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Chevy Traverse: Some family resemblance, but it has a style all its own

        Few will miss the outdated Chevy Uplander minivan. More will miss the Trailblazer SUV. But all those folks will find that Chevy's all-new Traverse crossover is a wonderful, better equipped surrogate.

        Traverse joins the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave on General Motors' Lambda platform. Upon closer look, one discovers one can save some money (starting price around $28,000) with the Traverse -- and get what I believe to be a better looking and more capable vehicle.

Traverse         Styling similarities with the popular Chevy Malibu are purely intentional. A bold-looking front has the same mesh grille, projector-beam headlamps, circular tail lights and short overhangs in front and rear.

        Same deal inside: The instrument panel has the dual-cockpit design that extends into the door panels. Instruments get bright trim rings.

        Yet, Traverse still has a style all its own, with two-tone color scheme featuring brushed aluminum and chrome. Gauges, with white numerals on a black background, are easy to read and look good.

        I especially like the roomy feel inside -- plenty of legroom and headroom for six-footers. It seats eight (seven, if you get the second-row captain chairs). And the third row is not just a place to stash the kids. At six-one, I sat back there with decent comfort and stretchability. With a sliding second-row, it's no sweat getting back there, either.

        Cargo capacity is tops among the Lambda family, with 117 cubic feet available with second and third-row seats folded down. With the seats up, an adequate 24 cubic feet leaves space for groceries or luggage.

        OK, now some are saying, if this thing is so big and roomy, it's going to be like driving a Greyhound bus. Not true. It drives like a smaller vehicle, with a secure, car-like handling much like its siblings -- especially considering its heft at 4,720 pounds.

        It leans moderately on corners, but its suspension smoothes out the bumps nicely. Noise from wind and tires is present but not obnoxiously so.

        While some have complained about its quirky shifts, I found the six-speed transmission to shift with relative ease and on queue.

        Squeezing into a tight parking space at the ballpark was not an issue and a rear camera is available for extra security on the way out.

        The front-wheel-drive Traverse (all-wheel-drive is available) get its power from a direct-injection 3.6-liter C-6, pretty much the same one that's in the Cadillac CTS. But it gets around 30 few horses than the CTS, at 275 hp. 

        Mileage is rated at 17 city, 24 highway, which is in the ballpark of other large crossovers in the segment.

        Traverse comes in three trim levels, and even the base LT has tilt/telescoping steering wheel, six-speaker CD/MP3 and GM's OnStar system. The midrange LT gets you 18-ich alloy wheels, eight-way power seats, remote start and power liftgate. Go one better to the LTZ and the Traverse is enhanced with 20-inch wheels, leather seats, heated/cooled seats and navigation system with traffic reporting.

        If you love driving the breezy, sunny days, know that all models offer dual sunroofs. Rear entertainment systems are available, too.

        And a trailer package (this thing has a 5,200-pound towing capacity) is available on all trims and includes heavy-duty cooling system plus hitch.

       There's lots to shop in this segment, including that sweet, new wagon-like Ford Flex. But the Traverse is a strong contender in the group and, among GM's Lambda group, you may find the Traverse even leads the group.

   MSRP: $28,990

   Price as tested (LTZ) $39,810



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