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First drive video: The 2013 Chevrolet Traverse updates a well-liked crossover

Consumer Reports News

General Motors' large crossover SUVs were a revelation when they launched back in 2007, proof that GM could compete with the best. We've been big fans, even awarding the Chevrolet Traverse a Top Pick designation a few years back. But there's no denying that this platform is now one of the oldest in the segment.

So when the Traverse, along with its Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia siblings, came in for a not-so-extreme makeover for 2013, we sought out a Traverse press car to become reacquainted.

The most apparent updates are the front and rear styling tweaks. The interior is also cosmetically freshened with more soft-touch materials, as well as copious (and trendy) stitched accents. Some controls got better—you don't need to use a stylus anymore for the now-big climate controls. But others elements took a step in the wrong direction, like the move to also-trendy flush capacitance buttons for the trip computer and some radio functions.

Less apparent, but more relevant, are changes in transmission tuning. This application marked the use of one of GM's first six-speed automatics. Hauling around a 5,000-pound, eight-passenger SUV with a 3.6-liter V6 that likes some revs to generate power poses a challenge, despite several transmission calibration changes over the years. The latest transmission delivers very smooth shifts, summoned up quickly with a tap of the throttle. This addresses previous complaints of languid response, but the gear changes themselves can be relatively slow. In other words, it's a better transmission, but it still isn't among the best.

EPA fuel economy ratings remain unchanged. We got 16 mpg in our previous Traverse test. Whether that's good enough or not depends on your point of reference. It's certainly better than the 14 mpg you can get from a similar-sized Chevrolet Tahoe. But it's behind the curve compared to many cross-shopped competitors, including the Dodge Durango V6 and Ford Explorer.

So when you get down to it, the Traverse and its siblings really haven't changed much. But that's no bad thing. The Traverse is surprisingly enjoyable to drive, with accurate and responsive steering that belies its bulk. It also rides rather well, and even the optional 20-inch wheels don't phase the smooth ride.

Finally, the Traverse is big and comfortable. The front seats are wide and accommodating, real-live adults actually fit in the third-row seat, and there's plenty of cabin storage. It's basically a minivan for those who don't want to be seen driving one.

So while this update spruces up the Traverse and its mates, but it doesn't bring dramatic changes. GM is working hard on its successor, likely out in two years or so, and this update is intended to carry the first-generation crossover until that new model appears. We hope that Traverse regains the up-to-date brilliance that so impressed us when we first drove it seven years ago.

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