2004 Buick Rainier
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The large—and occasionally sporty—full-size Buick rear-wheel-drive sedans mainly built from the 1950s to the 1970s were loved by many older motorists for their comfort, roominess, and performance.
The last such sedan was the 1996 Buick Roadmaster, but the automaker's new 2004 Rainier effectively replaces that model even though it's a sport-utility vehicle.
The 2004 Rainier probably would be appreciated by Harley Earl, the flashy, legendary 1920s-1950s head stylist for General Motors, who is portrayed in Buick television commercials.
Buick hasn't offered inline 6-cylinder engines since 1930. Inline 8-cylinder engines replaced them the following year, and Buick V8s took over in 1953. However, the Rainier's 4.2-liter 6-cylinder engine has a BMW-style design and delivers good acceleration, although the 5.3-liter V8 provides more muscle for merging and passing, along with greater towing abilities.
Buick expects 30 percent of Rainier buyers to get the V8, which offers good towing capability (up to 6,700 pounds) to Buick's line for the first time since the 1996 Roadmaster.
Shares Basic Design
The Rainier is the only GM midsize sport-utility in the TrailBlazer, Envoy and Bravada group offered with a V8 in regular-length trim. The TrailBlazer and Envoy can be had with the V8, but only in extended-length form.
No Third Seat
Getting in the Rainier calls for only a little extra effort, and occupants sit high. The entire split rear seat easily folds forward to enlarge the already-generous cargo area.
The Rainier has Buick's large, ovoid "waterfall" grille. It also has a very quiet interior, thanks to additional sound-deadening materials in the engine compartment, doors and body—besides laminated glass in the windshield and front doors.
Options include heated front seats, adjustable pedals, satellite radio, navigation system and rear-seat DVD entertainment system. You can get front-seat side airbags, but no side-curtain airbags are offered.
Giving the Rainier a sporty look is an impressive array of gauges that look as they belong in a sportier vehicle. They have silver faces and green needles and thus look as if from a glamorous 1950s Buick auto show concept car created by Earl, who was very fond of Buicks. GM's first concept car—designed by Earl—was based on a 1938 Buick Century.
Two Drive Systems
Both engines are hooked to a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission, which would be even more responsive and deliver better performance if it were a more modern 5-speed unit.
Low Fuel Economy
Buick has been producing cars for 100 years, so it may seem odd even in these truck-crazy times that it's selling the Rainier. It is the last GM vehicle division (besides Saab) to offer a truck-based sport ute with the Rainier.
Still, all things considered, the Rainier isn't all that different from those posh full-size Buick sedans.