Introduced for 2002, the Buick Rendezvous continues into 2005 in regular and Ultra forms with front-wheel drive or Versatrak all-wheel drive. Ultra editions feature a 245-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 with variable valve timing. Regular models use a 185-hp, 3.4-liter V-6.
Buick's crossover blends characteristics of a sedan, sport utility vehicle and minivan. In addition to Ultra versions, the Mexican-built Rendezvous comes in CX and CXL trims.
A front-drive version of the Rendezvous Ultra is available for 2005; it previously had been offered only with all-wheel drive. The 3.6-liter V-6 also becomes available in CXL models. A touchscreen navigation system is newly optional, and 17-inch wheel packages are offered.
Billed by the manufacturer as "unpretentious luxury," the Ultra competes against the Lexus RX 330. Monochromatic exterior paint includes a body-colored grille.
Described by Buick as having a "refined ruggedness," the Rendezvous has an overall shape like that of an SUV, augmented by details that promote a youthful image. Sharp lines take precedence over curves, and Buick gave it a rear slope in contrast to the typically boxy SUV shape. It shares styling elements with other Buicks, including a painted, oval-shaped grille.
Eight-spoke 16-inch wheels are standard on CX models, but others get 17-inch tires. Each Rendezvous rides a 112.2-inch wheelbase, measures 186.5 inches long overall and stands 68.9 inches tall. A fully independent suspension aims to ease the ride quality.
In standard form, the Rendezvous seats five occupants, but its reconfigurable interior can be equipped with third-row seats that hold two additional people. The second row can have either a three-place split bench seat or two captain's chairs. The second-row seats flip and fold for access to the rear. 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. GM's OnStar communication system, XM Satellite Radio and DVD entertainment are optional.
Under the Hood
In all but the Ultra models, a standard 185-hp, 3.4-liter V-6 teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Rendezvous Ultra gets a 245-hp, 3.6-liter V-6; this engine is optional in the CXL. All Rendezvous models can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive.
Side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are available.
Despite structural similarities to the wildly styled Pontiac Aztek, Buick's crossover model has a personality 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 they're not the easiest to read at a glance.
The Rendezvous delivers a generally soft ride, but its suspension hits some bumps rather hard. Handling is reasonably precise with good steering feel and feedback, very much like what drivers might expect from a minivan.