2004 Buick Rendezvous

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2004 Buick Rendezvous

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Available in 5 styles:  2004 Buick Rendezvous FWD shown
Asking Price Range
$2,630–$9,898
Estimated MPG

18–19 city / 24–26 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 4

By 

Orlando Sentinel

Two weeks ago, Buick announced that the first 2004 Rainier, a sport - utility vehicle built on the same platform as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and its cousins, had been sold to a Michigan man.

"Twenty-two-year-old buys first Buick Rainier," the press release said.

Surely there are other 22-year-olds who have bought a new Buick - somewhere - but the novelty of it was not lost on the company, which is battling an aging image. With its core products being the mature Century, Park Avenue, LeSabre and Regal, there isn't much for a 22-year-old to be interested in.

Well, one product, maybe, if it carried anything but a Buick badge: the Rendezvous. Though built on a minivan platform, it's categorized as an SUV, and it's a pretty practical one at that. It's kin to the Pontiac Aztek, another vehicle that is tough to categorize, but the Buick is less - well, distinctive-looking. It is, in fact, 4 inches longer than the Aztek, which is strictly a five-passenger vehicle, to allow for an optional third-row seat.

The Rendezvous comes in two models, the base CX and the more deluxe CXL. The CX, which starts at $25,795 (the 2004 model, essentially unchanged, is $100 more), is hardly a stripped-down vehicle, given standard features that include air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, power locks, power mirrors, power windows and an AM/FM stereo with a CD player. The CXL adds leather upholstery, an upgraded stereo, side air bags and OnStar, the satellite-linked emergency-communications system, plus a one-year subscription to that service.

For 2004, though, there will be a third choice: The Rendezvous Ultra, which has an all-new 245-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, one of the most sophisticated powerplants GM has ever built. The Ultra hasn't been priced, but it will be the premium model.

My CXL test vehicle was no slouch, though, with quite a bit of equipment, including XM satellite radio and a DVD player, plus smaller items such as an automatically-dimming rearview mirror and dual-zone air conditioning.

The Rendezvous is available in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive versions. If you opt for a CXL with front-wheel drive, you get standard traction control, an electronic system that detects, and then limits, wheelspin of the sort that you'd get on a slick road.

Though all-wheel-drive is certainly preferable on slick roads, the front-wheel drive with traction control does a very good job. Note that this all-wheel-drive system, called Versatrak, is not designed for off-roading. There is no low-range gearing available. Basically the Rendezvous operates in front-wheel drive until the Versatrak system detects some wheel slippage, at which point the rear-wheel drive kicks in to help. My test model had Versatrak, and it seems to work very well - completely transparent until you need it. The system does trim gas mileage a bit, though: from 19 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway, to 18 and 24.

Versatrak also adds a pricey $3,100 to the sticker. The base price on the CXL with Versatrak is $28,545, and the options on my test vehicle brought the bottom line to $34,870.

The Rendezvous is surprisingly nimble, given its shape and size. On sharp corners there's some body roll, as you'd expect, but less than with a typical minivan.

The only engine available in the CX and CXL is GM's 3.4-liter, 185-horsepower V-6. It's a bit loud and unrefined, but its acceleration is good and the four-speed, automatic transmission does all that it can to maximize the V-6's strengths.

Inside, Buick has done its homework in filtering out exterior noise and vibration. The DVD player worked nicely - it uses a screen that flips down from the roof - and the rear-seat wireless headphones are nice, ensuring that the driver won't have to listen to Barney videos all the way to Grandma's house.

The instruments and controls are nicely placed, the seats are firm, and the driving position was comfortable. This vehicle did not have the optional third-row seat, which folds flat when not in use.

Will all those appeal to the average 22-year-old? Maybe not, but a 32-year-old with a small family - looking for a minivan's utility without the minivan stigma - could do a lot worse.

Base price: $28,545.

Price as tested: $34,870.

EPA rating: 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway.

Details: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle with 3.4-liter, 185-horsepower V-6 with 4-speed automatic transmission.


    Expert Reviews 3 of 4

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