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Chevy's new three-row crossover proves among the more pleasant surprises in this year's Sport/Utility contest. The Traverse is the fourth General Motors' model built on its Lambda chassis architecture, others being the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook, and GMC Acadia. The Traverse is functionally much the same as its cross-brand siblings and gives Chevy a much-needed entry in this segment, replacing the ages old, truck-based TrailBlazer. It also gives us our first taste of GM's direct fuel-injection V-6 in this platform, although the other variants also are so equipped for 2009.

"Times have changed," says senior editor Ron Kiino. "We're criticizing a Honda instrument panel and center stack and praising a Chevy's." It's true: The Traverse's IP and controls are clean and workable. The interior plastics and materials are attractive and appear durable. Third row access is straightforward, although the second row's high floor and short seat bottom compromises its comfort a bit.

The Traverse is a nice-looking piece on the outside, too, although the rear window line is shaped the way it is in the name of style, not visibility. Fold the second- and third-row seats flat, and the Traverse will swallow 116.4 cubic feet of stuff. Need to bring more junk along? No problem, given its 5200-pound towing capacity.

Everyone has been pleased with the powertrain. With optional dual exhausts, the newest version of GM's 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 spools out 288 horses, more than competitive power, although it's necessary to move the Traverse's 5111 pounds, plus cargo. The engine is quiet and smooth, with a wide powerband. It's mated to a six-speed automatic transaxle, replete with a handy toggle switch on the end of the shifter to allow manual scrolling up and down all six gears.

Do you think the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse has what it takes to take home the title of 2009 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year? Find out who the winner is at midnight eastern time on Oct. 16.

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