- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

Buick says its all-new Rendezvous is a vehicle that goes beyond the ordinary. And, it does.
Especially when you consider the image that this General Motors division has sought to portray with its fleet of safe and secure cars, often designed with older buyers in mind.
Well, keep safety and security, add surprising functionality and power for the pack of younger buyers or premium contemporary families as Buick describes them that are looking for an on-road versatile vehicle that can be personalized for different lifestyles.
Rendezvous is not meant for the backcountry and, yet, it has many of the advantages of today's sport utility vehicles high-seat driving position, innovative passenger and cargo-carrying capabilities, and it comes in an all-wheel-drive version to improve handling in slick conditions.
Some may remember a time when Buick made trucks a few of them at least the last being 1923's Special Delivery. Now, nearly eight decades later, Rendezvous is the brand's first SUV and as Buick General Manager Roger Adams says, it's an important new direction for Buick.
Certainly so. That's because Rendezvous is not simply an entry into a new segment for Buick, it is also a front-runner in the new breed of crossover sport utility vehicles. Although classified as light trucks by the federal government, these utes emphasize comfort and versatility over toughness, often sharing parts and construction with conventional passenger cars.
In the case of Rendezvous itself a much more conservatively dressed Pontiac Aztek, the starting point was GM's Venture/ Silhouette/Montana minivan chassis.
By looking at it, though, you'd hardly know that the Rendezvous has a minivan in the family. It doesn't have sliding doors, of course, and it sits higher off the ground yet not high enough to make a climbing exercise out of entry and exit. There's also a healthy dash of what Buick calls refined ruggedness, which consists stylistically of an enlarged oval grille, oversized exterior lighting, hefty bumpers, cladding, trim, and 16-inch wheels.
Buick touts the versatility and elegance of Rendezvous' interior. Most noteworthy is the optional third-row seat, which gives this crossover vehicle seven-passenger capacity (although concededly tight). If you remove the second-row seating and pull the lever that allows the third row to fold flush into the floor, it can also carry up to 109 cubic feet of gear, and it can be equipped to tow 3,500 pounds.
But this is no bare-bones cargo hauler. The instrument panel is detailed with the unique look of precious stones in polished metal, with needles and numbers set in a silver face to resemble expensive jewelry. There are also metallic accents that carry the theme throughout the interior.
Both CX and CXL trim levels use a two-tone theme with front bucket seats. In the second row, there's a choice between a split bench and a pair of captain's chairs, and second-row footrests are optional. The center console runs from the dashboard to the rear of the front seats and provides a lockable compartment for a large purse as well as a place to stash and charge a cell phone.
Buick offers a choice of four audio entertainment systems from AM-FM cassette to a premium six-CD unit that has optional controls and headsets for rear-seat passengers. OnStar, GM's integrated communications and information system, is a factory- installed option, and three different climate control systems are available.
Rendezvous is one of the first General Motors vehicles to showcase a new Heads-Up Display (HUD) driver information system designed to limit the number of distractions from the road ahead. Not only is the image projected on the windshield significantly brighter than on previous versions, but the driver can choose to display more information than just speed, including things like radio station frequency, a low-fuel warning, turn-signal operation, and high-beam indication.
Safety features of the new Buick SUV include three-point belts for every seating position as well as front air bags with dual-inflation-rate technology that tailors the air-bag deployment speed to the severity of the crash and the seating position of the front-seat occupants. Side air bags for front seats are standard, as are anti-lock brakes, a tire-pressure monitor, and an anti-theft security system. Ultrasonic parking assist and obstacle detection for the rear of the vehicle, as well as an ultrasonic interior intrusion alarm, are optional.
The 3.4-liter V-6 that powers the Rendezvous it produces 185 horsepower and 210 foot-pounds of torque is mated with an electronically controlled four-speed automatic and delivers smooth acceleration and respectable fuel economy; Buick claims the front-wheel-drive version achieves 19/26 mpg rating for city/highway mileage. Versatrak all-wheel drive is standard on the CXL and optional on the front-wheel-drive CX, giving drivers on-demand power to the rear wheels when needed. There are no levers or buttons to operate. Fuel economy dips to 18/24 mpg city/highway on the Versatrak-equipped Rendezvous.
Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion, and the suspension is independent at all four wheels. An auto-leveling air suspension for the rear axle is optional.
The Rendezvous is easy to get in and out of, it's interior is comfortable and upscale, gauges and dials are easy to read and convenient, and visibility is excellent. Of note is this Buick's tight steering, comfortable but not wallowy-ride feel and strong brakes. While its engine does not provide neck-snapping acceleration, there was ample power to navigate and plenty of torque available for passing, even on hills.
Wanting to appeal to younger buyers with active lifestyles, Rendezvous will come with personalized accessories that include a high-mounted bike rack; high-mounted ski rack; kayak carrier and a soft cargo carrier. An Adventure Cargo Carrier Package provides 14 cubic feet of lockable storage and is available in two finishes; black textured or graphite smooth.

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