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2009 Chevrolet Traverse Road Test

The last of GM's quartet of new-generation three-row crossovers to be introduced, the Chevrolet Traverse may be the best value of all between the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

Not by accident, the Traverse looks a bit like a tall-wagon version of Chevy's popular Malibu. Beginning with its Chevy signature split grille, its lines are taut and its shape smoothly aerodynamic to reduce wind drag and noise. Its body overhangs ahead of and behind the large wheels are minimized to reduce visual length, a distinctive kick-up above the rear wheels sets off the window line, and there are turn signal "repeaters" in its side mirrors.

The cabin can accommodate eight adults with a 60/40-split three-passenger bench or seven with available captain's chairs. Standard third-row seating is a 60/40 bench with a generous 24.4 cu. ft. of cargo room behind it. The instrument panel, a Chevy heritage dual-cockpit design housing two large gauge binnacles surrounded by bright trim rings, is mounted low and forward to enhance visibility, with the available navigation screen prominently integrated at its upper-center.

The direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 delivers V-8-like power yet runs on regular unleaded gas. With available dual exhausts, its rated output swells to 288 hp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque. Direct injection sprays fuel directly into each cylinder, where it is mixed with air, then vaporizes, which cools the air/fuel mixture. That enables a higher compression ratio, which improves both performance and efficiency, so less fuel can deliver more power compared to conventional port-injection. EPA economy is as good as any in this segment, and better than most, at 17 mpg city and 24 highway with front-wheel drive (FWD) and one mpg less with available all-wheel drive (AWD).

The advanced six-speed automatic delivers smooth, clutch-to-clutch shifting with shift stabilization and automatic grade braking in both FWD and AWD models. Its aggressive 4.48:1 first gear delivers excellent launch feel, while its tall 0.74:1 overdrive top gear lowers rpm to conserve fuel at highway speeds. The available intelligent AWD system reacts to wheel speed, throttle and surface conditions to provide increased traction on slippery roads by actively managing torque distribution between the front and rear axles. It automatically decides how much torque to apply and delivers it to the wheels with the best traction.

Riding on a long 118.9-in. wheelbase with wide (67.8-in. front and 67.4-in. rear) tracks and a relatively low center of gravity, the Traverse provides a surprisingly crisp and smooth ride, responsive handling. Suspension is MacPherson struts with aluminum knuckles and a direct-acting stabilizer bar in front and a compact independent "H" design with isolated mounting in back. This design also features a near-flat floor pan to maximize passenger and cargo space. Wheels and tires are 17-, 18- or 20-in. depending on the model.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with preventative rollover mitigation, traction control, tire pressure monitoring and power rack-and-pinion steering are standard, with variable-effort boost available. The standard electronic braking system features Panic Brake Assist (PBA)), Dynamic Rear Proportioning (DRP), and Hydraulic Brake Boost (HBB). DRP optimizes front to rear brake balance based on driving conditions and vehicle loading, HBB amplifies braking force to reduce stopping distance when engine vacuum is low and PBA assists emergency stopping by maintaining or adding brake pressure even if the driver backs off.

Also standard are second-row sliding seats, heated power outside mirrors with blind-spot mirrors, XM Satellite Radio and GM OnStar with one year Directions & Connections service, which features "Turn-by-Turn" navigation instructions, Bluetooth-enabled hands-free calling and an Advanced Crash Response System. A "360-degree" safety system includes new anchor pretensioners for outboard occupants and six standard airbags that cover all three rows. Its rollover sensing system activates the head curtain bags and belt pretensioners if sensors conclude that a rollover is imminent, and the bags stay inflated longer to help keep occupants from being ejected. If a crash activates an airbag, the OnStar system automatically notifies an OnStar advisor, who immediately calls the vehicle and summons emergency help.

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