Buick's initial attempt into the SUV market, the Rendezvous was debuted in 2002. More like a crossover SUV, the Rendezvous merges elements from Buick's luxury sedan with the same amount of storage capacity as a minivan, but retaining the sportiness of an SUV. Much more family-oriented and luxurious, the Rendezvous provided a ton of storage compartments, power outlets, plenty of standard convenient features, and a low step-in height, all at a much lower price than most of its competitors.
The Buick Rendezvous was originally offered in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive in base and luxury trims along with two V6 engine options that were rated at either 196-hp or 242-hp. In 2007 both the all-wheel drive and the stronger engine were dropped. Appealing to parent drivers the Rendezvous handled more like a car, but it didn't skimp on the passenger and storage options. A third row bench was optional, but the Rendezvous was standard with two rows of seats for five. Seats in the vehicle can be removed or folded down to increase the cargo capacity. In comparison to an otherwise standard SUV shape the Rendezvous featured a sloping rear roof line added a distinctive styling.
Though Buick brand wasn't exactly known for being a trendsetter, the sales of the Rendezvous helped reinvigorate the company with its blend of SUV height and versatility along with the luxury comfort and ride quality of a sturdy sedan. The Rendezvous helped spawn the mid-size truck-based Rainier the previous year. At its debut for the 2002 model year, the Rendezvous was promoted as a cross between an SUV, a luxury sedan and a minivan. Buick unfortunately never came close to perfecting the combination in the Rendezvous. The problem was that the car didn't come close to offering the level of interior design and ‘driving excitement' that the luxury car buyers were typically looking for.
Though it came in five, six and seven passenger seating configurations, the Rendezvous was considered too small to appeal to minivan buyers. A less costly alternative to true SUVs, an optional all-wheel-drive system was provided for drivers looking for a snow vehicle, but despite this, the Rendezvous wasn't particularly ‘rugged'.
Typically offered in two basic trim levels, the CX and CXL the Rendezvous was also offered in a high-line Ultra model in 2004 and 2005. Considered by Buick to be a premium crossover, even the base CX trim came with some notable standard features that included keyless entry, air-conditioning, CD player and power accessories. The CX came with a five-passenger seating arrangement.
Depending on the model year, buyers could choose a third-row seat on the CXL as a standard or optional feature. The trim level also got you leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, power front seats, alloy wheels and wood-tone cabin trim.. The Ultra model featured a more powerful engine along with second-row captains chairs, a head-up display and satellite radio. Once the Ultra was discontinued these items were moved to the CXL's options list.
Unfortunately when it came to higher-end amenities, Buick fell short from its competitors. Main safety features like front-seat airbags and ABS were moved to the options list after the 2002 model year and features like side curtain airbags and stability control were never available. Beginning in 2004 Buick did offer a DVD-based navigation system and rear DVD entertainment system beginning in 2003 as optional. Though it wasn't quite up to par with import-brand standards, the interior design and materials on the Rendezvous were better than most GM offerings at the time. The vehicle was one of the roomier crossover SUVs available on the market with lots of passenger room in the front and rear. The cargo room was quite substantial though the packaging of the third-tow seat made for an uneven load floor.
The Rendezvous featured three different engines, all mated with a four-speed automatic transmission. The only engine choice 2002 and 2003 models was a 3.4-liter V6 with 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. In 2004 and 2005 buyers could choose this engine or on the Ultra model a more sophisticated 3.6-liter DOHC V6 which was good for 245 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. Buick replaced the previous 3.4-lite engine with a more efficient 3.5-liter V6 rated at 201 hp and 21 lb-ft of torque. It wasn't considered to be a very refined engine for this class, but the acceleration (which some had dubbed ‘sluggish') was improved. For 2006 the 3.6-liter V6 remained optional but was discontinued at the end of the model year.
All 2002 Rendezvous models offered all-wheel drive, but it was strangle discontinued completely for 2007, which made the Rendezvous the only crossover SUV not to offer any kind of all-weather capability.
Instead of updating the Rendezvous, Buick chose to halt production halfway through the 2007 model year. The Rendezvous was an affordable, practical choice for a family vehicle, primarily on the used car market, as long as consumers were aware of the vehicle's faults. Consumer reviews of the Rendezvous were mostly favorable due to the combination of interior space, fuel economy, overall value and ride comfort. Though sales helped reinvigorate the company, Buick replaced its total SUV lineup, including the Rendezvous, with the 2008 Enclave.By Jessica Donaldson