Buicks Rendezvous crossover vehicle was brand-new for the 2002 model year. It blends the virtues of a sedan, sport utility vehicle and minivan and serves as the first truck-based model in Buicks lineup since 1923. With the Rendezvous, Buick hoped to attract more younger buyers and counteract the brands appeal to older motorists. To help in that quest, and long before it went on sale, Buick exhibited the Rendezvous at golf tournaments, the COMDEX computer dealers convention and various public events.
Two new entertainment options will become available in the 2003 model. An XM Satellite Radio and a DVD-based system that has a 7-inch fold-down screen for video viewing in the rear seats may be installed in the new Rendezvous. At midseason, the Mexican-built SUV will gain an electronic liftgate release.
Either five or seven passengers can ride in the Rendezvous. A fully independent suspension aims to ease the ride quality, which is intended to emulate the Park Avenue Ultra sedan. The Rendezvous comes in two forms: as the front-wheel-drive CX model and as the higher-level CXL trim with Versatrak all-wheel drive (AWD). Versatrak is an optional feature on the CX, and this AWD system gives the Rendezvous extra flexibility in various road conditions.
Described by the manufacturer as having a refined ruggedness, the Rendezvous has an overall shape like that of an SUV. The crossover model features details that promote a youthful image. Sharp lines take precedence over curves, and a fastback rear slope is said to be less boxy than a typical SUVs back end.
Styling elements that are common on other Buicks are evident on the Rendezvous. The SUVs front features an oval-shaped grille that is painted rather than trimmed in chrome. Chrome is used minimally throughout. An accent ring surrounds the center tri-shield emblem, and headlights with detailing around their lenses sit deep in the front fascia.
The Rendezvous eight-spoke 16-inch wheels are similar to the ones used on other Buick vehicles, but this SUVs wheel design is aggressive. The top portion of the vehicle is considered more refined. The lower body gets a more rugged blacked-out appearance, which emphasizes the fact that its design combines the attributes of a premium sedan with those of a versatile SUV. Two-tone side cladding wraps around the entire vehicle. The Rendezvous rides a 112.2-inch wheelbase, measures 186.5 inches long overall and stands 68.9 inches tall (not including the roof rack).
The Rendezvous seats five occupants in standard form, and its reconfigurable interior may be equipped with third-row seats that hold two more occupants. The front buckets hold two people, and the second row can have a three-place split bench seat or two captains chairs; footrests are optional. Buick says the second-row seats flip and fold to give access to the optional third-row seats, which results in a seven-passenger capacity. The 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 ease entry and exit. A two-tone interior comes in either 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 the needles and numbers set into a silver face. The center console can hold a full-size laptop computer, and it has a special area for stowing a purse.
Driver amenities include an automatic locking and unlocking feature for the doors, a tire-inflation monitor that illuminates if low tire pressure occurs and an ultrasonic intrusion-alert system that can detect movement inside the vehicle while it is locked. An optional Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist system uses sensors to warn the driver of obstacles to the rear while the vehicle is backing up. A driver information center is included 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 generates 210 pounds-feet of torque and teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Versatrak on-demand AWD is standard on the upscale CXL model and offered as an option on the CX. No action is needed to engage the AWD system. The Rendezvous can haul up to 3,500 pounds when it is equipped with the available towing package.
Side-impact airbags and all-disc antilock brakes were standard on the 2002 Rendezvous but are now offered as optional equipment.
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 type of body behind the familiar-shaped grille.
The excellent automatic-transmission responses are quick and easy, and acceleration is good, if not exactly inspiring. The Rendezvous runs very quietly and offers plenty of versatile space in a distinctive interior. Its gauges are especially notable in appearance, though theyre not the easiest to read at a glance.
The Rendezvous offers a generally soft ride, but 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 its occupants; the SUV creates excessively noticeable responses to bad spots. The Rendezvous handling is undeniably minivanlike; it is reasonably precise with good steering feel and feedback.