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Expert Reviews 1 of 13
By Jim Flammang
April 15, 2002
Vehicle Overview The Rendezvous is Buicks brand-new model for 2002 a crossover vehicle that blends the virtues of a sedan, sport utility vehicle and minivan. It is the first truck-based Buick since 1923. With the Rendezvous, Buick hopes to attract more younger buyers and counteract the brands appeal to older motorists. To help in that quest, long before it went on sale, Buick exhibited the Rendezvous at golf tournaments, the COMDEX computer dealers convention and various public events.
A fully independent suspension aims to ease the ride quality, which is intended to emulate the Park Avenue Ultra sedan, and optional Versatrak all-wheel drive gives the Rendezvous extra flexibility on various terrain. Offered in front-wheel-drive CX form or the higher-level CXL trim with all-wheel drive, the Rendezvous went on sale in late April 2001.
Exterior Described in terms of refined ruggedness, the Rendezvous has an overall shape that suggests an SUV and has details that promote a youthful image. Sharp lines take precedence over curves, and a fastback rear slope is said to be less boxy than the typical SUV rear.
Certain kinship elements to other Buicks are evident, led by the oval-shape grille, which is painted rather than chromed. In fact, chrome is minimal throughout. An accent ring surrounds the center tri-shield emblem, and headlights sit deep in the front fascia, with detailing around their lenses.
Eight-spoke wheels are similar to those used on other Buicks, but their design on the Rendezvous is aggressive. The top portion of the vehicle is considered more refined, while the lower body gets a more rugged blacked-out appearance, which emphasizes the fact that it combines the attributes of a premium sedan with a versatile SUV. Two-tone side cladding wraps all the way around.
Interior Seating five in standard form, the Rendezvous reconfigurable interior can be equipped with third-row seats that hold two more occupants. Front buckets hold two, and the second row can have a three-place split bench or two captains chairs; footrests are optional. The second-row seats flip and fold to give access to the optional third-row seats, which results in a seven-passenger capacity. Seats fold down to yield a cargo volume of 108.9 cubic feet, and a 4-by-8-foot panel can be loaded through the back door.
Low doorsills are intended to offer a low step-in height for easier entry and exit. A two-tone interior comes in three trim types: leather, flat-woven cloth with leather bolsters or all-cloth with pile fabric. Instrument-cluster detailing is said to produce what Buick calls a look of precious stones set in polished metal, with needles and numbers set into a silver face. The center console will hold a full-size laptop computer, and it has a special area for stowing a purse.
Driver amenities include automatic door locking and unlocking, a tire-inflation monitor that illuminates if low tire pressure is detected, an ultrasonic intrusion-alert system that can detect movement inside the vehicle while its locked, an optional Ultrasonic Rear-Park Assist system that uses ultrasonic sensors to warn of obstacles while backing up and a driver information center in the CXL model. GMs OnStar communication system is a factory-installed option.
Under the Hood A 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Versatrak on-demand all-wheel drive is standard on the upscale CXL model and optional on the CX. No action is needed to engage the AWD system. Side-impact airbags and all-disc antilock brakes are standard.
Driving Impressions Despite structural similarities to the wildly styled, slow-selling Pontiac Aztek, Buicks crossover SUV has an appearance and personality all of its own. The Rendezvous looks essentially like a Buick that happens to have a minivan/SUV sort of body behind the familiar-shaped grille.
Acceleration is good if not exactly inspiring, though automatic-transmission responses are excellent, quick and easy. The Rendezvous runs very quietly and offers plenty of versatile space in a distinctive interior. Gauges are particularly notable in appearance, though theyre not the easiest to read at a glance.
Although the Rendezvous is generally soft-riding, the suspension hits some bumps rather hard. It tends to overreact to modest undulations in the pavement and causes a little too much motion for occupants, as well as excessively noticeable responses to bad spots. Handling is undeniably minivanlike it is reasonably precise with good steering feel and feedback.