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Expert Reviews 1 of 5
By Jim Flammang
April 24, 2003
Vehicle Overview As the 2004 model year begins, a midsize luxury sport utility vehicle dubbed Rainier joins the Rendezvous crossover model in Buicks lineup. Built with full-frame construction, the Rainier carries five passengers and will roughly take the place of the Oldsmobile Bravada, as that brand fades out of the automotive picture.
Rainiers will come with either rear-wheel drive or on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD). They are built on GMs short-wheelbase midsize SUV architecture, which is also used for the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy. An electronically controlled rear air suspension is standard, and it is intended to produce a comfortable ride and conforms to Buicks image.
Either an inline-six-cylinder or a 5.3-liter V-8 engine may be installed. The latter power plant is exclusive to the Rainer among the GM group of midsize SUVs. Sales begin in September 2003.
Though it is intended primarily for driving on regular pavement, the AWD Rainier offers offroad capability, according to Buick General Manager Roger Adams. Specifically, its said to be very capable on a Class III Trail, i.e., an unpaved, two-track road. Marketers will emphasize the Rainiers blend of elegance, luxury and performance, said Tom Wallace, GMs vehicle line executive for midsize trucks, but the SUV has unquestioned truck credentials.
Exterior design cues starting with the vertical-bar grille that includes a chrome crown and surround, embossed Buick lettering and a tri-shield center insignia are distinctly Buick, according to the company. Sculpted wheel flares and shoulders are meant to enhance the Rainiers rugged yet elegant appearance.
Clear, jewellike headlights have offset high/low beam fixtures. Fog lamps with chrome surrounds are standard, and ruby red taillamps bring up the rear.
Two-tone front and rear fascias are body-colored over gray, with the gray color extending into the rocker panels. Eight-spoke wheels hold 17-inch Michelin tires, and the Rainier has power rack-and-pinion steering. Bilstein shock absorbers are used.
Five adults can fit inside the Rainier. With the 60/40-split rear seats in their down position, the Rainier has more than 85 cubic feet of storage space. Embossed chrome sill plates greet each entering passenger.
Perforated leather upholstery is standard, and the door panels are trimmed in soft-touch materials. The front seats are equipped with a memory feature, and heated seats are optional. The monochromatic interior features chrome accents as well as dark burled walnut woodgraining.
A cockpit-oriented drivers command center includes gauges that are reminiscent of those in the Rendezvous, as well as an easy-to-use Driver Information Center. The instruments feature green needles. A standard dual-zone automatic climate control permits up to a 25-degree difference between settings for the driver and front passenger. GMs OnStar communication system is also standard, and it features concierge services and a DVD-based navigation system. A DVD video system and XM Satellite Radio are also offered.
Like other Buicks, the Rainier can be personalized for automatic door locking, remote keyless entry, mirror positions and other settings. An optional Bose CD stereo system features digital technology and six speakers. Steering-wheel controls can operate the stereo and climate systems.
Under the Hood
GMs Vortec 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine is standard; it produces 275 horsepower and 275 pounds-feet of torque. Soon after the Rainier goes on sale, a 5.3-liter V-8 that delivers 290 hp at 5,200 rpm and 325 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm will become available. A four-speed automatic is the sole transmission. Towing capacity with two-wheel drive (2WD) is 6,300 pounds. Traction assist is standard on 2WD models.
Side-impact airbags will be available for the driver and front passenger. All seating positions have three-point safety belts. All-disc antilock brakes are standard.