2004 Buick Rainier

Change year or car

Change year or car


starting MSRP

2004 Buick Rainier

Key specs

Base trim shown


The good:

  • Performance of V-8
  • Manageable size
  • Ride comfort with air suspension
  • Quietness
  • Stability

The bad:

  • Five-passenger capacity
  • Fuel economy
  • Step-up height
  • Instruments

2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2004 Buick Rainier trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • 290-hp V-8
  • Air suspension
  • RWD or AWD
  • Premium amenities
  • DVD player and navigation system available

2004 Buick Rainier review: Our expert's take


The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

Goodwill Ambassador
2004 Buick Rainier SUV

It was a night of beautiful traffic. The sky was clear, the moon full. The roads were salted, and the drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike were kind.

Maybe it was the cold. The nocturnal scene was frigid, 12 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Buick Rainier’s outside temperature monitor.

Only a committed hothead would raise hell in that kind of deep freeze. Anger needs heat. None was climatically available. This was good.

The Buick Rainier sport-utility vehicle, new for 2004, is a luxury liner. Although it is built body-on-frame in the manner of traditional SUVs and pickup trucks, it is better suited to peaceful cruising than combat. It is a living room on wheels, best enjoyed at a casual pace, even with the optional 5.3-liter, 290-horsepower V-8 engine in the tested Rainier CXL AWD model.

That does not mean the Rainier is weak. It shares a platform with the GMC Envoy and Chevrolet TrailBlazer, its ostensibly tougher midsize SUV cousins.

The difference, especially in comparison with the TrailBlazer, is that the Rainier is more refined and more politically acceptable.

The TrailBlazer, for example, looks very much like traditional SUVs: square-bodied, rugged, borderline military. It easily could be called the TrailConqueror.

But the Rainier eschews more-macho-than-thou exterior design. It is sleek, car-like, people-friendly. The trademark oval Buick grille mimics a smile. The Rainier’s overall demeanor, inside and out, bespeaks family — albeit a family with a big household income.

There is something reasonable about the Rainier’s proportions. Nowadays, car companies have gotten it in their heads that all SUVs must have third-row seats — that such vehicles must be able to accommodate at least seven people. It is a silly notion.

Few of us drive around with six passengers in tow. That being the case, where is the urgent need for stretching midsize SUVs into something larger to carry seven people? Or, worse, for jamming a third-row “seat” into the rear quarters of a midsize SUV?

The Rainier answers those questions by providing sumptuous seating for five people — no more. It’s an SUV, not a school bus. I like that; and I liked it even more on the drive to Northern Virginia from New York with two family members.

There is peace in space, and the Rainier offers lots of interior space along with a couple of optional “space heaters,” such as those installed in the driver’s and front passenger’s seats in the tested vehicle.

Equipped properly, the all-wheel-drive Rainier CXL can be taken off road. But why would anyone want to do that? The Rainier has a premium exterior paint job and pretty, 17-inch, brushed aluminum wheels. The interior, though largely a work of top-grade vinyl, has leather-surface seating, thick carpeting, and (in the test model) an optional B ose stereo system. Does anyone really want to take that package through thickets, over rocks and fallen logs? I don’t think so, even though the Rainier has a suspension system — independent front suspension, and air springs with load-leveling capability in the rear — that could handle light-to-moderate off-road tasks.

Frankly, I prefer thinking of the Rainier as an excellent station wagon, one that offers an SUV’s high-riding view of the road along with the stability and grace of a well-tuned, large sedan.

You aren’t going to win any road races with it. Inasmuch as the Rainier is not the least bit intimidating, you aren’t going to frighten anyone into giving you more than your share of the road either. It’s just a nice, friendly, very useful and enjoyable vehicle — sort of like a good neighbor. Perhaps it should have been called the Buick Ambassador.

Nuts & Bolts

Downside: Some of my peers in the automotive media complain about the amount f vinyl inside the Rainier. I think that’s nanny-nanny-boo-boo nitpicking. Many car companies, foreign and domestic, use vinyl interiors, especially in SUVs. Buick isn’t doing anything unusual.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Lovers of big sedans will applaud the graceful Rainier in all three categories. Truck lovers won’t — they want something hard. The Rainier is a tad soft.

Head-turning quotient: The Rainier is a statesman among SUVs, large or small. It has a dignity and acceptability reminiscent of the Volvo XC90, the first SUV to win a measure of acceptance among the anti-SUV crowd.

