Admittedly, when you read about cars all day it gets pretty easy to dismiss some models as badly done, behind the competition, or just plain dull. But stop and think for a moment about the effort it took to make that vehicle, bad or not. Designing a new car is an immensely complex process -- sure for every runaway hit automakers produce a couple misses, but with their complex powertrains, intricate safety systems, and infotainment technology, each vehicle on sale today required an unbelievable amount of time, effort, and money to create. Looking around your local showroom and imagining the toil and attention to detail that went into each and every ride on display, even the boring ones, it's hard not to be impressed.
Take the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, for example. The fourth seven-seat crossover based on GM's Lambda platform, the Traverse is probably best known for being the first variant to feature a 288 horsepower, 3.6-liter direct injection V-6 under the hood, while also sporting a lower sticker price than its Saturn Outlook, Buick Enclave, and GMC Acadia cousins. Priced to compete head to head against the Ford Flex, the Traverse is certainly a competitive offering, but it's doubtful anyone would accuse the large CUV of being exciting. As an enthusiast it may be easy to take a glance at the Traverse and quickly forget about it, yet hundreds, if not thousands of people were involved in its development -- sweating every detail, testing and re-testing until they felt it was ready to go one sale.
To illustrate this, GM recently released a video highlighting the give and take that goes on among designers and engineers to strike a balance between a new vehicle's aerodynamic performance and looks. Following aerodynamics engineer Justin D'Souza and the Traverse's lead exterior designer Dan Schmeckpeper as they discuss developing the CUV, D'Souza explains how through wind tunnel testing and making tiny adjustments GM was able to squeeze every extra mpg it could from the powertrain -- details like a small part at the bottom of the front air dam can add up to an extra half-gallon per mile in fuel-economy. At the same time Schmeckpeper runs through the challenges of designing a modern mass-market vehicle, especially a family hauler. Unlike a sports coupe the Traverse is all about utility and meeting many different needs, but even with great function, if a family car is challenged in the looks department it won't sell (see the Pontiac Aztek if you need an example).
So you may not care much about the Traverse, and just because GM worked hard fine-tuning its design certainly doesn't mean you have to. But the next time you pass one on the highway, or any other brand new car that's managed to go from the drawing board to showrooms in just a few years, all the while requiring minimal maintenance and (generally) operating reliably in many different environments, it at least deserves a little bit of respect. Check out the video here.