It's amazing what a littledesign can do for a vehicle. The Buick Rendezvous is essentially the identicalvehicle to the Pontiac Aztek. But what adifference. First of all, the Rendezvous looks like a Buick, with the familyoval waterfall grille and smooth flanks. Therefore, you aren't ashamed to beseen in it.
The Rendezvous has all the great attributes of the Aztek, but it just looksbetter. And, to be fair, it has more of a Buick "ride" than theAztek's Pontiac-inspired ride.
Rendezvousis powered by a 3.4-liter V-6 that's rated at 185 horsepower. It drives thewheels through a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. It's theoverdrive that helped us achieve 17.0 mpg in our test. The Rendezvous is ratedat 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway. Our test took the vehicle over an assortment ofroads, with our primary focus on Interstates and small roads.
Rendezvous is also equipped with GM's Versatrak all-wheel drive system. WithVersatrak, you don't have to worry about switching from front-wheel drive toall-wheel drive, the vehicle does it by itself. As soon as wheel slippage isdetected, Versatrak shifts the power to the wheels that have traction and awayfrom those that don't.
The Rendezvous also has a couple of features that impressed me. One is called"rear parking aid." I like to back into my driveway, but I'm alwaysafraid I'm going to misjudge the distance and bump into my garage door (the onlytime I did hit the door was when I drove in nose first, though). With the rearparking aid, you get a "beep" and warning lights when you're withinabout five feet of whatever is behind you. When you get daring and move closer,the beep gets more persistent. There are four sensors that detect obstacles teninches or taller.
Rendezvous also uses a heads-up display to advise the driver of speed, turnsignals, high beams and low fuel. The display is projected on the windshield andseems to "float" a couple of feet in front of the car. Thismakes it easy to see without having to re-focus your eyes from the road. Whenyou drive a car with a heads up display, you miss it when the next car doesn'thave it. To me that shows the value of the feature.
We had to use the Rendezvous as a truck. Actually the "assignment"was to move a motorcycle. The entry height with the rear hatch lifted isslightly more than 36 inches. The absolute rear deck can't be removed, but thesecond bank of seats is removable, as is the bench in the third bank. We optednot to try to put the bike in there, but I think it might have fit with theseats removed.
Speakingof seats, Rendezvous will carry seven passengers, with two buckets in front andin the second row and a bench in back. This leaves less carrying capacity behindthe rear seat (18.1 cubic feet nominal), but it does permit you to carry morepeople. If you're into cargo carrying instead, you can remove the second row ofseats and fold the third row for 108.9 cubic feet. Or, you can just fold thethird row for 54.5 cubic feet. That, as readers of my previous articles mightnote, is room enough for four golf bags with enough comfortable seating capacityfor the foursome.
We found the seats to be comfortable and offer good back support. Since theywere power adjustable, we could play with the switches to find an idealcombination of back angle and seat height. With the memory function, each drivercould set it the way they wanted, including the mirrors, then press just onebutton to bring it all back after that 6'4" parking lot attendant handedyou back your keys.
Rendezvous will also tow 3500 pounds with the optional trailer towing packagethat includes a larger radiator and alternator, transmission fluid and engine oil cooler, and load-levelingrear shocks
Base price of the Rendezvous is $27,452. Our tester had the CXL luxurypackage added, which boosted the sticker price by $5,015. In this package youget six-way power front seats with memory for the driver, dual electric controlHVAC system so you don't have to fight with the passenger over the temperature,an overhead console, leather seating surfaces with footrests for the second-rowpassengers (an admitted luxury), OnStar, rear parking aid, heads up display,AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and CD changer, and a luggage rack. The thirdrow seats cost an additional $750.Destination charges add $575 for a finalbottom line of $34,042.
I liked the Aztek when it came out. One advantage to driving that vehicle isthat you're inside and don't have to look at it from the outside. With theRendezvous, that problem is solved. You don't have to sneak up to the vehicle,afraid to admit that it's yours. Rendezvous has all the neat features of Aztek,including the ability to make the rear a tent and sleep in the back if youwant.
If Buick insists on joining the SUV or truck market, it couldn't have pickeda better design.