Turbo power arrives in another large three-row CUV
We live in a time when nearly every vehicle type is available with a small turbocharged engine, so it’s no surprise to find one in a large three-row crossover. The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS is the latest addition in a growing number of midsize three-row crossovers that offer a turbocharged four-cylinder, following the Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, and upcoming Subaru Ascent. This, however, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with an underpowered CUV. As we found out in the Traverse RS, torque does wonders.
The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS trades the standard 310-hp 3.6-liter V-6 for a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 257 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. GM’s nine-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox available. In comparison to the 3.6-liter V-6, the turbo-four is down 53 hp but up 29 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which is more accessible because most of it is available at a low revs. EPA fuel economy ratings are 20/26 mpg (11.8/9 L/100km) city/highway, 2 mpg (117.6 L/100km) more on the city but 1 mpg (235.2 L/100km) less on the highway versus the V-6-powered front-drive Traverse. In our Real MPG tests, the crossover got 18.7/27.1 mpg (12.6/8.7 L/100km) city/highway, putting it right in line with its EPA estimates.
At the track, the 2018 Traverse RS completed the 0 to 60 run in 7.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds at 92.3 mph (148.5 km/h). This means it is 0.7 second slower to 60 mph and the quarter mile than a V-6-powered front-drive Traverse. Stopping from 60 mph took 121 feet, which is on the shorter side for the segment. Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana found the Traverse RS’ turbo-four peppy and said it feels quicker than it actually is. Ayapana also observed some slight dive and the tail end getting wiggly during braking tests.
The nine-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly. Although it likes staying in higher gears, the gearbox isn’t stingy with downshifts, willingly dropping a couple cogs to put you right in the engine’s powerband for passing or climbing steep inclines. There is turbo lag, but the transmission keeping you near the engine’s sweet spot provides an easy workaround. Power delivery, however, isn’t as linear as the V-6-powered Traverse because it has a tendency to give you full torque abruptly. The start/stop system works smoothly, but when you’re starting off from an incline, it can be a little rough.
For its size, the 2018 Traverse RS is light on its feet. It’s no sports car, but it has nimble handling and good body control, making it feel smaller than it actually is. Even with the standard 20-inch alloy wheels, the Traverse RS rides comfortably, isn’t very noisy, and, thanks to the tires’ tall sidewalls, soaks up road imperfections with ease. The light steering makes maneuvering the crossover easy in tight spaces. It does weight up a little more on the highway. However, it’s not very communicative.
The Traverse RS finished the figure-eight course in 26.8 seconds with an average of 0.64 g. It generated 0.83 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad. Road test editor Chris Walton was impressed with the Traverse’s handling and its ability to stay neutral on the skidpad, but he found that although the steering is precise, it has a slow ratio. The toggle switch for manual shifting isn’t intuitive; you have to go to L mode to active it, which means you can’t really use it for engine braking or enthusiastic driving. Walton did note that the nine-speed automatic transmission is mostly cooperative, but he had to trick it with a throttle jab to get it to downshift to a lower gear during figure-eight runs.
Inside, the 2018 Traverse has a spacious cabin with comfortable seating for adults, even in the third row. You can slide the second-row captain’s chairs forward to give third-row occupants more legroom, which should help make it more comfortable on road trips. There are plenty of cubbies for small items such as mobile devices, water bottles, and wallets. Behind the third row there’s 23.0 cubic feet of cargo space, and you’ve also got more storage under the floor. Fold the 60/40 split-folding third row, and cargo capacity grows to 58.1 cubic feet. If you like going on Ikea shopping sprees, there’s 98.2 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded.
Plenty of sound insulation minimizes road noise and keeps the cabin quiet. Powertrain noises are minimal, but wind buffeting can get excessive at high speeds due to the Traverse’s boxy exterior design. Visibility out of the Traverse is surprisingly good; blind spots are kept to a minimum even with the large C- and D-pillars. Material quality is competitive for the class. The Traverse has plenty of soft-touch surfaces in areas where your arms would fall. There are hard bits at the top part of the dash and the upper portion of the doors panels, but thankfully they’re smooth. Other than a trim piece that looks like it wasn’t put in properly and some loose sound deadening material in the driver’s door, our tester had consistent build quality and minimal rattles and squeaks.
Chevrolet’s user-friendly MyLink interface features a quick-responding 8.0-inch touchscreen that works similar to a smartphone or tablet. Nothing is buried deep within multiple menus, and important functions are within easy reach. The Traverse comes with up to seven USB ports, so there’s no reason for your mobile devices to die. Complementing the solid multimedia system is a 10-speaker Bose audio system that plays all music genres with minimal distortion. However, it still lags behind in terms of clarity and crispness when compared to the Harman-branded systems used in rivals from Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, and Subaru.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on all variants of the 2018 Traverse, so you can let your smartphone take over multimedia duties. With the latter now fully integrating Google Assistant, you can use voice commands for all multimedia functions. There’s a wide range of media apps available via Android Auto, and Waze has been integrated cleanly, so you don’t have to open your phone to see your route and real-time traffic updates. Like all integrations of Android Auto, there’s no way to see your contact list or music libraries in media apps.
In addition to the 2.0-liter turbo-four, the Traverse RS gets black Bow Tie badges, window trim, grille accents, and roof rails—it’s an appearance package with a different engine, not a performance variant. The RS has less towing capacity at 1,500 pounds (680 kg), which is 3,500 pounds (1,587 kg) less than the V-6-powered Traverse. Standard features include a 360-degree camera view, HID headlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power liftgate, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and keyless entry and start. You’d have to move to the Premier trim if you want additional active driver assists and creature comforts such as ventilated front seats, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning.
At $43,595 USD as tested, our Traverse RS is a solid entry in the midsize three-row crossover segment. Opting for the turbo-four, however, means less towing capacity and no all-wheel-drive option, a possible deal breaker for consumers in four-season states. If you don’t need all-wheel drive and don’t tow, the RS trim might work for you—unless you want more features or an interior color that isn’t black. The crossover has plenty of space for seven with cargo capacity to spare, there’s plenty of power on tap, and it’s easy to drive despite its size, making the Traverse RS an ideal family hauler.
|2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$43,595|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/257-hp/295-lb-ft* turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,305 lb (57/43%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||204.3 x 78.6 x 71.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.5 sec @ 92.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||121 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.8 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||18.7/27.1/21.8 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/26/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||169/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.87 lb/mile|