Thursday, October 2, 2008

Traverse joins the crossover party

General Motors, which has had success with a line of crossover vehicles that spans three of its brands, has added another one, this one going to its flagship Chevrolet brand.

The Traverse joins the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook on GM's Lambda platform.

We got our first chance to look at it and drive it last week at GM's 2009 model lineup unveiling.

What did we think?

The same thing we think of the other three -- an exceptionally well-made vehicle.

The Traverse has a 3.6-liter V-6 engine linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, just like the other three.

You can get front- or all-wheel drive.
New for 2009 for the vehicles will be direct fuel injection versions of that engine - which has been used in the Cadillac CTS.
The result is increased power: up to 288 horsepower on models with a dual-exhaust system. Single exhaust models will make 281 ponies.

GM says the engine actually improves fuel economy, too.

The Traverse's towing capacity is 5,200 pounds, compared with 4,500 for the other vehicles from the last model year.
So, we honestly did really like the vehicle.

The only question we have had consistently for GM is "Do you need four versions of virtually the same vehicle?"

Mind you, the Enclave is the most distinct.

It truly is a luxury vehicle with its styling inside and out.

But from among the Acadia, Outlook, and now, Traverse, it is hard to see a whole lot of differentiation.

GM has answered our redundancy question in a few ways, at one time saying it was about different price points (kind of, but not really) and at another time saying it was about stylistic variations (again, kind of, but not really, except in the case of the Enclave).

Probably, the answer is that the company really needed to have an entry of this kind of popular vehicle with a Chevy badge, to satisfy dealers and to maintain the importance of that brand.

Fair enough, but maybe you could then jettison the Acadia and Outlook. You would have the Traverse as the entry level large crossover and the Enclave as the luxury level one.

Just a thought.

The Traverse is landing in dealerships this autumn with a sticker price beginning at around $28,990.

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