the backup cam once and backed into a pole that popped into view right as I hit it.

          • 0 avatar

            So some of them are not a fish eye type view, so you cannot see a surround view?

          • 0 avatar

            Corey, you have just validated my anger that many modern cars cannot be driven using ones head swivel and mirrors.

          • 0 avatar

            I may take a picture, I can’t find anything in an image search to validate the terribleness.

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