Driving Impressions and Safety
While neither of these family workhorses will confuse anyone into thinking they are driving a sport coupe, they are two of the best examples of how to properly tune a nice ride/steering/handling compromise into an SUV. Quite frankly, GM and Honda should set up a tent to train the engineers at most every other mainstream SUV manufacturer.
The Traverse does have a bit of a power advantage over the Pilot thanks to its 3.6 liter 281 horsepower/261 lb. feet of torque V6 as opposed to the Honda’s 3.5 liter unit which makes a still wholly adequate 250 horsepower/253 lb. feet of torque. We aren’t sure if it’s the fact that the Honda engine is an older design, the lack of a 6-speed auto, the power difference or just some sound deadening issues but the fact of the matter is that the Pilot’s V6 motor sounds less refined than the GM 3.6 liter motor. Granted, the Honda V6 still makes a sporty VTEC howl at redline but be sure you are looking for that kind of a driving experience as some prefer not to hear anything mechanical when they drive, no matter how melodic the sound.
As for passing power from a stop or at freeway speeds, both the Traverse and Pilot are able to keep up with and sometimes even pass the cut and thrust of suburban life. Beyond that, both models are nicely insulated from wind and road noise and even over the jutted concrete of Southern California freeways these 7-passenger family SUVs didn’t rattle our fillings as can sometimes be the case in other vehicles. Brake pedal feel with the Traverse was a little bit mushier than in the Pilot but both managed admirable stopping distances even in those local parking lots (Wal-Mart!) where every walking customer seems hell bent on ending their life by having you run them over.
Thankfully, both the Traverse and Pilot have very quick, light yet communicative steering racks which help you to avoid the Wal-Mart parking lot zombies with just an easily controlled flick of the wrist that results in an enjoyable and easy to control slalom course (attn: do not try this at home!). Thanks to impressively low levels of body roll compared to all of the competition, you might call the Pilot and Traverse sporty if they just weren’t so darn huge. To be clear, they may not sporty but they can be pleasurable to drive. None of this, however, has led us to a conclusion about which one is best to drive so it’s a tie for this category. (Winner: None)
We know that the 2012 Chevy Traverse and 2012 Honda Pilot were both designed with the sole intent of being family carriers which means they hold the most precious cargo—your families. So in that spirit, we happily report that the 2012 Traverse returned a full 5-star safety rating from the Government’s recently more stringent barrage of tests. In the somewhat more proven and non-Governmentally regulated IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) tests the Traverse was named a “Top Safety Pick” for 2012.
So Chevy scored well with both the NHTSA and IIHS but how did the Honda do? As expected, with the IIHS it was chosen as a 2012 “Top Safety pick.” Over at the NHTSA they did, however, only award the Pilot with 4 stars out of five. Either way, this one the Traverse wins. (Winner: 2012 Chevy Traverse)