Doug Drives: I Can't Believe the Chevy Traverse and Its Twins Are Still Popular

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro

During the summer of 2007, I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and it was my job to drive the cars between locations. This was an excellent job when I was approximately 17, because a) I got to drive all these cool cars, and b) what the hell else was I going to do? Read?

Back then, I remember that the very coolest car we had in our fleet was the Buick Enclave. This may seem odd to those of you out there reading this, but it was true: the Enclave was very cool. Not only had it just come out, but it was a luxury car, and by God it wasn’t some stupid General Motors fake attempt at a luxury car. It was an actual, decent, legitimately good luxury car. It was among the first signs of a “new” General Motors.

We didn’t have many luxury cars in our fleet. We had one or two Infiniti G37s, we had a couple of Maximas, and that was about it. Basically every other car we had was a Chevy Aveo or some sort of Chrysler product with barcodes placed so conspicuously in the windows that we may as well have stuck a sign on the roof that said “LOST TOURIST!!! EXPENSIVE CAMERA EQUIPMENT IN TRUNK!!!”

So anyway, I always jumped at the chance to drive an Enclave, and I remember coming away from that experience with a very high opinion of them.

And now, here I am, eight years later. I no longer work at Enterprise, having instead moved dramatically backwards to the world of freelance writing, which is where people who get in fights with their co-workers at Enterprise go after they’ve been fired. The world has changed a lot: President Bush is gone, Jeremy Clarkson hosts a TV show on a website, and Blockbuster Video has disappeared from our hearts and minds.

So where am I going with this? Well, despite all the changes, Buick is still peddling the Enclave as a brand new car, largely unchanged from that original model we drove way back in 2007. And the same is true of its twins, the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse. Only the Saturn Outlook is gone, removed from the market when General Motors killed off Saturn after someone reminded Rick Wagoner that it still existed.

This is surprising. But do you know what’s even more surprising? The Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, and GMC Acadia are all still pretty damn good cars.

I think I’m especially surprised by this because I know GM’s history. For those of you who don’t quite know it, allow me to explain: throughout the 1980s and 1990s, GM’s product strategy involved creating a vehicle, developing it, and then releasing it to major fanfare, only to let it languish on the market for about seven years after it needed a redesign. This is how the 1995 Blazer somehow carried on, mostly unchanged, until the 2005 model year.

But the Traverse, Enclave, and Acadia don’t have that problem. Yes, they’re still here, which would normally signify crappy, old-school GM — a company so resistant to change they can’t figure out that they need to redesign one of their core products. But, damn it, somehow these things have stayed both good and popular for the last decade.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that General Motors is constantly updating them. Years ago, these vehicles had a backup camera mounted in the rearview mirror that was about the same size as an iPhone app icon. Now, they have a huge central infotainment system with that wonderful Chevy MyLink/Buick IntelliLink thing that responds to your touch approximately four business days after you press it.

They’re also leaders in safety. While other 2008-era vehicles are still touting “dual airbags” as a major breakthrough, the Traverse and friends have it all: a backup camera, OnStar, blind spot monitoring, forward collision alert, lane departure alert, rear cross-traffic alert, incoming missile alert, toxic atmosphere alert, etc., etc. They also still offer more power than their rivals, a roomy interior with surprisingly nice materials, and excellent ride quality.

This wasn’t intended to be a General Motors advertisement. In fact, it’s really the exact opposite: I am truly and honestly stunned beyond belief that General Motors has managed to pull this off. Since 2007, the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot have all seen three fully redesigned variants, while the Acadia, Traverse, and Enclave are still trucking along with the very same overall design they had way back then.

And do you know what? Last year, General Motors sold 240,000 of these damn things. By comparison, Honda only sold 108,000 Pilots, and they didn’t top 180,000 even if you toss in the Acura MDX to make things fair. Even Ford only managed to eek out 210,000 Explorers.

In other words, I salute General Motors for dragging these vehicles on for so long – and more importantly, I salute General Motors for keeping them good.

Now, if they could only figure out the Chevy Malibu.

Doug DeMuro
Doug DeMuro

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  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Oct 26, 2015


  • ArialATOMV8 ArialATOMV8 on Nov 01, 2015

    My aunt used to have a Buick Enclave up until the huge GM recall in 2013. She went from a Honda Odyssey to this thing (Hers was a 2010ish?). My Aunt loved this car and, the rest of my family were surprised she bought a "Old Person's car"! Boy were we wrong. When we were picked up in it after a long flight during our vacation to visit them, My family was shocked on how comfortable the seats were and, best of all, how nicely it handled. We could not believe it was a Buick. Later that week, My mother had a opportunity to drive the car. My mother's DD is a 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser (100 series) with a reliable V8! She is a very hard critic on cars (especially American ones) She reported that it had great pickup (she has a lead foot too!) Unfortunately, during the massive GM recall scandal, my aunt received a recall for Airbags or something, was concerned about driving it, and sold it for a 2014 Acura MDX. Surprisingly, now we are told she loves the Acura as much as the Buick! Overall, I'm shocked with the quality of this car. But, it's not smooth sailing yet! We still don't have a soft-spot for American Cars and,are very skeptical of there reliability (and quality).

    • Nickoo Nickoo on Nov 01, 2015

      This reads suspiciously like it was written by a GM marketing intern, then at the end, the intern thought, they're on to me, better throw in something to throw them off the scent! Nice try GM marketing intern. ;)

  • Bd2 If they let me and the boyz roll around naked in their dealership I'll buy a Chinese car.
  • THX1136 I would not 'knowingly' purchase a Chinese built or brand. I am somewhat skeptical of actual build quality. What I've seen in other Chinese made products show them to be of low quality/poor longevity. They are quite good at 'copying' a design/product, but often they appear to take shortcuts by using less reliable materials and/or parts. And , yes, I know that is not exclusive to Chinese products. When I was younger 'made in Japan' was synonymous with poor quality (check John Entwistle's tune 'Made in Japan' out for a smile). This is not true today as much of Japan's output is considered very favorably and, in some product types, to be of superior quality. I tend to equate the same notion today for things 'made in China'.
  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.