What's New for 2002
Who woulda thought -- a Buick SUV? More accurately, the Rendezvous is one of a new breed of crossover vehicles that combines the look and utility of an SUV with the comfort of a touring car. The Rendezvous is based on the Pontiac Aztek, itself based on GM's minivan family consisting of the Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Montana and Oldsmobile Silhouette.
Jumping into the SUV fray with its sights trained squarely on the Lexus RX 300 and the new Acura MDX, Buick hopes the Rendezvous' combination of style, luxury, room and a much lower sticker price than its competition will translate into a fair share of this increasingly-popular market.
Available in either front- or all-wheel drive, the Buick 'ute is propelled by GM's workhorse 3.4-liter V6. Output figures of 185 horsepower and 210 foot-pounds of torque are respectable, but considerably less than its rivals. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission available. Fuel mileage is rated at 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway (for front-drivers) and 17/22 for all-wheel-drivers. An independent rear suspension promises a smooth ride along with agile handling and four-wheel disc brakes with antilock technology are at the ready to arrest the momentum of the two-ton SUV.
Two trim levels of the Rendezvous are offered: the base CX and the up-level CXL. The CX can be had in either front- or all-wheel-drive, whereas the CXL comes only with all-wheel drive. Front-drive Rendezvous can be had with full-range (all-speed) traction control. All-wheel-drive models have GM's Versatrak system that operates in a front-drive mode except when slippage is detected, in which case, power is automatically sent to the rear wheels.
Rendezvous has a plush interior with front bucket seats separated by a center console (with a bin large enough to hold a laptop computer), power windows/locks/mirrors, stereo with cassette and air conditioning. Of course, there are luxury options galore such as leather seating, sonar parking assist and even rear footrests for second-row passengers. A new version of GM's head-up display is also available and shows vehicle speed, turn signal status, high-beam indicator and stereo information displayed seemingly outside the vehicle, just above the hoodline. Although GM's OnStar system is available, a navigation system is not. Oh well, you can always ask the OnStar advisor for directions.
Safety is seen to with standard features including four airbags up front. The front bags incorporate dual-mode deployment that varies the speed of deployment according to road speed and seat position. The side airbag system uses a larger, second-generation bag on the driver side that protects both the head and torso while the right-side bag is a smaller design, since that seat could potentially be occupied by a small child.
When it's time to work, Rendezvous is ready with up to 108.9 cubic feet of cargo volume and a 3,500-pound towing capacity.
Buick's first volley into the SUV crossover market appears to be well-thought-out and by offering uncommon features at an attractive price point, may not seem to be the anomaly some initially thought it to be.