The 2009 Chevrolet Traverse crossover is basically a restyled Saturn Outlook.
Or is it a restyled GMC Acadia?
Either way, it's a good thing for Chevrolet because both General Motors vehicles have received high marks from the motoring press and a "Recommended" pick from Consumer Reports.
Basics: The Traverse (truh-VURSE') seats up to eight people and is Chevrolet's latest attempt to woo consumers looking for a family hauler. There have been failed attempts, most recently with the Uplander minivan.
"The minivan stigma continues to get stronger, and we see more people leaving and going to crossovers," said Don Butler, executive director of truck marketing for Chevrolet. "We expect to take advantage of that trend."
Under the skin, the Traverse's mechanicals are identical to those of the 2009 Acadia and Outlook. Those vehicles, along with the Buick Enclave, are built on the mid-sized Lambda architecture. Differences are limited to suspension changes to give each crossover its own ride characteristics.
The Traverse -- at least for the top-of-the-line LTZ model and, to a lesser extent, the LT -- gets an emphasis on ride and handling that is uncharacteristic of many crossovers. In several runs through a cone-dotted autocross course at GM's proving ground in Milford, Mich., the LTZ's ride and handling seemed more in line with German-engineered cars than the Detroit 3. Ditto for the precise feel to the electronic variable-effort power steering as the Traverse zigzagged around cones. Electronic power steering is optional.
The 2009 Traverse introduces GM's new direct-injection, 281-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 to the Lambda architecture. The other Lambda-based crossovers will add that engine for the 2009 model year.
The engine feels like a V-8 and provides maximum towing capacity of 5,200 pounds. Front- and all-wheel-drive models are available, equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission co-engineered with Ford Motor Co.