A 2018 Chevrolet Traverse FWD Premier proved to be the perfect vehicle for a destination wedding that included four days of activities in and around the mountain town of Julian in San Diego County.
I don’t recall ever describing any car, truck or SUV a perfect vehicle in this space, so that is saying something.
The good vibes began before the trip even started. No other test vehicle I have driven to date has received as many compliments from passersby as the silver ice metallic Traverse with jet black interior did. “Is that a 2018?” asked one fellow outside Stater Bros. “Looking good!” Another guy near my workplace insisted I was unlocking the door of a Mercedes, not a Chevy.
More important was being able to sit four riders comfortably for a long drive south amid all matter of luggage, decorations, food-filled ice chests, cases and cases of beverages and other items required for a rehearsal dinner, wedding reception, New Year’s Eve celebration and down-time sightseeing.
Fortunately, the third row, 60/40 bench seating was folded down to create a larger cargo space. After dumping everything inside off at our lodge cabin, that third row would come in handy for carting around children and smaller people. Its leather-trimmed seats were just as comfortable as the other four bucket seats in the Traverse, with enough room left in the very back for jackets, purses and whatnot.
Having made the two hours and change drive from Orange County to Julian in other vehicles over the past year in preparation of wedding day, I can report that no other gave as smooth a ride over the freeways, onto the city streets and through the winding mountain highways than the Traverse did. It is billed as a midsize SUV, but it feels so low to the ground that it’s akin to driving a powerful four-door sedan. My version packed a 3.6L V6 engine with SIDI (direct injection) and a nine-speed automatic transmission. It got around clunkers chugging up the hill no problem.
The first day in town found the Traverse mostly parked on a dirt opening next to our Pine Hills Lodge cabin, although we did drive to an inn to deliver goody bags to out-of-town guests. The most curves were encountered just outside our temporary home, as we bounced back and forth between Pine Hills and Julian’s quaint downtown. But—forgive me—traversing by day or night was no sweat, dare I say it was even a pleasure. Perhaps my view would be different had the snow that the Farmer’s Almanac originally forecast actually arrived. I’m inclined to believe the grippy tires (with 20-inch Argent metallic machined faced gloss black aluminum wheels and red trim) would have handled slippery roads just fine.
Our first pre-wedding excursion was to the Oasis Camel Dairy in nearby Ramona. Getting there was a snap on an unseasonably warm winter day (85 degrees!). You never would have known it was that hot thanks to the tri-zone, automatic climate control air conditioning.
Checking out the dairy farm, which supplies camel milk to health stores for drinking and beauty suppliers for skin remedies, is highly recommended. The main attraction animals are very friendly, especially if you serve them apple slices, and the range of personalities displayed was surprising and entertaining.
But the dairy is also home to sheep, turkeys, miniature donkeys, an African crowned crane and a chatty cockatoo. (It turns out the farm’s operators also stage bird shows throughout the county.) Our private tour of the dairy proved to be a big hit with the families that came along. It allowed the bride, bridesmaids and others to hang back and decorate the wedding ceremony and reception rooms, and the groom, groomsmen and still others to continue their bachelor party/fishing trip at a nearby lake.
What happened the day or night of the wedding was a blur. Literally. It seems a certain guest imbibed too much, so it’s a good thing his keyless remote to the Traverse stayed in his cabin. The next morning’s “flu” wiped out breakfast, so the first post-wedding meal turned out to be lunch at the Julian Cafe & Bakery, where the signature chicken pot pie turnover was amazing. Ah yes, many of Julian’s world famous apple pies were consumed over the course of the trip.
The cafe meal, gallons of water and pots full of coffee led to light participation in the next excursion: side by side wineries just outside town. This designated driver took some curves along the way hard to test the Traverse’s handling, and it performed brilliantly, again, more like a car than an SUV.
There were no complaints among the samplers about the whites and reds at Menghini Winery, but their clear winner of the day was a bottle of Old Vine Zinfandel from Volcan Mountain Winery. Bottles from those would join other wines, beers and liquor in a late afternoon, pre-New year’s Eve party in a large suite at the cute and also highly recommended Julian Lodge, whose parking lot would be darkened by the Traverse through our midday New Year’s Day departure.
It was great being able to use the SUV for spillover storage through the Julian Lodge pre-party, magnificent New Year’s Eve meal at Romano’s Restaurant (which is across the street) and the actual party back at the lodge. For all, whenever it was the new year in a different time zone, toasts were made. Needless to say, appointments would need to be made for fat farms and liver cleansers once arriving home.
However, getting back to Orange County would prove to be a challenge, because we somehow managed to acquire more stuff to drive back, as impossible as that sounds. It took about three tries loading and unloading the Traverse, another SUV and a third recruited on the spot for hauling to do the trick.
I made a miscalculation when it came to fuel. The Traverse was delivered with a full tank of gas, and after getting to Julian and doing all the assorted driving that would follow, I was left with slightly more than a quarter tank for the ride home. The needle never moved for the mostly downhill trip but, based on my experience with other SUVs of similar size, I stopped an hour in and added another quarter of a tank of gas. When I pulled into my driveway, the needle indicated that I need not have bothered. Chevy reports this Traverse gets 18 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highways and a combined 21 mpg.
It had also been a safe trip, as I fortunately never needed to slam on the four wheel disc antilock brakes, nor rely on the front, side and all outboard curtain air bags. My favorite standard safety feature was the rear view camera and mirror, which relays to the center console’s 8-inch diagonal color touch screen a split screen image of what is behind you while backing up and an overhead view of the SUV and nearby obstacles as you back up or pull in. It’s as if a drone was shot into the sky above the Traverse to provide that live view.
Other standard safety features include rear parking assist, surround vision, rear cross traffic alert and lane change alert with side blind zone alert. Teen driver technology allows parents to monitor their child’s driving habits and coach them on areas in need of improvement, even when the folks are not in the SUV.
My test Traverse had as an extra a forward collision alert (that I employed several times in bumper-to-bumper traffic), following distance indicator, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, low speed automatic forward braking and front braking to protect pedestrians. These came with nearly $3,000 in options that also included Intellibeam automatic headlamps, Redline Edition appearance extras (including the aforementioned wheels), Skyscape sunroofs over both the front seats and second row and a trailering package. With those and a destination charge, the total price of my Traverse was $48,365, which shocked me because I have tested similar vehicles with those types of options and stickers hovering around $60k.
Without the options, the Traverse would have run $44,450. Included with that are the standard features mentioned before as well as: roof rails; deep tinted glass; remote vehicle start; front fog lamps; LED tail and headlamps; LED daytime running lamps; the (much appreciated) handsfree rear power liftgate; and heated, auto-dimming, power-adjustable outside mirrors with turn signal indicators.
Interior features include: a heated, leather wrapped steering wheel; a power tilt and telescopic steering column; wireless device charging; a universal home remote; Chevy MyLink audio system; 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot; an eight-way power adjustable driver seat; and heated and ventilated seats in the front and heated for the second row. The Bose premium 10-speaker sound system sounded great, although I missed having the volume controls on the steering wheel as I have enjoyed on other vehicles. Maybe it is possible to crank it on the wheel; I never got around to scanning the owner’s manual. Remember the days when extending one’s arm to reach the volume control was no big deal? Ah, progress.
Chevrolet’s standard Complete Care includes two maintenance visits with oil and filter changes and four-wheel tire rotations, roadside assistance and courtesy transportation. You get a basic OnStar plan for five years and three months of XM radio. There’s also a three-year or 36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper warranty and five-year or 60,000 miles powertrain limited warranty.