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2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS Review: Predictably Comfortable, Surprisingly Fun to Drive

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS and I was pleased to find that it offers a far sportier feel on the road than expected while also providing a smoother ride than the sportier SUVs on the 3-row segment.

The Chevrolet Traverse was redesigned for the 2018 and in addition to the new look came the new RS trim level. This packages includes an array of black trim upgrades on an LT Leather model, but more importantly, the Traverse RS features a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In an era where many of the most popular 3-row SUVs have big V8 engines, a turbo four might seem like an odd choice, but in the front-drive Traverse, it actually makes for a fun, efficient family hauler.

Update: check out the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse High Country Review by Torque News Editor Armen Hareyan.

Now, before I go any further, I want to point out that while the Chevy Traverse RS looks sporty and offers impressive driving dynamics, this is not a performance 3-row SUV. If you are really that concerned with all-out performance, you want to be looking at something like a GMC Yukon, a Chevy Tahoe or a Dodge Durango. However, if you want a smooth-riding SUV with three roomy rows of seats that gets good gas mileage while still being fun to drive – the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS could be your ideal vehicle.

2018 traverse rs frontVehicle Pricing
My 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS test vehicle was equipped with front-wheel-drive and carried a base price of $42,050. The only option was the metallic dark red paint, adding $395 while destination fees added another $945 for a price-as-tested of $43,390.

That might seem like a high price for a vehicle without any options, but keep in mind that everything discussed in the review below is standard, so the Traverse RS comes pretty heavily loaded for just under $44,000.

Great Exterior Design
Opinion on appearance is always subjective, but I think that the exterior of the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS looks fantastic from every angle. The introduction of the second generation vehicle for 2018 brought with it a look that is far edgier than the first generation, and this aggressive new look really makes for a much more attractive vehicle. More importantly, the new look allows the Traverse to stand out from some of the bland designed in the SUV world.

2018 traverse rs rear

The RS package takes the look of the 2018 Traverse and by simply adding a bunch of black trim, makes for an even sportier looking vehicle. This includes the bowtie logos, the grille, the fog light bezels, the window trim, the roof rails and the 20-inch “Dark Android” painted aluminum wheels. When you look at an RS model and a non-RS model, the two look considerably different, but it just goes to show how much of a difference a complete change in trim color can make.

In the case of the 2018 Traverse RS, the dark accents make for a much sportier and much cooler looking SUV. The looks alone would make the RS my first choice in the Traverse lineup, but the interior amenities and driving dynamics can’t be ignored.

Big, Loaded Cabin
The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS is a 3-row SUV designed to appeal to those folks seeking a roomy daily driver, so it comes as no surprise that there is gobs of interior space. The front seats and the second row will both comfortably accommodate tall adults and while the third row is a bit tighter, children or adults under 5’6” should be comfortable in the rear-most seats. Getting into the third-row seats is the trickiest issue for taller riders, as you can either squeeze between the second row seats or you can flop them forward and climb over them, neither of which is easy for a taller adult, but kids will have a much easier time getting to those seats.

2018 traverse rs front seats

Best of all, even with people in every seat, there is still a ton of cargo space out back, so you can comfortably seat six adults and still have plenty of room for things like luggage. If you are not using the third-row seats, they easily flop forward, extending the load floor of the cargo area and creating a huge space that can hold large boxes, several hockey bags, golf clubs, etc. Also, if you aren’t using any of the rear seats, you can fold them down and create an area large enough to haul some lumber. There likely aren’t many Traverse RS owners hauling huge cargo, but the ability is there if needed.

2018 traverse rs cargo

In addition to having lots of space, the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS has lots of premium standard features. All of the seats are wrapped in black leather and the front seats are heated and electronically-adjusted. The steering wheel, dashboard, door panels and center console are all wrapped in matching leather, giving the interior a very upscale look and feel, while the premium 8-inch infotainment system offers control of all of the interior gadgets. That includes the satellite radio and auxiliary input of a few different kinds (USB, Bluetooth) that feed the Bose 10-speaker system that sounds great regardless of your favorite type of tunes. The RS package also comes with navigation and three-zone climate control, allowing everyone to adjust the temperature to their liking.

2018 traverse rs dashRS on the Road
The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder mill that delivers 257 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque with help from a nine-speed automatic transmission. That horsepower is down compared to the V6 that is standard in the other models, but that 295 lb-ft of torque plays a big role in making the RS so much fun to drive. While there is a touch of lag as the turbocharger spools up to peak boost, the torque of the 2.0-liter engine hits hard enough to smoke the front tires at a stop. When the tires grip, the big SUV gets up to speed in a hurry and while the V6 might technically be a bit quicker to 60, the power delivery of the turbo-four really makes it feel much stronger than it is. The same qualities that make a turbocharged sports car so much fun to drive, with the turbo hitting hard and quick, make the Traverse seem very quick and sporty from a stop and while moving.

2018 traverse rs engine

The nine-speed automatic transmission spends much of its time in the higher gears, allowing the Traverse RS to average 23.3mpg during my testing (that is slightly better than the EPA rating of 22). However, when you put the hammer down to scoot around slow-moving traffic on the highway, the transmission quickly drops down several gears – putting the turbocharged engine in the peak power range and helping the big Chevy SUV quickly build speed.

2018 traverse rs side road

Finally, in addition to being surprisingly quick and predictably fuel-friendly, the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse RS offers a smooth, quiet ride without killing handling. For a front-drive vehicle of its size, the Traverse RS cuts through the corners at speed very well and it is easy to maneuver through tight spots, such as the parking lot at the airport or the mall. At the same time, even with the 20-inch wheels and relatively low profile tires, the Traverse keeps outside noise and vibrations out of the cabin, making for a quiet, smooth ride, even on Detroit’s rough highways.

The Final Word
Really, it comes as no surprise that the Traverse RS is efficient, quiet and smooth, but I imagine that few people would expect a big, front-wheel-drive SUV with a four-cylinder engine to be as quick or as nimble as this 3-row Chevy. When you combine those driving dynamics with the roomy interior and the premium features, the Traverse RS is a great option at $44,000. Many vehicles will give you the three-row space and fuel economy, but for those buyers who want front-wheel-drive, this sporty Chevy SUV offers more fun-to-drive factor than similar models from other brands. It isn't designed to compete with the pricier, performance minded models, instead bringing improved driving dynamics to an everyday driver.

218 traverse rs beautyPatrick Rall is a professional writer and photographer with a passion for all things automotive. Patrick has been sharing his automotive expertise in automotive journalism from Detroit for more than a decade covering the Big Three. Having grown up in his father’s performance shop, he spent extensive time at the oval track and drag strip – both driving and wrenching on various types of vehicles. In addition to working as a writer, Patrick previously worked as an automotive technician before moving on to a business office position with a chain of dealerships, and this broad spectrum of experience in the industry allows him to offer a unique look on the automotive world. Follow Patrick on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.