Buick Rendezvous Review

Buick Rendezvous Review

At its debut for the 2002 model year, the Buick Rendezvous midsize crossover SUV was touted as a cross between a luxury sedan, an SUV and a minivan. But in reality, the Rendezvous didn't offer the level of interior design and driving excitement that luxury car buyers expected. And although Buick's crossover could seat up to seven and had the requisite fold-flat third-row seat, it was too small to appeal to minivan buyers, and it didn't have much of a styling advantage over them anyway.

An optional all-wheel-drive system made the Rendezvous a less costly alternative to true SUVs for buyers needing a snow vehicle, but otherwise this Buick wasn't particularly rugged. Over the years, the Rendezvous fell behind the rest of the crossover SUV crowd, which exploded into a very competitive market dominated by the leading import brands.

Rather than update the Rendezvous, Buick decided to halt production midway through the 2007 model year. For used car consumers who can accept the Rendezvous' faults, it could still prove to be an affordable, practical choice for a family vehicle. But we think the vast majority of shoppers would be better served by other, more refined crossovers, including Buick's own Enclave.

Most Recent Buick Rendezvous
Sold from 2002 through the first half of 2007, the Buick Rendezvous was typically offered in two basic trim levels, CX and CXL. There was also a high-line Rendezvous Ultra model in 2004 and '05. Since Buick considered the Rendezvous a premium crossover, even the base CX trim came with a decent list of standard features, including keyless entry, power accessories, air-conditioning and a CD player. The Rendezvous CX came with a five-passenger seating arrangement.

You could pick up a third-row seat on the CXL as a standard or optional feature, depending on the model year. This was also your ticket to leather upholstery, power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, wood-tone cabin trim and alloy wheels. In addition to a more powerful engine, the Ultra model came with second-row captain's chairs (dropping seating capacity to six), satellite radio and a head-up display. These items were moved to the CXL's options list when the Ultra was discontinued.

But Buick stopped short of its competitors when it came to high-end amenities. Key safety features like ABS and front-seat side airbags were moved to the options list after the '02 model year, and items like stability control and side curtain airbags were never available. Buick did at least offer a DVD-based navigation system (starting in 2004) and a rear DVD entertainment system (starting in 2003) as options.

Although the Rendezvous' interior design and materials were better than most General Motors fare of the time, it wasn't quite up to import-brand standards. It was, however, one of the roomier crossover SUVs on the market, with plenty of passenger room in the front and back. It wasn't quite a minivan substitute, though, as the third row was best left to the kids. Cargo room was generous, too (with a maximum capacity of 109 cubic feet), though Buick's packaging of the third-row seat made for an uneven load floor.

Three different engines were offered on the Buick Rendezvous, and all were paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. For 2002 and '03, the only choice was a 3.4-liter V6 with 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration was sluggish, but fuel economy was above average for this class. In 2004 and '05, you could get either this engine or, on the Ultra model, a more sophisticated 3.6-liter DOHC V6 good for 245 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. For 2006, Buick replaced the old 3.4-liter with a more vigorous 3.5-liter V6 rated at 201 hp and 216 lb-ft of torque. It still wasn't a very refined engine for this class, but acceleration was improved. The 3.6-liter V6 remained optional for '06, but was discontinued at the end of the model year.

All-wheel drive (AWD) was standard on all 2002 Rendezvous models, but lower-cost front-wheel-drive versions were added the following year. Oddly, AWD was discontinued altogether for 2007, making the Buick Rendezvous the only crossover SUV not to offer any kind of all-weather capability.

In road tests we found the Rendezvous similar to most other Buicks in its driving characteristics, which is to say it focused on comfort at the expense of road feel. The vehicle's handling was sloppy, with considerable body roll around most corners. Neither the 3.4-liter nor the 3.5-liter engine was particularly competitive when it came to response or refinement, and the four-speed automatic's wide gear ratios didn't take full advantage of the power reserves. Although Rendezvous models equipped with the 3.6-liter V6 still had this old-tech transmission, they felt much stronger during passing and merging maneuvers. The 3.6-liter's power delivery was smoother and quieter as well.

Consumer reviews of the Buick Rendezvous have generally been favorable, as owners are pleased with its combination of interior space, ride comfort, fuel economy and overall value. Resale value has never been a strong point for the Rendezvous, so if you're in need of an affordable family vehicle, it might be worth a look on the used car market. We'd advise you to zero in on 2004-'06 models equipped with the 3.6-liter V6.