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Chevrolet Traverse: The standard rental car

2011 Chevrolet Traverse, Credit: © GM Corp.

I think we can all recognize that the cars we get from a rental car company aren’t the cream of the crop, but it got me thinking. If I see a pretty lady and I do a double-take just as the transmission lurches the vehicle back and forth, have I just done a quadruple take?

For example, let’s take a look at the 2009 Chrysler Town & Country that my family was given for our vacation on the island of Oahu. Now I didn’t have the pleasure of driving it, as that was left up to my father, which for the longest time, led me to believe that my sightseeing was being disrupted by him and not our transportation, but I was wrong. The jerky transmission made it feel like the car was a small child–nagging me to look back at what I had already seen. In my mind, there was no way that a car could be given the green-light with a transmission this obnoxious.

Now it only seems fair that I be forthright. Most of the time I prefer to drive because I’m picky about my driving. As a result, other people tend to find my passengership to be… well… taxing for them. When others are driving my attention to detail tends to intensify and my observations are shared more frequently. I like to think of these observations as my own incarnation of Peter Parker’s Spidey senses, but other people seem to treat them as if they came from the acutely aware, stereotypical sitcom mother-in-law.

So despite failing to properly do what it should do–comfortably transport people from one place to another, there were some other features of the van that I thought at least take my mind off the uncomfortable ride. The fact that a new innovation now allows me to lose belongings under the floor wasn’t all too impressive, and the anticipation of transportation that possessed the possibility of a table inside the vehicle, quickly ran out. Chrysler needs to note that a table inside a vehicle suggests that you can in fact be stuck in it for a long time. The mileage we got from that van (which was primarily city travel) was terrible. By the time that anyone unwrapped their food to actually use the table, the van would have needed to stop for gas and everybody could have gotten out and eaten.

Alas, three days was enough time with that van. Actually our reservation was up, but either way, I couldn’t spend much more time around that van. So we set out from Oahu and took a plane and hopped over to Maui. Once again, we got a rental car. While I was hoping for a Jeep Wrangler to come around the corner, I was given false hope twice. Twice, the families down the row from us became excited for getting a Jeep Wrangler. What finally came around was a goldish 2011 Chevrolet Traverse.

Overall, it’s not a bad looking car–a little bit odd, but not too bad overall. I remember thinking it had a refreshing style when it first came out, and  the style has held up decently. It’s hardly striking anymore. It sort of just endures with something that was once exciting, but has been left alone for far too long. Chevrolet claims it “characterizes the global face of Chevrolet,” but I’d be careful about making that assertion.

The problem with the Traverse is that it struggles with the same issue as a lot of new Lincoln models. They look magnificent on paper and on television, but they tend to look out of place in the real world. The fact is, most people aren’t travelling through space to the sound of The Crystal Method in the background. So it winds up looking overly futuristic and creating the paradox where something looks so futuristic, that it actually looks dated–like it’s from the 1950s or something.

The Traverse doesn’t suffer from looking dated, but it does suffer from looking rather uninteresting from just about every angle except the ones that Chevrolet presents us with. It’s rejuvenating from the front and intriguing from the back, but the sides are really bland. The sides just exist to keep the front connected to the back–or to remind me that I didn’t get the particular open-bodied SUV I wanted.

And just how your first impressions on the design of the car will depend on literally what angle you approach it from, the feeling you get when driving it isn’t quite consistent either. At first touch, the gas pedal seems to represent an engine with a decent amount of power, but I lost all sense of that immediately after I had pulled out of a parking spot. After that, it felt underpowered, and the brakes didn’t fall far from the accelerator tree.

The dimensions make sense from the outside of the car, but once you get inside, you realize that they’re not quite intuitive. It’s hard to tell where the front end actually ends from the driver’s seat, and the rear extends out too far. The problem is that if they made the dimensions of the vehicle more convenient for driver, the Equinox would be redundant. So Chevy leaves it as it is.

Overall, the Traverse is a decent crossover, but that means little more than that it is better than a minivan, but inferior to a SUV. Then again, it’s owned by a rental car company and people don’t go to a (non-specialized) rental car company  to get a vehicle that does anything really superbly. It does what it’s supposed to do–ferry a bunch of people from an airport to their hotel and around wherever they’re visiting. It’s not remarkable, but at least it didn’t leave me wondering about quadruple takes and other questions regarding the meaning of life.

Year: 2011

Make: Chevrolet

Model: Traverse AWD

Engine: 3.6 V-6 VVT DI

Fuel economy: 16 / 23 mpg

The walk-away: It screams higher-range rental car. (***)

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