2007 Buick Rendezvous

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2002 Buick Rendezvous

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Good first effort for Buick in the sport-utility field.
Pros:
  • Versatile
  • Smooth ride
  • Folding third-row seat
Cons:
  • Average engine
  • Third seat leaves scant cargo room
  • Mediocre styling

The Rendezvous sport-utility vehicle is Buick's first truck since 1923, although a truck was a truck then—and nothing else. In contrast, the Rendezvous is such a car-like, smooth-riding vehicle that it's easy to close your eyes and imagine you're in a big, old Buick Roadmaster sedan. [Don't close your eyes while you're driving!-Ed.]

However, the car-like Rendezvous combines the image and features of a sport utility with minivan practicality. Like the similar Pontiac Aztek sport ute, the Rendezvous is derived from General Motors' front-drive minivans such as the Chevrolet Venture. But it has a longer wheelbase and body than the Aztek to allow an optional third-row seat, which is becoming a "must-have" item for a growing number of sport-utility buyers.

Blah Styling
The Aztek has controversial styling, but Rendezvous styling isn't likely to draw comments one way or the other. It has Buick's toothy grille, but isn't as smoothly styled as Buick autos.

The Rendezvous comes as the entry front-drive CX, which has a $24,924 base price, while the CX with the cleverly engineered Versatrak all-wheel-drive system costs $27,452. The top-line CXL trim comes standard with the fully automatic Versatrak and costs $31,097. However, options such as the $750 third-row bench seat can cause the price to soar.

Well Equipped
However, even the front-drive CX is well equipped. Standard safety items include anti-lock brakes and front-seat side airbags. Too bad a tire-inflation monitor costs extra, because studies show many motorists don't check tire pressures.

Also optional is a handy rear obstacle detection feature to warn of such things as bicycles located directly behind the Rendezvous when it's in reverse gear. Huge side mirrors help provide good rearward visibility on roads, but not in other situations.

Easy Boarding
The Rendezvous stands tall, but fairly low doorsills allow easy boarding. The quiet interior has comfortable front bucket seats and offers seating for up to seven occupants with second- and third-row bench seats. A pair of second-row buckets are available.

There's only room for a small amount of cargo with the two-passenger third-row seat in its normal position. But that seat easily folds flush into the rear floor to allow a large cargo area, thanks partly to room allowed by the sophisticated independent rear suspension. Second-row seats can be removed for even more cargo space.

The cargo opening is low and wide. But extra effort is needed to close the big hatch because it has high-pressure struts—although an interior handle slot helps here.

Visibility to the front and sides is good, thanks to a huge windshield and high seating. While there's good room in the front, second-row seats must be shoved fully back to allow decent legroom for tall folks. And doing that robs tall third-row occupants of comfortable knee room.

Versatrak Operation
Traction control is optional with the front-drive setup. Versatrak uses front-wheel drive under normal conditions and automatically adds torque to the rear wheels on slippery roads. The system doesn't have low-range gearing for rugged off-road use because the Rendezvous is primarily an on-road vehicle.

But that's not to say you couldn't use Versatrak on slippery trails to help you reach your favorite fishing hole in the woods. The Rendezvous' seven inches of ground clearance is enough to comfortably allow such off-pavement jaunts.

Occasional Bouncy Ride
The independent rear suspension allows the Rendezvous to have pretty good handling and nearly the ride of a luxury car. However, the soft suspension sometimes causes the ride to become bouncy.

The rather heavy power steering lacks road feel, but is quick enough. The brake pedal has a reassuring feel, and stopping distances are short.

Motivation comes from GM's proven 3.4-liter pushrod 185-horsepower V6, which is paired with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is decent at an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 26 on highways with front-drive, and 18 and 24 with Versatrak. Only regular-grade fuel is required.

More Power Needed
Acceleration is decent with just two occupants aboard, but the engine sounds strained during hard acceleration.

The need for a larger engine with more power and torque is clear when there are more than two occupants and/or a heavy load of cargo—or when driving in hilly country. After all, the Rendezvous has a hefty base curb weight of 4,024 pounds.

The Rendezvous has an old-style 204-cubic-inch pushrod engine. Even the much lighter Ford Mustang had a larger 260-cubic-inch pushrod V-8 when introduced in early 1964.

However, once up to a steady speed, the Rendezvous is a decent long-distance cruiser. Buzz along at 75 mph and you'll only see 2,200 rpm registered on the tachometer.

As for Rendezvous instrumentation, its black-on-silver gauges are hard to read because they're more stylish than practical; the turquoise needles look neat, but markings are too small. Also, some interior materials are cheap.

Controls for the sound system are easily reached, but operation of the climate control system can be confusing. Front cupholders look capable of handling large beverage containers. A front console lid can swallow a full-size laptop computer and has a special area for a purse. But rear windows don't lower all the way.

Open the Rendezvous hood and you'll see extra bracing that helps provide a solid feel. The hood rises easily on hydraulic struts and the engine compartment's fluid filler areas are easily reached.

Buick is hoping the Rendezvous will help attract younger buyers. It's no Lexus RX 300, but costs less.

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BB04 - 7/30/2014 12:29:27 AM