Chevy has unwrapped the new 2018 Traverse RS ahead of the Chicago Auto Show, putting a face to a vehicle we had details about last January. No one here at the Autoblog offices has been eagerly awaiting a performance version of the company’s three-row crossover, particularly not one sporting a couple less cylinders than the otherwise standard Traverse engine.
The 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine makes decent numbers, but the RS badge itself remains a confusing choice. This reminds us of the dark era in which Chevy had an SS version of everything. Remember the Malibu Maxx SS? The front-wheel drive Impala SS? At least the RS badge doesn’t have the sort of expectations an SS badge would, and looking at the choices Chevy made to set this Traverse apart it make some sense. But if you heard about the similar-sounding Tahoe RST and were expecting a much bigger engine under the hood of this Traverse, you’re going to be slightly disappointed.
The Traverse RS’s new Ecotec-branded I4 only makes 257 horsepower at an unspecified RPM, while the torque figure is slightly more impressive, at 295 pound-feet, running through a nine-speed automatic. Chevy says it makes 90 percent of max torque at 2,100 RPM, which squares with a typical torque curve for turbocharged I4s. That being said, the standard corporate 3.6-liter V6 makes 310 hp at 6,800 rpm and 266 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm, also backed up by a nine-speed auto. More power, but less torque at higher RPM. We could see the RS having taken either engine, the other becoming the “base” engine, but perhaps the real-world performance from the four-banger is perky enough compared to the V6 to justify the decision here.
Cosmetics are probably going to be more important than performance. The blacked out grille, window trim, roof rails, and bowtie improve the look, particularly the red color the crossover was shown in. That color, Cajun Red, is a $395 option, by the way.
Also important is fuel economy. Chevy claims the RS will get 20 city/26 highway, which slightly beats out the combined rating and city economy for a front-wheel-drive Traverse, but gets 1 MPG less on the highway. Speaking of front-wheel drive, if you want an RS that’s your only option. All-wheel drive is only available on V6 trims (which is everything that’s not an RS).