Introduced for the 2002 model year, Buicks crossover model blends the virtues of a sedan, sport utility vehicle and minivan. Buick hoped the Rendezvous would attract more young buyers and counteract the brands appeal to older motorists.
Depending on the seating configuration, five or seven people can fit inside this vehicle. A fully independent suspension aims to ease the ride quality. The Mexican-built Rendezvous comes in two forms: as the front-wheel-drive CX model and the higher-level CXL with Versatrak all-wheel drive (AWD).
Buick will add a Rendezvous Ultra trim level early in 2004. It will be equipped with a posh interior and a new dual-overhead-cam 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Billed by the manufacturer as unpretentious luxury, the Ultra promises more power and less noise and vibration; it will compete against the popular Lexus RX 330. Monochromatic exterior paint includes a body-colored grille. Wood decorates the instrument panel and console, and the gauges are trimmed in chrome.
Described by Buick as having a refined ruggedness, the Rendezvous has an overall shape like that of an SUV and is augmented by details that promote a youthful image. Sharp lines take precedence over curves, and Buick says the fastback rear slope is less boxy than a typical SUVs back end.
Styling elements that are common on other Buicks, such as an oval-shaped grille that is painted rather than chrome trimmed, are evident on the Rendezvous. Chrome is used sparingly.
Eight-spoke 16-inch wheels are standard, and the new Ultra gets 10-spoke 17-inch wheels. Each Rendezvous rides a 112.2-inch wheelbase, measures 186.5 inches long overall and stands 68.9 inches tall.
The Rendezvous seats five occupants in standard form, but its reconfigurable interior may be equipped with third-row seats that hold two additional people. The second row can have a three-place split bench seat or two captains chairs. The second-row seats flip and fold to give access to the optional third-row seats. Cargo volume totals 108.9 cubic feet when the seats are folded, and a 4-by-8-foot panel can be loaded through the back door. Low doorsills ease entry and exit.
An optional Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist system warns the driver of obstacles to the rear. GMs OnStar communication system is optional. Two entertainment units may be installed: an XM Satellite Radio or a DVD entertainment system.
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 optional on the CX. The new 3.6-liter V-6 in the Rendezvous Ultra will produce about 245 hp.
Side-impact airbags and all-disc antilock brakes are optional.
Despite structural similarities to the wildly styled Pontiac Aztek, Buicks crossover model has a personality all of its own. Automatic-transmission responses are quick and easy. Acceleration is good, if not exactly inspiring. The Rendezvous runs very quietly and offers plenty of versatile space. The gauges are notable in appearance, but theyre not the easiest to read at a glance.
The Rendezvous offers a generally soft ride, but its suspension hits some bumps rather hard. Its handling is undeniably minivanlike, which means it is reasonably precise with good steering feel and feedback.