What's New for 2006
The Buick Rendezvous has a few equipment changes for 2006. For instance, OnStar, an alarm system and rear parking assist are now standard across the board, and all Rendezvous trim levels now benefit from the sound-reducing QuietTuning initiative. Additionally, last year's base engine has been replaced with a more powerful 201-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6. Buick has also dropped the Ultra trim, which leaves the CXL with the Plus package as the top-line model for 2006.
An early Buick advertising campaign for the Rendezvous featured an image of different types of vehicles (an SUV, a luxury car and a minivan) driving into a spooky castle. A bolt of lightning hits, and out comes the Buick Rendezvous. An obvious reference to Frankenstein signals that Buick has taken different aspects of these vehicles and made it into one.
Beyond the hype, you'll find the Rendezvous to be a capable vehicle and people mover; its problem lies in the fact that it doesn't excel in any one area or another. It holds seven, but many minivans and other SUVs do that as well. It has a nice interior, but only the top level trim could be considered on par with its competitors. It has the security of all-wheel drive, but so do many other minivans and SUVs. Unlike other multipurpose vehicles, which offer light off-roading ability, the Buick Rendezvous can't take on anything more challenging than a gravel driveway.
The Rendezvous does have a large cargo area when the seats aren't in use, but it's still less spacious than what a minivan would offer. In short, the Buick SUV offers a little of everything but not enough of any one aspect in particular for us to recommend it over other vehicles in the class. What it's left with is its price: The 2006 Buick Rendezvous comes in at a couple of thousand dollars under comparably equipped competitors, so if you can live with some of its shortcomings, it may provide the combination of utility and comfort you're looking for at a reasonable price.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Buick Rendezvous comes in one basic trim level: CX, which is available with various packages. All Rendezvous models include the basics and then some, such as power windows, mirrors and locks; air conditioning; automatic headlights; a CD player; lumbar support for the driver and front passenger; rear parking sensors; OnStar; and a split-folding bench seat in the second row. Various package upgrades include leather upholstery, power seats and automatic climate control. Other options include a third-row seat, satellite radio, DVD-based entertainment and touchscreen navigation systems.
Powertrains and Performance
The base engine is a 3.5-liter V6. Output figures of 201 horsepower and 216 pound-feet of torque (196 hp and 213 lb-ft on all-wheel-drive models). These figures are respectable, but still less than what rivals offer. An upgraded 3.6-liter V6 is optional. It produces a more competitive 242 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission available. Front-wheel drive is standard, while an all-wheel-drive system is optional.
Antilock brakes, traction control and side airbags for front occupants are optional on the CX 2WD and standard on the CX AWD and CXL. The Buick Rendezvous received an "Acceptable" rating (second highest) in 40-mph frontal offset crash testing conducted by the IIHS, and a perfect five-star rating in side-impact crash tests conducted by the NHTSA. In frontal-impact tests, it earned three stars for protection of the driver and four stars for the front passenger.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Buick Rendezvous offers an expansive cabin and serious cargo capacity. The interior design aims for an elegant, upscale look, and, to a certain degree, it succeeds. Materials quality is better than in most GM products and storage space up front is best in class. When it's time to work, this Buick SUV is ready with up to 109 cubic feet of cargo volume and a 3,500-pound maximum towing capacity.
Although the Rendezvous' standard V6 engine manages to move the sport-ute with ease around town, acceleration at higher speeds could best be described as leisurely. The more powerful 3.6-liter V6 provides the kind of power you would expect from a vehicle in this category, as it's able to pass effortlessly at any speed. Highway cruising yields a comfortable ride quality without the typical "float" associated with some Buick sedans. Push the Buick Rendezvous a little bit harder, however, and the physics of its tall, narrow body take over, resulting in considerably more body roll in corners. The all-wheel-drive system works well and is recommended for those living in areas with frequent wet weather.