- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Buick celebrates its 100th anniversary and adds a true sport utility vehicle to its nearly all-sedan lineup. True, it introduced the Rendezvous recently, but that is a crossover vehicle that is much more carlike than a true SUV.

General Motors seems to be very cautious when celebrating anniversaries these days having a bit of the “Oldsmobile Syndrome.” Right after Oldsmobile marked its 100 years, it was canceled and sent to the history books. Perhaps there is a bit of paranoia here?

It is questioned whether Buick should have been the one sent to the locker room rather than Olds. But, that will remain a controversy and will wait for history to solve.

The goal for Buick is to offer vehicles younger buyers will desire, because the average Buick owner is between 60 and the cemetery. These are very loyal owners who return year after year to slide behind the wheel of the newest Buick. It is hoped that the Rainier will bring the same devotion to buyers who have a longer life expectancy.

The Rainier certainly has the makings of a capable and competent SUV. Based on the same body-on-frame construction as the Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Envoy, this Buick, in other dress, it has proven itself even before the first Buick badge was even applied.

The Buick version gets two powertrain configurations in one model designation. The in-line six-cylinder engine with 275 horsepower and 275 foot-pounds of torque has proven to be a more-than-adequate power source for other GM vehicles and makes a good showing here. To many it will satisfy all the needs of a typical suburban family.

The more powerful 5.3-liter V-8 engine brings 290 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque, which isn’t a huge jump from the six, but makes a big impression out on the road.

Both engines are coupled with a four-speed automatic transmission.

As you would expect from any Buick, the Rainier is tweaked and tuned to optimum ride and handling in the Buick sense of the word.

To say that it is a lumbering convenience would give you the wrong impression.

However, ride comfort is paramount over handling abilities.

Most Buick owners are not perceived as likely to tow much in the way of recreation equipment, but with the Rainier you get up a 6,700-pound towing capacity with the two-wheel-drive version.

Ride comfort is one, if not the main, reason buyers look toward the vehicles in Buick’s lineup. The Rainier will not disappoint in this category. Nevertheless, this is a sport utility and it will not respond to the expansion joints in the highway in the same manner as a sedan. With that said, this Buick will keep you and your passengers comfy.

The interior is much more utilitarian than you will find in a sedan, but you probably won’t mind because Buick has given the Rainier all the creature comforts you desire. Leather seating mixed with a sampling of wood trim gives the compartment touches of luxury.

Door trim panels, dashboard and instrument panel are pleasing and give the vehicle a sedanlike feel. And of course, we have all the electronic trappings of the day, driver information system, satellite radio and load-leveling suspension system.

The Buick dealers must be running into walls with excitement in anticipation of receiving the Rainier. They asked, pleaded and cajoled GM to give them a real sport utility. Now they have a vehicle that is an excellent representation of Buick’s answer to the SUV.

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