Recently we took a vacation to Yellowstone Park, Glacier Park, and other
points of interest in Montana and Wyoming. We flew to Montana and rented a
car. I asked for a Nissan Xterra, but Hertz rented me a Chevrolet Traverse
instead (apparently GM is dumping them to the fleets since they had at least
10 of them at the Helena airport and we constantly saw them in Yellowstone).
We wanted the Xterra so we would have room far a couple of bikes inside.
Fortunately the Traverse did have enough room for two bikes (with some
maneuvering of the bikes and luggage).
The Traverse was probably the most loaded up car I have ever driven. It had
just about every possible option (sun roof, heated and cooled power seats,
with power recline, multi CD player, rear seat entertainment, AWD, 3.6L V6,
power lift gate, etc, etc).
The good stuff - very comfortable seats, decent power even at high altitude
and with the lower octane gas they sell in Montana, quiet (except in cross
winds), stable, OK gas mileage (averaged around 20 mpg for 2000 miles),
decent ergonomics (although they are falling into the Toyota practice of
scattering similar looking controls all over the place), smooth
transmission, zero problems during the trip.
The bad stuff - horrible sight lines (it felt like riding around in a cave
but it did have a back-up camera and the ultrasonic rear parking aide to
somewhat compensate), numb handling (which was uncomfortable on some of the
narrow winding mountain roads we drove on), somewhat sensitive to winds
(which again was uncomfortable on some mountain roads), poor rear access for
loading the bikes, mediocre plasticky interior (except for the seats which
were nice), mediocre ride.
I don't have much experience with current crossover vehicles. My only other
experience has been with my parent's recent vehicles - a Ford Freestyle
(totaled in an accident) and a Toyota Highlander (the replacement for the
Of the three, I preferred the Freestyle. It had the best handling,
ergonomics, and was the quietest and cheapest (but was also under powered -
it was the original 3.0L V6 version). It was also the most car like. The
Traverse is the most SUV like, with the Highlander somewhere in between.
It is difficult to fairly compare the loaded up top of the line Traverse to
my Mother's base Highlander. For sure the V6 in the Traverse was much
quieter, smoother and more powerful than the big four cylinder in my
Mother's Highlander. But, the Highlander was likely much less expensive and
gets better gas mileage. The passenger room is a wash, although I am sure
loading the bike's into the Highlander would have been even more difficult
than loading them into the Traverse. The interior quality was similar, with
the Traverse maybe having a slight edge. The Traverse's handling and
stability was better than the Highlander, but the ride was much worse (but
then the Traverse is AWD, the Highlander Front Wheel Drive Only). The vision
out of the Highlander is much better than out of the Traverse (a result of
GM's preference for appearance over function??). I think the Highlander
looks better than the Traverse, but I think if you buy one of these
vehicles, looks is not high on your list of requirements. I have no idea
regarding reliability. My Mom's Highlander has been flawless after 6 months,
the Traverse was flawless for 2000+ miles (It had 7500 on the odometer when
we dropped it off).
I am not really in the market for a Crossover myself. If I was I doubt I'd
buy either the Traverse or the Highlander. I'd more likely be attracted to a
Honda Pilot or the new Explorer (the new "Crossover" version coming soon).
If I am going to buy a truckoid, I want it to look like a truck, not some
muscled up mini-van or a station wagon.
I was disappointed we did not get the Xterra. I only saw one rental Xterra
on the trip (none were in the lot at the Helena airport). I think it is
somewhat dishonest for Hertz to show you the Xterra as the mid-sized SUV
choice and then rent you a beefed up mini-van instead, but I guess all was
well in the end.