Layout/body style: The front-engine Rainier is available as an all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive vehicle. It has traditional body-on-frame construction with four doors and a hatch.

Engine/transmission: Two engines are available: a standard 4.2-liter, inline-six that develops 275 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 275 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm; and the optional, tested 5.3-liter V-8 that develops 290 hp at 5,200 rpm and 325 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Mileage: I averaged 18 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.

Safety: Standard four-wheel, heat-dissipating, vented disc brakes with anti-lock system; rear-wheel-electronic traction control; available side-impact air bags.

Price: Base price is $37,345. Dealer’s invoice price is $33,797. Price as tested is $41,040, including $3,110 in options and a $685 destination charge.

Purse-strings note: Watch those options! Compare with Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, Lincoln Aviator, Mercury Mountaineer Limited and Toyota Highlander Limited.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.4
  • Interior design 4.1
  • Performance 4.4
  • Value for the money 3.9
  • Exterior styling 4.4
  • Reliability 4.3

Most recent consumer reviews


This is the one that got away! My own fault.

I had my Rainier for 10 years with very few problems. Wish I had never sold it. I loved that car! Looking for another I can afford!


Buick Rainer perfect suv

Front Seats 8 -way power driver seat8 -way power passenger seatBucket front seatsHeight adjustable driver seatHeight adjustable passenger seatLeatherDriver seat with power adjustable lumbar supportPassenger seat with power adjustable lumbar support Rear Seats Rear ventilation ducts with fan controlSplit-folding rear seatback Power Features 2 one-touch power windowsRemote keyless power door locksHeated mirrorsPower mirrorsReverse tilt passenger mirror provides curb view when vehicle in reverse Instrumentation ClockCompassExternal temperature displayLow fuel level warningTachometerTrip computer Convenience Cruise controlFront and rear cupholdersFront door pocketsFront seatback storageOverhead console with storagePower steeringRetained accessory powerTilt-adjustable steering wheelUniversal remote transmitter (for garage door, security system, etc.)12V rear power outlet(s)Audio controls on steering wheel Comfort Cargo area lightElectrochromatic inside rearview mirrorFront and rear reading lightsLeather steering wheelSimulated wood trim on center consoleSimulated wood trim on dashSimulated wood trim on doorsTurn signal in mirrorsClimate controlDual illuminating vanity mirrorsRear floor mats Memorized settings Memorized settings for 2 drivers In Car Entertainment 6 total speakersBose premium brand speakersMast antennaRadio data systemSatellite radio satellite radioSeparate rear audioSpeed sensitive volume controlAM/FM stereo EXTERIOR FEATURES Roof and Glass Intermittent rear wiperPrivacy glassRear defoggerRoof rackVariable intermittent wipers Truck Features Auxiliary transmission fluid cooler Tires and Wheels Alloy wheelsFullsize matching spare tireUnderbody mounted spare tire17 x 7.0 in. wheelsAll season tiresP245/65R17 tiresSteel spare wheel Doors Manual flip-up lifgate windowRear liftgate door Towing and Hauling Cargo tie downsTrailer hitchTrailer wiring SAFETY FEATURES Safety 2 front headrests2 rear headrestsAuto delay off headlampsChild seat anchorsCornering lightsDaytime running lightsDusk sensing headlampsElectronic brakeforce distributionEngine immobilizerFront fog/driving lightsPost-collision safety systemRemote anti-theft alarm systemTraction control4-wheel ABSFront and rear ventilated disc brakesRear center 3-point beltRear door child safety locksRear height adjustable headrestsTurn signal mirrors


Don't buy this truck!

Bought used 2 years ago first month ok,then after prev owner had, I called it quits replaced almost everything, power steering and air conditioning needed to b replaced, the engine light came on and a bunch of other things failed. When the transmission started to slip and ultimately would refuse to work at all, I called it quits. I had already spent 2 times more than I did for the truck. I came to find out that the manufacturer, Buick, knew all about these problems and instead of recalling the parts they slithered out of responsibility by issuing Technical Alerts rather than Recalls. Today it is being Junked for $200 dollars, a far cry from it's cost of $5,700. Today I am car or rather truck less for a very, very, very, very long time.

See all 23 consumer reviews


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Buick
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/up to 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12,000 miles bumper-to-bumper original warranty, then may continue to 6 years/100,000 miles limited (depending on variables)
6 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
172-point inspection
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

See all 2004 Buick Rainier articles