My 2200 Mile Chevy Traverse College Road Trip

google maps - road trip - colorado californiaCar reviews are usually based on a few days of driving around the neighborhood and perhaps a weekend jaunt up into the mountains, down to the beach or over to a favorite destination a few dozen miles away. Not 2000 miles of highway. My son was heading off to college, however, and Pitzer is just under 1000 miles from our home in Boulder, Colorado. A dorm room’s worth of clothes, bedding and various other college gear and a lot of beautiful highway on the route. The Chevy team was intrigued; what a great story to drive one of their vehicles and share how it performed on a serious road trip, not just down to the supermarket.

Our vehicle: The 2018 Chevy Traverse AWD High Country in a lovely pearl white (aka “Iridescent Pearl Tricoat”) with leather seats, power fold third-row seats and a whole lotta cargo space. Which was good, we needed it!

Our route was Boulder down to Golden, Colorado, through the Rockies (and across the Continental Divide at over 11,500 feet) to Grand Junction, overnight in Cedar City, Utah, then our second day through a corner of Arizona into Nevada, lunch in Las Vegas, and then straight down I-15 into Los Angeles.

Our destination: the sleepy town of Claremont, California and Pitzer College, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. Claremont is a great little old California town and I’ve written about it elsewhere [Our Weekend in Claremont, CA, The City of Trees] and Pitzer is a terrific little college, totally different to my own undergrad experience at the huge University of California, San Diego. Oh, so many years ago.

But… back to the Traverse! Chevy categorizes it as a “mid-size SUV” but it’s pretty darn big with its third row of seats and all. Here’s an interior shot to give you a sense of the spaciousness of the interior:

2018 chevy traverse - interior

You can also see the beautiful leather seats. Darn comfortable, and the back seat ended up quite the nest for my son, who spent much of the drive out in the back seat, sleeping and reading. My passengers were Gareth, 18, heading to college, and his big sister Ashley, 21, who was along for the ride and to help him get settled. She attends University of Denver but they don’t start up for a few weeks yet, so this is one instance where the randomness of college schedules worked in our favor.

Let’s jump to some exterior shots of the Traverse, however. Here’s one of my favorites, a shot taken at Virgin River Gorge, Utah, a stunningly beautiful spot on the drive:

2018 chevy traverse awd high country

You can see the aggressive front styling of the Traverse in the picture and its overall styling; for a big SUV it actually didn’t seem that big and it was a surprise to realize there was an entire third row of seats. Smart design.

The Traverse was powered by a big 3.6 liter V6 engine with power to spare, even on the grades that had most vehicles chugging desperately along at 35mph. We just barreled through everything, though it would occasionally drop into a gear that gave us lots of revs (over 5000rpm on the tach) and some definite engine noise boost. We learned to laugh at the “nitro” mode, as we came to call it. In fact, the Traverse has a 9-speed automatic and almost always was in a high gear that gave us low rpms, low engine and road noise and surprisingly good fuel efficiency.

2018 chevy traverse awd high country - fuel efficiency

Now compared to a tiny car like a Prius or the Chevy Volt, 24.8 mpg average might not seem like much, but the Traverse is a beast with tons of space for passengers – up to seven – and cargo (even with the third row seat in use). We were near the EPA theoretical maximum too, one of the first times that’s happened to me: The EPA numbers are 17 city, 25 highway with a combined 20 mpg. Clearly, even kicking into “nitro” gear, we were getting really good fuel efficiency.

Also notice the classic layout on the gauge display above. Really easy to glance down and see what’s going on. The eagle-eyed among you will also note that we had Adaptive Cruise Control enabled, along with Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning. Both are great for long drives and it’s hard for me to remember how annoying non-adaptive cruise control was as I rely on it all the time.

Stepping back just a bit, here’s the whole dashboard design:

2018 chevy traverse - front console steering wheel

Yeah, we added my Escort radar detector. Why aren’t they built in to vehicles anyway? 🙂

Overall, as with the gauge display, the dashboard was well designed and easy to navigate, from the entertainment controls to windows. The door lock control was a bit tricky to find the first time: it’s on the left just below the door handle. The one that took the longest for me to figure out was the rear hatch control because it’s not on the dashboard at all, but the circular button by the driver’s left knee. Finally I just pushed it to see what would happen and… the back hatch opened!

One of my favorite features in the Traverse High Country edition is that it includes a built-in Qi wireless charger. If you have an Apple iPhone 8 or iPhone X, or a Samsung Galaxy phone or a couple of other smartphones, you’re ready for wireless charging. And it’s as easy as slipping the phone into its slot:

2018 chevy traverse - qi charging

I’ve driven other cars with Qi charging, but none where it was so well designed with the side bars to ensure the phone stays in exactly the correct position even as you drive and turn. Props to your design team, Chevrolet!

Back to Virgin River Gorge, my kids decided we’d send a postcard to the Chevy team saying “Yay Traverse!”. Here’s what the Snapchat generation came up with:

2018 chevy traverse - celebration

We really ate up the miles on our drive, finding the Traverse comfortable, roomy and a smooth ride. My children’s favorite feature, hands down? Built-in Wi-Fi Internet connectivity. Imagine, a car that’s a mobile Internet hotspot. We tested it somewhere on the highway in Utah and it did indeed support Netflix streaming, which was impressive. I think they used it more to keep up on their friends’ Snapchat stories, but that’s another thing entirely. All I know is that it let us stream music and stay plugged in as desired.

One of the other things that I found notable on the 2018 Traverse is that it didn’t have a gas cap. The gas filler door just pushed open and you’d push aside the fume lock lid with the gas nozzle. You can see it here:

2018 chevy gas access door, no gas cap

Worked really well but I couldn’t help wish that there was a release control of some sort from within the cabin from a security perspective. Then again, when was the last time you heard of someone siphoning gas out of a vehicle?

The Traverse High Country edition is all wheel drive, but you can switch it to 2WD or 4WD for different types of terrain. We could probably have gotten away with a straight rear-wheel drive 2WD, but didn’t try it out. As with most SUV owners, we had a vehicle that can go off road, but we never actually headed off the pavement at any point.

And, finally, after a really long two days of driving, we made it to Pitzer!

2018 chevy traverse - at pitzer college california

All in all, we were quite impressed with the Traverse, finding it quite comfortable, an easy drive and with more power and better fuel efficiency than we had expected at delivery. I’d give this a really close look if I were still in the market for a big SUV full time, but as it is, this was a great road trip vehicle and one that gets an “A” from our team. Thanks for the loaner, Chevy. Now let’s see if we can get my son interested in classes, not just all the cute girls in the dorms!

2018 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country edition, with iridescent pearl tricoat exterior and jet black / loft brown interior.Powered by a 9-speed automatic transmission controlling a 3.6L V6 SIDI VVT engine. MSRP: $52,600. AS DRIVEN: $53,595.00

Disclosure: As stated above, Chevrolet loaned us this vehicle for our week-long road trip for the purposes of this subsequent writeup. Thanks Chevy!

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