While a three-row mid-size SUV that drives more like a truck than a passenger car would seem an unlikely fleet vehicle, Chevrolet sold more than 30,000 Traverses to fleet customers in 2016.
With a rise in popularity of personal use, fleet drivers — whether they're moving medical supplies, sales samples, or other passengers — have become more like retail buyers in recent years. Fleet managers have faced increasing pressure from drivers to add more practical vehicles that can move cargo for business and haul family and friends over the weekend.
Like their smaller relatives, mid-size utilities have become brisk sellers for their cargo capability, improving fuel economy, and road trip orientation.
The 2018 Traverse enters a crowded and intensely competitive category that pits other three-row offerings in pitched battle. The generational update comes nine years after Chevrolet introduced the Traverse, and following two mid-cycle updates in 2013 and 2015.
This Traverse sheds 351 pounds and arrives with new powertrains, including a new 9-speed transmission, and a bevy of new safety features. Several waves of automotive journalists drove the 2018 Traverse from Detroit to Traverse City or Grand Rapids, Mich., in early August.
While I haven't driven the first-generation Traverse, the 2018 model provides a solidly engineered and appointed truck-like utility that drives like something much smaller (4,362-pound curb weight).
Chevrolet will offer the 2018 Traverse in six trim grades, adding RS and High Country to L, LS, LT, and Premier to better compete with luxury SUV trims offered by competitors.
With a deft series of engineering decisions, Chevrolet has added power and increased fuel economy. The 2018 Traverse increases horsepower by 10% with a new 3.6-liter V-6 that's now paired with a 9-speed, rather than a 6-speed, transmission. While the engine block is similar to the outgoing model, other factors such as lighter-weight components, variable value timing, and cylinder deactivation improve fuel economy.
The EPA has rated the Traverse to achieve 27 miles per gallon in highway driving, 18 mpg in the city, and 21 mpg in combined cycles. I was able to come fairly close to those numbers while testing the vehicle on Michigan roads. Compared to the outgoing model, the new Traverse improves highway fuel economy by 5 MPG and city fuel economy by 2-3 MPG.
Newly available safety features include surround vision, lane-keep assist, land departure warning, front pedestrian braking, forward collision alert, and low-speed and high-speed forward automatic braking. Other standard features include a rear-view camera, a built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that supports up to seven devices, and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
We tested the front-wheel Traverse LT that would retail for $42,150. The base model retails for $30,875.