Launched by Buick in 2004 the Rainier was a capable mid-size luxury SUV with an impressive V8 engine. Designed as a replacement for the Oldsmobile Bravado, and sharing many of the same body styling, the popular Rainier came in a variety of options that included the AWD CXL, the AWD CXL Plus, the RWD CXL and the RWD CXL Plus. Both rear and optional all-wheel drive models were available, and its standard SUV size was quite unusual from a Buick. Though it proved popular during its short production span, customer's main complaint stemmed from its lack of fuel efficiency at 16/22 mpg for the standard I6 engine. A decent alternative to the Bravado, the Rainier also fell short in safety ratings.
The first SUV sold under the Buick marque, the Rainier was the first body-on-frame V8 powered Buick and the first rear-wheel drive Buick since the 1996 Roadmaster. Powered by a 4.2-liter engine, all trim levels pumped out 275 horsepower. The SUV was only available in a 5-passenger capacity, but was one of only four GMT360 SUVs to offer a V8 engine in the configuration. The other three models sharing this configuration were the Chevrolet Trailblazer LT and SS, the Saab 9-7X 5.3i and the GMC Envoy Denali.
The Rainier had a new front fascia that looked very similar to other Buick models of the time. Introduced with plenty of basic options, the Rainier came with alloy wheels, leather upholstery, dual zone climate control, Onstar, ABS brakes and a load-leveling rear suspension system. The upscale CXL trim featured XM Satellite Radio, leather upholstery, a rear seat entertainment system and a better Bose stereo. One of the major perks of the Rainier was in its powerful engine. Big for a standard truck-sized SUV, the 4,400-pound Rainer could tow up to 5,800 pounds standard.
The following year was mostly a carryover from 2004 and included seating for five. The CXL model came with the standard 3.4-liter V6 engine producing 270 horsepower, while the CXL featured 300 horsepower from a 5.3-liter V8 engine. Both were available in either two or four-wheel-drive configuration and were linked to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The 2006 CXL model featured an upgraded 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine with 291 horsepower and variable-valve-timing (VVT). Optional this year a 5.3-liter V8 engine that pumped 300 horsepower out. Both of these engines were linked to a four-speed automatic transmission. QuietTuning sound insulation was debuted by Buick on the Rainier and featured triple door seals, thicker sound-absorbing pads along the hood and firewall and acoustic laminate glass.
The final production year for the Rainier featured an upgraded 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine with variable-valve-timing that upgraded the horsepower to 291. The optional 5.3-liter V8 engine returned, once again producing 300 hp. 2007 brought with it standard StabiliTrak, standard rear air suspension, Heads-Up Display; which projected speed and other info onto a screen in the windshield, and OnStar directions and connections. Buick replaced the Rainier, (along with the Rendezvous crossover and Terraza minivan) with the 2008 Enclave. This would be the end for a rear-wheel drive Buick once again. Total production numbers for 2003 were 4,797, 24,134 for 2004, and 15,271 in 2005.
Unfortunately the Envoy wouldn't last long, as the Moraine plant closed, and the final Envoy rolled off the production line on December 23, 2008.
More than 258,000 U.S. and Canadian SUVs were recalled by GM and Isuzu to fix fire causing short-circuits in power windows and door lock switches. This recall includes 2006 and 2007 model year Rainiers that were sold in U.S. states, and Canada, where road-clearing chemicals were used in the winter months. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson