Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back before Thanksgiving, Brenda was contacted by GM to see if she was interested in driving their new crossover vehicle. She said no thanks, she loves her car too much…but she was pretty sure her sister-in-law wouldn’t mind, since there are multiple vehicles parked in my yard that are not running and holiday travel plans were looming. After a few emails back and forth a decision was made to put me in the driver’s seat of the brand-new Chevy Traverse LTZ for a week. In my opinion that is just not fair. I mean, we all know that a week isn’t nearly long enough when playing with a new toy.
I am not a minivan mom, so the first thing I did was look up the Traverse on Chevy’s website. It is one very sweet-looking car. It’s got great lines inside and out. This may seem silly but one of the things I hate about minivans are those tacky plastic shields that usually run along the bottom. They were smart and kept the plastic shields to a minimum. I watched every video they had about the car on their site and learned something interesting: the Traverse is the first car that Chevy has had women lead the design team. This car wasn’t just built for moms; it was built by moms. That pretty much means the Traverse is a fully-loaded, blinged-out, mom-friendly, kid-approved vehicle. Sign me up!
They dropped the car off just before it started to rain on the Monday before Thanksgiving. We met them in the driveway and Bug (who I was babysitting) and SuperChic were begging to go for a drive before I could even sign my life away on the dotted line. The drop-off guy asked if I wanted a tour. I usually prefer to play around with things on my own but this car was a whole new ball game, so I said yes. When the tour was over he gave me a piece of paper and said, “Give this to the cop if you get pulled over.” Not in case of an accident, but if I got pulled over for speeding. He knew I had to test the car’s get-up-and-go. I’m happy to say it does 0-60mph quickly, quietly, and with little effort. It also corners well and handles curves like a car, unlike most SUVs.
Anyway! This car has a lot of features (see bulleted list in the extended entry) and he went over every single one of them with me! My job, if I chose to accept it, was to try to use every single feature. The GM guy left with a wave and we were on our own.
I managed to pack two kids, a dog kennel, three suitcases, a laptop bag, my sewing machine, a rifle, three handguns, an old-fashioned porta-crib, and our winter coats into the back and had no complaints. The girls loved the captain seats in the middle row. They had plenty of space and of course the DVD player sweetened the deal. There was plenty of storage in the middle row, including a perfect little compartment for the girls’ MP3 players (which could be plugged into the rear console or the front one) and the remote for the DVD player. A larger compartment for DVD storage and the wireless headsets kept everything nice and neat. Well, as neat as 10 1/2- and 6-year-old girls can keep things.
The sun and moon roofs were fun to play with, especially when trying to get the kids’ attention away from the DVD player (though pausing a movie from the front controls worked pretty well for that too). I really liked the simplicity of using the window controls while going down the road. They were easy to find and operate, unlike some cars I’ve driven. My only complaint about the windows is that at speeds over 40mph there was a lot of wind noise. A shield over the front lip of the window would have been a nice feature to avoid the excess noise.
Driving is fun, but driving on the freeway with blind spots is not. Luckily, those mom designers thought about this and added a cool little bubble type mirror to each side mirror. These blind-spot mirrors show you vehicles as they enter your blind spot. So essentially there is no blind-spot with the Traverse. We had been trying to figure out what the little mirror was for, because it was pretty much showing nothing but the curb. Finally the light bulb came on over my head and I figured it out as I was getting on the freeway at 60mph.
It was so cool I had Shawn watch his mirror so he could see it work too. He was not as impressed, saying he’d figured that’s what it was for, but I don’t believe him. He was just being a guy and not admitting that he didn’t know something.
The only other blind spot I would say this car has is the front pillars. For me they are not a problem, but then I regularly drive my mother-in-law’s Honda Pilot so I’m used to it. Changing from a car to a cross-over vehicle would probably be more challenging, but it’s easy enough to get used to. Being short of stature, I tend to find blind spots on vehicles that other people don’t notice.
The rear window is smaller than most SUV-type vehicles, slightly limiting your field of vision when backing up. The optional rear sensors and camera took me a little while to get used to. Especially since they beeped at me every time I backed out of our gate. I really liked this function, because if your kid (or in our case, one of the dogs) decides to run behind the car and she is shorter than the back window, the sensor beeps and the camera highlights whoever is closer to you than is safe.
However, do not rely on the camera to back up. You cannot accurately gauge distance with it. And in the rain, forget about it. We found that when it’s raining hard, the backing-up sensors can’t accurately read distance. I imagine the technology is similar to what cops use to measure speeding cars. You don’t often see cops “taking pictures” in the rain, probably for the same reason. But I wouldn’t know. I’m not an expert on radar.
With or without sensors, the Traverse parked like a dream. It had a great turning radius and slid easily into any parking spot. Adding a few sensors to the front bumpers would have been nice. The front end slopes enough that you can’t actually see the front of the car. In tight situations this can be a little nerve-racking. More than once I got out of the car, looked at how much room I had between me and the front of the parking spot, got back in, and then finished parking. After having the car a few months, I’m sure this wouldn’t be such a problem.
I enjoyed driving the Traverse, even in traffic. After the trip to my parents’ house, we went home for a day and then headed to the beach for our second Thanksgiving. Which brings me another feature I really appreciated: the navigation system.
It was nice knowing that if I got off at the wrong exit, I didn’t have to figure out which way was west and keep heading in that direction until I recognized something. I do not have a good sense of direction. I once got off on the right street, in the wrong city. Yeah. Even though my husband was in the car with me and he knows the route to SAJ’s by heart, it was nice having a visual reminder for myself.
I highly recommend setting your destination on any trip, even if you know the route by heart. You don’t have to have the map fully displayed but if there is some kind of traffic alert ahead, or you try to get off on the right street but in the wrong city, you’ll know about it. This only works when you have a destination set before you leave. You can look for places near where you are going while driving, but you can’t set an exact address. So set your destination, ok? Ok.
I know what you’re all dying to know and I’m getting there. You want to know what’s under the hood. You’ll laugh when I tell you. Really, you will. Are you ready?
It’s a big plastic shield. Yep, that’s right: a shield. It’s every guy’s worst nightmare, to get a new car and not be able to show off its parts to all his buddies. (That is a concept I don’t get. To me, it seems kinda like a guy’s girl getting new boobs and him telling his friends to take a peek.) You should have seen the faces Shawn and Tom made when I popped the hood and they were met with a big old black shield. They couldn’t examine the Traverse’s parts. They were very disappointed. Honestly, I was too. I’m married to a mechanic and if my parents would have let me, I totally would have taken auto shop in high school instead of accounting.
For those women who get overwhelmed and a little panicky when their husband asks them if they checked the oil, this is perfect. It’s easy to locate the dipstick and the windshield-wiper fluid reservoir, because everything else is covered. And if by some chance you happen to kill the battery and need a jump, there are special posts to hook the jumper cables up to. No more trying to find a ground and figure out what goes where.
The only feature that really annoyed me was when I changed the mirror setting to look at the ground when backing up. It’s cool for parallel parking but not cool when trying to back out of the driveway. Luckily, it’s a setting you can have on/off or on only one mirror or both.
All in all this is a great car. Have I said that already? Probably, but it really is. In a few years when the economy is better and I can (hopefully) afford it, I’ll be back to take it for a spin and see what’s changed. But if I won the lottery, I’d definitely be on my way to the nearest dealership today.
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