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2004 Buick Rendezvous CXL Review

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MODEL: 2004 Buick Rendezvous CXL

ENGINE: 3.4-liter V6

HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 185 hp @ 5,200 rpm/210 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic

WHEELBASE: 112.2 in.

LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 186.5 x 73.6 x 68.9 in.


I like it when a car I drive surprises me. The last car I expected to surprise me, though, was the Buick Rendezvous.

I've driven the Rendezvous before and always liked it. The vehicle has the same versatility as the Pontiac Aztek, but looks a whole lot better. And when you're my age, driving something that looks as different as the Aztek isn't appealing, although from the inside it doesn't look bad.

Anyway, back to the Buick. I was chugging along on about the second day of my drive when I said to myself, "Self, this 3.8-liter engine that Buick has is really great on power. I wonder if it's the supercharged version." And my self said back to me, "Why don't you look on the sticker and find out idiot!" (My self is a very nasty person.)

So I looked at the sticker and discovered to my surprise that the engine was not the trusty 3.8-liter, but the newer 3.4-liter V6, and it wasn't supercharged. Yet there was plenty of power (185 horsepower) to move the 4,024-pound Rendezvous along at a decent clip with good acceleration and good low-end torque.

We drove the Rendezvous on one long trip to see the grandchildren. As is our habit, we loaded the back end with everything that would fit there. And a lot fits there. Buick says the cargo volume behind the third seat is a healthy 18.1 cubic feet, but that's never enough for us. Behind the second seat there are 54.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and that's more like it. If we had wanted to remove the second row seats and fold the third-row seats there would have been 108.9 cubic feet, but we didn't need that much. Now we're talking about van size.

So the Rendezvous is full of surprises, not the least of which was the engine.

Another surprise reminded me of my old full-size van days. I loved the big mirrors in that van because it gave me a good view of what was behind me and next to me on the highway. The Rendezvous has what seem to be enormous mirrors. They are larger than you'd get on a sedan, for example, but in square inches they aren't that big, but the view those mirrors give you is fabulous. It made me as interested in seeing where we had been as I was interested in seeing where we were going.

I didn't like the instrument panel on the Rendezvous, and here was a bad surprise. The instruments were hard to read in daylight or when illuminated at night. They were too busy and the gray and green coloring wasn't conducive to easy reading.

But the turn signal had an annoying reminder when you left it on too long, and that was, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.

The cupholders were more disappointing news. They didn't accommodate large cups, nor did they hold the large water bottles I usually carry with me. With all the technology going into cupholder design, it's a shame nobody has come up with one that truly handles big cups and small cups well.

This was the first real opportunity I had to test XM Satellite radio, and I loved it. Each day I would choose a different station that offered something we don't get in our local area; Broadway tunes, 24-hour classical with good reception, etc. My son-in-law has XM in his company car and has a converter to bring it into the house and it's great at their house. I also liked it in the Rendezvous and am looking for a way to get the service. It's that good.

While the seating position is high in the Rendezvous, the ride quality is good. The seats are comfortable and the steering wheel has enough adjustment to make it comfortable to use.

Our tester had a $35,150 bottom line from a base price of $28,795. Among the $5,705 in options (destination was $650) were the CXL AWD package ($3,530) that included a tire inflation monitor, aluminum 16-inch wheels, driver information center, AM/FM/CD/cassette sound system, OnStar power driver's seat, leather appointed seats, and dual zone climate control). The DVD entertainment center was another $1,100, while styled chrome wheels were $720. XM Satellite Radio was $325, and a rear cargo cover was another $30.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate