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The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, a midsize SUV that offers sportier and sleeker styling, better fuel economy and more family functionality, debuted at the Detroit auto show Monday.

The Traverse, which debuted in late 2008 as a 2009 model and was last refreshed for the 2013 model year, is aiming to gain traction in a crowded industry segment with 20 competitors. The redesigned three-row SUV will be revealed during a Monday press conference at the North American International Auto Show. It goes on sale late this summer or early fall.

With 116,701 sold last year, the Traverse lags segment leaders including the Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota Highlander. Last year, Explorer sales more than doubled Traverse.

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Alan Batey, President of General Motors North America, reveals the new Chevrolet Traverse and Traverse High Country. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

Chevy isn’t revealing volume targets for the redesigned Traverse, but Steve Majoros, Chevrolet marketing director cars/crossovers, said the brand intends to grow sales. He said the segment’s top three leaders each have grown sales and average sales prices in the past five years with redesigned SUVs. 

“There is runway ahead of us. How far that runway goes and how long it goes we’re going to find out,” he said. “We are certainly bullish on this segment and this product.” 

Majoros said the Traverse is hitting the market at an appropriate time. Consumers have a big appetite for SUVs.

“We are targeting an increase in sales, no doubt, for this product,” he said. “I think we feel very confident we’re going to get there because we’ve got a loyal base, we have a dealer body that’s pretty energized.”

Riding on a new architecture, the all-new Traverse has refined looks and sheds 362 pounds from the version currently on the road. The lighter Traverse improves fuel economy by an estimated 3 miles per gallon in the city and highway on the front-wheel drive model with the standard V-6 engine. It also benefits from improved ride and handling, said Dean Perelli, chief engineer for the Traverse.

“This is a very purposeful vehicle,” Perelli said. “It’s perfect for living your life.”

GM North America President Alan Batey, who introduced the SUV Monday, touted its functionality, storage and cargo volume.

"Traverse, as you can see, has a bold and refined new look. It proudly wears Chevrolet’s design cues,” he said. "It was designed and engineered to fit the active lives of our customers."

The family hauler includes technology such as Teen Driver, which allows parents to set controls and review their kids’ driving; rear-seat reminder; rear-vision camera; and automatic braking. The SUV has USB ports in each of the three rows and storage throughout, including a hidden rear compartment under the floor.

Seating up to eight, the Traverse is expected to have the most third-row legroom in the midsize SUV segment, along with maximum cargo space and passenger volume, Chevy said. Second-row seats can slide forward — even with a child's car seat — to make it easy for entry into the third row, said John Cafaro, executive director of Global Chevrolet design.

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The Traverse wheelbase grows a few inches and height increases slightly. Perelli said space in the SUV’s interior has grown, including between the first and second rows.

For 2018, Traverse is adding two new trim lines: the sporty RS and top-of-the-line High Country.

The RS trim sports black wheels, a black bow-tie on the grille and a “very, very strong front end,” Cafaro said.

High Country features a unique chrome grille, chrome roof rails, 20-inch polished alloy wheels and a brown leather interior with the High Country logo stitched into the floor mat and headrests. The High Country also includes all-wheel drive, which is available on other trims.

GM expects the new SUV will be more profitable and Majoros said the new trim lines will help GM pick up more sales of more profitable SUVs and increase the Traverse’s overall average transaction price.

LMC Automotive believes Traverse could see a slight boost in sales volume over the next two years to 120,000 to 125,000 annually. Its best sales year was 2015 when it sold nearly 120,000.

“The Traverse launch is extremely important for Chevrolet and since this is the first redesign of the model, we expect the fresh look to bring in new buyers,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive.

The Traverse comes standard with a new 3.6-liter V-6 that’s expected to generate 10 percent more horsepower than the current Traverse and achieve 25 miles per gallon highway fuel economy for a front-wheel drive version. A turbo 2-liter, four-cylinder, which comes with the RS trim package, is estimated by GM to put out 20 mpg city and 23 mpg on the highway for a front-wheel drive model.

“It’s a little more fun to drive, a little more exhilarating, a little better fuel economy in the city,” Perelli said.

Both engines deliver power to the road through a new 9-speed automatic transmission.

The Traverse is built at GM’s Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant. Pricing was not announced. The 2017 Traverse starts at $29,595 for a front-wheel drive variant.

For complete coverage of the Detroit auto show, go to detroitnews.com/autos/auto-show.

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319

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