2004 Buick Rendezvous

Change Vehicle
2004 Buick Rendezvous
Available in 5 styles:  2004 Buick Rendezvous FWD shown
Asking Price Range
$2,480–$10,076
Estimated MPG

18–19 city / 24–26 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 4

By 

The Detroit News

Buick goes for glitz with Rendezvous Ultra

My friend Ted called about a year ago for car advice. Ted's wife, Karen, was getting rid of her GMC Safari van now that their youngest daughter was off to college and wanted a sportier ride.

Ted said Karen was looking at a Buick Rendezvous, and I suggested they also check out the Lexus RX 300 and a few other crossover utility vehicles in the same size and price ranges.

After shopping and dickering, they bought the Rendezvous. That didn't surprise me, considering Ted is an accountant, not to mention something of a cheapskate, and they could pick up the Buick for about $10,000 less than the Lexus. What did surprise me was how much Karen liked the Rendezvous.

"She said it's the best vehicle she's ever owned," Ted confided. "It's really worked out well for us."

Since it was year-end tax time last week, I figured Ted was the perfect person to check out the ritzy new 2004 Rendezvous Ultra that Buick had just dropped off for a brief holiday test drive.

As the name implies, the Ultra is sort of the uber-Rendezvous and is just beginning to reach Buick showrooms this month. Our test vehicle started life as a Rendezvous AWD model priced at $29,855, and came equipped with the Ultra package ($9,840) and a DVD entertainment center ($1,100). That pushed the bottom line to $40,795, making this one of the most expensive Buicks I've ever driven.

I didn't break the economic news immediately to Ted. We took a lunch break, and after a five-mile loop in the Ultra, he pronounced it a pretty nice package. Ted was particularly impressed by the leather seats with suede inserts and the wood-and-leather steering wheel, although he seemed unnerved by the head-up display.

He also liked the rich-looking monochromatic exterior paint scheme (our test vehicle was finished in dark steel blue metallic).

And then I told him the price. Ted's jaw literally dropped.

"No way," he sputtered in amazement. "Karen and I paid $25,000 for our Rendezvous, and it's nicely equipped. How did they come up with 40 grand for this package?"

Well, let me count the ways.

The basic Rendezvous, as Ted noted, is pretty well-furnished, with such standard hardware as side air bags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, remote keyless entry and an overhead console.

The Ultra package bundles just about every other gadget in the Buick parts bin, including the fancy seats and steering wheel and the head-up display, plus 17-inch wheels and tires, a six-disc CD changer, second-row captain's chairs, third-row bench, heated power front seats with memory, dual-zone climate controls, rear parking aid and XM satellite radio, to mention just a few.

Besides the DVD entertainment center, the only other options available are a navigation radio ($1,555) and sunroof ($885).

The heart of the Rendezvous Ultra is a new twin-cam 3.6-liter V-6 engine that is shared with the Cadillac CTS. In the Ultra, the engine delivers an ample 245 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque, a nice bump from the 185 horsepower and 210 pounds-feet provided by the overhead-valve 3.4-liter V-6 in the standard Rendezvous.

The 3.6 in the Ultra is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, and returns 18 miles per gallon in city driving and a respectable 25 mpg on the highway, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The twin-cam engine is noticeably more lively than the pushrod V-6 in the base Rendezvous. It feels even more responsive than the 3.3-liter V-6 in the recently redesigned RX 330, and nearly as quick as the twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter six in the Volvo XC90, due in no small part to the fact that the Buick is 500 to 600 pounds lighter than the Volvo.

While they are less than an inch apart in overall length, the Rendezvous has a much longer wheelbase than the RX 330. Co bined with an all-independent suspension, the result is a smooth and controlled ride that should make new converts out of longtime SUV owners coming from truck-based models like the Mercury Mountaineer or the GMC Envoy. It also sets the Rendezvous Ultra clearly apart from its new SUV sibling, the Rainier (which shares its underpinnings with the Envoy).

Buick is promoting the Ultra's refinement, particularly in the refurbished cabin. Truth be told, that was one of the weak points of the original Rendezvous. The Ultra does look much glitzier and for the most part is fairly tasteful, with one glaring exception.

For some reason, Buick designers insisted on applying a massive chunk of fake-looking wood on the center stack that recalls some of the high-end Chinese-made Buick Regals that I've driven in Shanghai. It doesn't even look like the same (and much nicer) wood that.s used on the steering wheel.

The heavy-handed application has the undesired effect of making the Ultra.s cockpit look cheaper, rather than more elegant. Others in the segment, including Lexus and Volvo, do far more with less, and Buick would do well to study them and apply the lessons to the Ultra in the future.

On the other hand, the gauge package is exquisite. The matte-metal look is accented by turquoise-color match-needle pointers and a sophisticated typeface that appears to have been lifted out of a fashion magazine.

The seats look and feel rich, and provide excellent support, even for larger posteriors such as mine. There are captain.s chairs in the second row, which make for easier access to the stowable third-row bench seat. But I have to say, and Ted agrees with me, that the third row remains of limited use, even for families with small children.

In fact, we see more older couples and empty-nesters driving the Rendezvous, which suggests that the third row is rarely used. The bench seat comes bundled with the Ultra package, but Buick should probably consider making it a delete option for those buyers who don't really need or want it and would prefer the extra cargo space.

Back to the issue of price. Listing for just over $37,000, the all-wheel-drive version of the Lexus RX 330 seems like a much better value than the Rendezous Ultra, especially when you throw in the reputation of the Lexus brand.

Being a much sharper shopper than me, however, Ted would probably point out that the 2004 Ultra will be eligible for any incentives that Buick is offering on the Rendezvous. As I write this on New Year's Eve, Rendezvous buyers can choose between a $3,000 rebate or zero-interest financing for up to 60 months, and GM is likely to extend some comparable incentives into the new year.

If you can get past that big chunk of wood on the instrument panel and minor annoyances like the head-up display, the new Rendezvous Ultra merits serious consideration by any consumer looking for a premium cross over vehicle.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 4

Featured Services for this Buick Rendezvous

  • Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.
  • Not sure what auto repair should cost you? Use our price estimator.
  • Get help with car repair now on Cars.com. Visit Repair & Care

Search Inventory Near You

Calculate Monthly Payment

What will my monthly cost be?

Check Payment

Calculate Affordable Price

What is the most I can afford?

Check Price

More Calculators

Compare finance offers to decide what's right for you.

Certain specifications, prices and equipment data have been provided under license from Chrome Data Solutions ("Chrome Data"). ©2013 Chrome Data Solutions, LP. All Rights Reserved. This information is supplied for personal use only and may not be used for any commercial purpose whatsoever without the express written consent of Chrome Data. Chrome Data makes no guarantee or warranty, either expressed or implied, including without limitation any warranty of merchantability or fitness for particular purpose, with respect to the data presented here. All specifications, prices and equipment are subject to change without notice.