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2002 Buick Rendezvous Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $30,000 to $35,000 Sport Utility Vehicle
Who should buy this car: A family looking for a comfortable car-based SUV with room for seven.
Comparable models in this class: Acura MDX, Lexus RX 300, Mercury Mountaineer, Mitsubishi Montero Sport, Oldsmobile Bravada, Pontiac Aztek, Toyota Highlander

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.

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Specifications 

Engine Type 3.4L Overhead Valve V6, 2 valves per cylinder
Horsepower 185 @ 5200 RPM
Torque 210 @ 4000 RPM
Fuel Recommended Regular 87 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission & Drivetrain Hydra-matic 4T65-E electronically controlled 4-speed automatic
Full-time all-wheel-drive
Tires - Standard P215/70SR16 all season tires
Overall Length 186.5"
Wheelbase 112.2
Width 73.6"
Turning Diameter 37.4 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 4250
Fuel Tank 18.0 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 18 , hwy 24. 
Acceleration 0 to 60 10.8 Seconds
As-Tested Sticker Price $34,042 

2002 Buick Rendezvous CXL

Standard Equipment

  • Full time 4WD
  • Four-wheel independent suspension
  • 6-way power driver and passenger seats with adjustable lumbar support
  • Brakes, Power Four-Wheel Disc with Anti-Lock
  • Dual Zone Climate Control, Electronic for driver and front passenger
  • Micron air filtration
  • Leather Seating Areas
  • OnStar System
  • 2 in front, 2 in second row, 2 in third row
  • Privacy glass
  • AM/FM stereo with seek and scan, digital clock, CD with cassette, equalizer and 8 speakers
  • Steering Wheel with Fingertip Controls
  • Wheels, Cast Aluminum
  • Driver and front passenger seat mounted side-impact

Major Available Options

  • CDX AM/FM receiver with in-dash 6 disc CD changer and equalizer; with 8 speakers
  • Rear seat audio controls and headphone jacks
  • Six passenger seating- includes front bucket seats, second-row Captain's Chairs and third-row seats with storage
  • Seven passenger seating- includes front bucket seats, second row 50/50 split rear seats, and third-row seats w/storage
  • Sunroof with console
  • P215/70R16 steel-belted, radial-ply, all season blackwall touring tires
  • 16 inch Eight-spoke chromed aluminum wheels
  • Trailer Towing Package, includes a larger radiator and alternator, transmission fluid and engine oil cooler, and load-leveling (permits towing loads of up to 3,500 lbs.)

For more information on the Rendezvous, visit Buick.com

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