What is it: The Chevrolet Traverse's second generation has seen the somewhat bloblular midsize people-hauler transformed…into a rather honed midsize people-hauler. Visually, it's a cross between the Equinox and Suburban, between which it sits, size-wise. There are no fewer than seven (!) 2018 Traverse trim levels to choose from, but the RS — which is in the middle of the pack when it comes to interior amenities — is the only way to get the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, and then only with front-wheel drive.
Key Competitors: Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9
Base Price: $42,995 As-Tested Price: $43,390
Highlights: The Traverse RS gets its share of blacked-out exterior elements, from the wheels to the Bowtie on the grille, but its "sporty" character is supposed to come mainly from that 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four. Down on power compared to the 3.6-liter V6 you'll find elsewhere in the Traverse range, it makes up ground with higher torque (295 lb-ft to 266 lb-ft).
Our Opinion: The thing about crossovers, like minivans before them, is that they aren't really the enthusiast's first choice in transportation (or second, or third). Sure, some are better than others, but you ultimately buy one because something — usually a growing family — dictates that you have to, not because you want to. This situation creates at least some room in the market for sport-themed variants, if only because a certain number of buyers want to convince the world (or more likely, to convince themselves) that they have not wholly capitulated to automotive impassivity.
What I'm saying is that I understand why the Chevrolet Traverse RS FWD exists, and why to some degree there is a need for it to exist. If you're going to drive a big crossover, it should at least look cool and not be a total dog to wheel, right?
The Traverse RS does looks good, though I'd argue that that's because the Traverse looks good; the RS-specific accents, like the blacked-out Bowtie, dark 20-inch wheels and all-important darkened roof rails, don't make it or break it, and big wheels are available on other trims. The RS sits in the middle of the trim range, so for the $42,995 starting price you do get a reasonably well-equipped vehicle with a navigation-enabled 8-inch touchscreen, the Bose speaker system, remote start, leather seats and a leather wrapped-steering wheel, etc.
But the major difference is the RS' 2.0-liter turbo four, which is only offered with the RS trim, and only with front-wheel drive. It isn't, I'm sorry to say, transformative — and if you intend to tow anything, it's actually hobbling (trailering capacity drops from 5,000 pounds with the V6 to just 1,500 pounds with the I4). In the FWD Traverse RS we tested, however, it's more than adequate for around-town and expressway driving. Though it's down on horsepower compared to the 3.6-liter V6 found in every other Traverse, it's got enough forced-induction grunt to make up for it.
Compared to the previous Traverse it's this one is much livelier and feels smaller than it is — but again, this is not something exclusive to the RS.
Bottom line: The Traverse is worth a look if you're in the market for a 7-8 passenger crossover. Of course, there are other fairly buttoned-down three-row crossovers in this price range; the Mazda CX-9 is the most driver-focused and has a nicer interior. If you're used to the ancient Lambda-platform based version that preceded it, the new Traverse will feel like a breath of fresh air.
But the RS version? Eh, it doesn't really add much to the mix. If it's to your taste visually and its notional sportiness calls out to you, go for it. Just be honest with yourself: A performance vehicle it ain't. Then again, nothing in this utilitarian section of the market really is.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $42,995
As Tested Price: $43,390
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, FWD nine-speed automatic
Output: 257 hp @ 5,500 rpm 295 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,403 lb
Fuel Economy: 20/26/22 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: cajun red tintcoat ($395)
Pros: An uncharacteristically attractive — or at least distinctive-looking — way to transport up to seven people in comfort
Cons: Even with the turbo mill, the RS appellation seems like a stretch