Back in the day, there was a family on our street with a wood-sided Plymouth Satellite station wagon that was decked out with slotted mag wheels, a glasspack muffler, and a full-width rear mudflap. That setup was unusual for a family hauler back then, but it turns out their extra-sporty Satellite was merely ahead of its time. Today’s parents seem to be keen to show the world they’re still cool even with three kids, and a popular way to do so is by opting for the sport-trim version of their three-row SUV—something like the Chevrolet Traverse RS.
Chevrolet has gone all-in on this trend. In addition to the RS, its family-size crossover can be sportified with a Midnight Edition, Sport Edition, or Redline Edition package, which mostly offer various combinations of black exterior elements. These join similar efforts such as the Ford Explorer ST-Line and the Volkswagen Atlas SEL R-Line Black. Like those competitors, the Traverse RS’s sporty look is pretty much just image.
RS Appearance and Performance
The RS gets dark-finish 20-inch wheels (versus 18s), power-folding mirrors, black roof rails, a black grille, black window surrounds, and black badging. When the RS trim level first appeared in 2018, it had its own exclusive engine: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. That setup didn’t exactly scream performance, and it also could be had only with front-wheel drive. The turbo-four has since been dropped. Now, the RS uses the same engine as all Traverse models, a 3.6-liter V-6 making a stout 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. And, like the rest of the lineup, it’s available with front- or all-wheel drive.
The V-6 may be no different than you’ll find in any Traverse model, but it’s stout enough to drag this big machine to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and to send it through the quarter-mile in 15.1 seconds at 94 mph. As it happens, the Chevy’s numbers exactly match what we measured with the 10Best-winning Kia Telluride. And they beat the six-cylinder Jeep Grand Cherokee L (8.0 seconds to 60 mph and a 16.0-second quarter-mile at 87 mph). Those results and the Chevy’s real-world response won’t create an illusion that you’re piloting a high-performance SUV, but they’re certainly adequate.
The Chevy’s big V-6 with all-wheel drive nets EPA estimates of 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, a not-so-stellar result but one that’s not out of line for this segment. In our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, however, it managed just 22 mpg. Among six-cylinder competitors with all-wheel drive, the Nissan Pathfinder does better, with EPA ratings of 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, while the Volkswagen Atlas fares worse on the highway, earning 23 mpg (its city range is 18 mpg) from the EPA. But both of them beat the Traverse in our real-world highway test. The Traverse also tows 5000 pounds, which is the same as most of its rivals. If you need more towing capacity, look to the Jeep Grand Cherokee L or to a full-size rig like the Chevy Tahoe or the Ford Expedition.
The RS suspension is unchanged from other Traverse variants, but that’s not likely to disappoint the target audience. Chevy engineers have done a good job with chassis tuning here. The ride is compliant, yet body motions are not excessive. The steering could do with a better sense of on-center but overall is neither overly light nor unnecessarily heavy. You won’t be tempted to go diving into corners in this thing but doing so would only cause your passengers to spill their juice boxes anyway.
The RS sits roughly midway up the Traverse hierarchy, and it’s the point at which a bunch of desirable features become standard. Those include adaptive cruise control, navigation, and a multi-view camera system. The latter is a must for maneuvering this big machine in tight quarters. Another worthwhile item is the rear-camera inside mirror, which can toggle between a traditional reflective surface and a wide-angle camera feed. The camera feed is useful not only when a carful of rear-seat passengers or bulky cargo obstructs the view but even at other times, owing to the forest of thick pillars. “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” is definitely true in this case, though, so a check of the side mirrors is a must before a lane change. Even with the electronic helpers, visibility is somewhat challenging.
Passenger and Cargo Space
At times, piloting the Traverse can feel like driving a bus, but its ample dimensions allow it to easily haul a crowd. The second row is roomy, and the chairs slide fore and aft to apportion legroom between the middle and rearmost seats as needed. Captain’s chairs are standard here—if you want a three-passenger bench, you have to drop down one notch to the LT Leather trim level. The third-row seat is one of the roomiest in the segment; even lanky teens can sit back there, and there are seatbelts for three, which may help when carpooling. In the RS, the third row comes with USB ports and cupholders, benefits that help offset the hard-plastic armrests and the obstructed view owing to the fat C-pillars. With the third row in use, the Traverse has more luggage space than most of its peers, 23 cubic feet, room enough for six carry-on-size bags. Flatten all the seats, and there’s just over 98 cubic feet, which tops the segment.
The RS trim’s sporty interior accouterments are, at best, subtle. The red contrast stitching and patches of gloss-black trim don’t exactly grab the eye. Instead, sensible and hard-wearing seems to be the vibe Chevy aimed for—certainly, this is a long way from the luxe treatment in the Telluride or the Hyundai Palisade.
Sensible and straightforward describes the driver interface as well, and here that’s more of a compliment. At 8.0 inches, the touchscreen display is modestly sized by 2022 standards, but interactions are simple, and smartphone mirroring and charging are both wireless. The volume knob, tuning buttons, and one-touch access to main menu items are all most welcome. So, too, are the physical climate controls, the traditional shift lever, and the decent stowage space—a secret cubby hidden behind the touchscreen is the lone flourish.
The Traverse RS ends up being a family ride with just the lightest touch of sportiness. If that’s not enough to broadcast your hip-parent status, you could always take it up another notch and find some slotted mags and a mud flap.
2023 Chevrolet Traverse RS AWD
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front/all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $48,390/$49,485
Options: Trailering equipment (trailer hitch, heavy-duty cooling system, trailering assistant), $650; Radiant Red Tintcoat paint, $495; rear-park assist delete credit, -$50
DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 218 in3, 3564 cm3
Power: 310 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 12.6-in vented disc/12.4-in vented disc
Tires: Continental CrossContact LX20 EcoPlus+
255/55R-20 107H M+S TPC SPEC 3167MS
Wheelbase: 120.9 in
Length: 205.9 in
Width: 78.6 in
Height: 70.7 in
Passenger Volume: 157 ft3
Cargo Volume: 23 ft3
Curb Weight: 4602 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 6.8 sec
1/4-Mile: 15.1 sec @ 94 mph
100 mph: 17.5 sec
120 mph: 32.5 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 7.0 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.4 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.7 sec
Top Speed (C/D est): 130 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 183 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.82 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 18 mpg
75-mph Highway Driving: 22 mpg
75-mph Highway Range: 390 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 20/17/25 mpg
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