There was a time not so long ago when the Suburban was the default option for Chevy fans searching for a massive three-row SUV. Now you have a choice: the Suburban or the Traverse. Like the Suburban, the Traverse is a three-row SUV that’s big on cargo space. However, it offers a smoother ride thanks to its unibody construction (the Suburban rides like a truck because of its body-on-frame design), better fuel economy, and a starting price just over $30,000. That combination has helped the 2020 Chevy Traverse edge its way to the front of the ultra-competitive three-row crossover segment.
New for 2020: A Standard V6 and Upgraded Infotainment Tech
The Traverse weighs 4,362 pounds and it used to be offered with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That engine didn’t provide nearly enough grunt, so it was axed for 2020. That leaves a V6 as the standard engine across the lineup. The Traverse also received upgraded infotainment center technology for 2020, the aptly named “Infotainment 3” system. Infotainment systems are often derided by reviewers. However, CarandDriver praised this one for being easy to use and offering colorful graphics.
Exterior Styling: Form Follows Function
Designing a three-row SUV that has plenty of space for people and cargo, but still looks sexy, isn’t easy. Some automakers have succeeded, most notably Mazda with the CX-9. The Kia Telluride is also a smart-looking CUV, as is the Lincoln Aviator.
The Traverse isn’t ugly by any definition of the word. However, there’s also nothing really special about its design. The best that can really be said is that it’s a fine blend of boxy and curvy. That said, the RS trim does look smart with its blacked-out roof rails, grille, and 20-inch aluminum wheels.
Engine and Performance: Plenty of Pep and Surprising Fuel Economy
All 2020 Traverses come equipped with a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 engine. It produces 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels (or all four) via a nine-speed automatic transmission. According to reviewers, the Traverse’s engine provides plenty of power. Its transmission shifts smoothly, which isn’t always the case with nine-speed automatics. The Traverse comes standard with a traction selector that offers up to four driving modes (on AWD models only): front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, off-road, and tow/haul.
Despite weighing well over two tons and measuring just over 17 feet long, MotorTrend managed to hustle a 2018 Traverse equipped with all-wheel drive from 0-to-60 mph in 6.4 seconds. In addition to being surprisingly quick, MotorTrend praised the Traverse for its precise steering and its minimal body roll through bends.
Of course, the Traverse is designed first and foremost to move people comfortably over long distances. It’s not primarily for spirited back country drives. The Traverse delivers on that account, though, with Autoblog noting that the bulky CUV’s suspension was a match for Michigan’s pothole-ridden roads. Also, the Traverse can tow a max of 5,000 pounds when equipped with the optional towing package.
The EPA pegs the Traverse’s fuel economy at 18/27/21 mpg (city, highway, combined) for the FWD model. Those numbers drop to 17/25/20 for AWD-equipped models. Those figures aren’t close to class-leading. However, they aren’t terrible for a car this massive. In fact, CarandDriver found the Traverse to be a bit of an overachiever. Its AWD tester recorded a combined fuel economy of 27 mpg.
What’s Inside: Room for Everything and Everyone
The Traverse offers standard seating for seven. Higher trim levels offer an eight-seat cabin configuration. Regardless of the trim level, all models feature a whopping 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 57.8 cubic feet of storage with the back seats folded. That number really jumps up to 98.2 cubic feet of storage space with both rear rows folded down. Put another way, the Traverse can fit half a dozen carry-on suitcases behind its third row of seats.
Edmunds says the Traverse offers one of the roomiest cabins in its class. Every passenger (in all rows) will be treated to a wealth of head room and leg room. Cloth seats are standard, but the Traverse can be had with heated and ventilated leather seats. While luxury features are available, many reviewers agree that the cabin as a whole feels a bit cheaply designed at lower trims. They claim it has too many touchpoints made out of rubber and hard plastic.
The Traverse comes standard with a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a WiFi hotspot, and six USB ports (two in each row). Available tech includes an eight-inch touchscreen, powered rear seat tablet holders, a wireless charging pad, GPS navigation, and a 10-speaker Bose sound system. The rear seats can also be optioned with eight-inch headrest-mounted infotainment touchscreens that can play DVDs.
Safety Technology and Driver’s Aids
The Travere’s standard safety tech includes a rearview camera, rear seat reminder, and “Teen Driver” mode. It’s a system designed to help teens develop better driving habits. Teen Driver can prevent the Traverse from shifting into drive until the driver’s seatbelt is buckled, restrict the maximum speed to 85 mph, and limit the maximum audio volume. It can even silence it until the driver and front passenger have buckled up.
If you want more tech, you’ll need to purchase it a la carte. Or step up to a higher trim level. Optional safety tech and driver’s assistance aids include adaptive cruise control, rear park assist, lane-change alert with blindspot monitoring, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, a 360-degree camera, forward collision alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. That’s an impressive list of tech, but it would be better if Chevy offered some of it as standard.
Pricing and Trim Levels: Aim for the Middle
The base model Traverse L starts at $30,995, while the top-tier High Country trim checks in at $52,095. There are five trims between those two bookends, offering you plenty of choice. There’s the LS ($34,095), LT Cloth ($36,595), LT Leather ($40,295), RS ($44,795), and the Premier ($46,995).
The LT Leather is probably the sweet spot for value-conscious consumers. It comes standard with the eight-inch infotainment screen, power liftgate, leather-trimmed seats, and heated front seats. Standard safety tech includes lane-change alert with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear park assist.
Those who crave luxury would be wise to give the Premier trim a long look. It’s $5,100 cheaper than the High Country, but still comes perforated and heated leather front seats, heated second row seats, a heated steering wheel, a wireless charging pad, and a hands-free liftgate. You can find a more detailed breakdown of every trimline on Chevy’s website.
The Last Word
The 2020 Traverse is one of the best all-around options in the three-row crossover class. It’s perhaps the best bet if you value space and affordability above all else. There are more attractive or luxurious SUVs, but they will cost more. You can find more powerful engines, but you’ll pay the price. The Traverse is a perfect jack-of-all-trades for the average family. Really, the only thing that should give you pause is the fact that a refreshed Traverse with more standard safety equipment will go on sale in 2021.