General Motors designers have been hard at work the past few years. The global auto industry has never been more competitive than it is now with major manufacturing competitors on almost every continent now. Auto manufacturers are forced to compete with cars from all over the world.
I recently attended an event at the General Motors World Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. GM invited me up to view their latest efforts to make their Chevrolet Traverse crossover a global-quality vehicle, positioned to compete with the best vehicles from around the globe.
This article will be the first in a series of articles about Chevrolet and the Traverse and what I witnessed during my time in Detroit, at the Warren, Michigan Tech Center, at their Milford, Michigan Proving Grounds and during my personal test drive of their vehicle.
First Impressions – 2011 Chevrolet Traverse
Chevrolet Traverse FWD LT
Base Price: $31,865
Price as Tested: $34,990
Personal Connectivity Package – $340
- BlueTooth for Phone
- Remote Start
- Universal Home Remote
White Diamond Premier Package – $3,575
- DVD Rear Seat Entertainment
- White Diamond Tricoat
- 20″ Painted Wheels
- H-Rated Blackwall Tires
GM provided me with a 2011 Traverse LT to review and test drive for a week. I’m still in the middle of that test drive, but wanted to share my initial thoughts and impressions because I feel those are the most honest and often most accurate. Trust your gut, as the saying goes.
Traverse Quality Impression
I grew up in a home that had multiple new cars over the years. My dad even went on to own a dealership in my 20’s and early 30’s. While I may not be a car expert by definition, I’ve definitely been around them all of my life and have an almost genetic (it seems) interest in them. My first impression of the 2011 Chevy Traverse was one that contrasted my own personal history with other General Motors vehicles. My impression of GM vehicles from the 1990’s and early-2000’s is not one of high quality vehicles. Awkward interiors with lots of plastic, zero fit and finish and uninspired styling dominated GM’s vehicles of yesterday. Like many, I resolved myself to never own a GM vehicle because of this history.
My impression of the Traverse LT I drove is the exact opposite of my previous experience with GM products. The vehicle felt like one of the highest quality cars I’ve driven in years. What stood out the most were two qualities: the AMAZINGLY smooth ride (possibly helped by the 20″ wheels) and the whisper-quiet interior, even at highway speeds. The Traverse feels like you’re floating on a cloud going down the interstate, but at the same time can handle maneuvers I never would have expected for an 8-passenger vehicle of its size. My 9 year old exclaimed yesterday as we were driving,
“I can definitely see myself taking THIS on a road trip, Dad!”.
The poor quality vehicles of the last two decades have scarred many people’s opinion of General Motors offerings and that history will take some time (and proof of quality) to overcome. JD Power’s initial quality ratings of the Traverse were very average. My impression was slightly higher than that of JD Powers, but GM still has room for improvement. I do believe that GM realized somewhere along the line (perhaps during the bail-out) that their quality had to improve to compete as a global auto manufacturer. It seems to me like they are on their way to realizing those improvements.
GM Proving Grounds Test Video
Traverse Styling Impression
The styling of the 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Traverse reminds me of its sister vehicle, the Buick Enclave. Again, 10 years ago those would have been fightin’ words, but today it’s a very different comparison. The Traverse is a large vehicle – with seating for 8 people including a third row seat. The exterior design of the vehicle is remarkably fluid for a vehicle of its size. It’s not a sports car and it’s not trying to be one. But who wants to buy any vehicle that has uninspired styling? I know I don’t. If given the choice of purchasing a Traverse or ANY minivan on the market I’d choose the Traverse 100% of the time.
What’s Missing from the 2011/2012 Traverse?
The 2012 Traverse LT comes equipped with the 3.6L SIDI V6 engine rated at 220 h.p. and 260 lb/ft of torque at 3400 RPM. I have to say that these figures seemed barely adequate for a vehicle of this size. I understand the tug-of-war manufacturers play in this vehicle segment balancing power with gas milage and I understand that the Traverse is a larger vehicle. The handling of the Traverse was better than I expected but the vehicle just had zero “get up and go”. Chevy offers an optional 288 h.p. model Traverse, which was definitely an improvement over the base engine. Don’t buy the Traverse if you’re looking for inspired performance.
Overall Thoughts on the 2011 Chevy Traverse
First impressions count – that’s no more true than it is when purchasing a vehicle. If your first impression of a vehicle is less than stellar you’re not going to feel inclined to purchase it given the quantity of other vehicles likely competing for your business. My first impression of the 2011 Traverse was better than I expected, but my expectations were relatively low given GM’s poor history. I’ll stop short of saying that I was impressed by the vehicle, but it did change my thoughts on GM products to some extent. Where I may have never considered purchasing a GM product before this review, they’re on my radar again. The jury is still out on whether I’d purchase a Traverse or go with one of the competitor’s vehicles instead.