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2002 Buick Rendezvous CXL

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SAN FRANCISCO: The Rendezvous is Buick's new entry into the growing SUV craze that has America looking like the "sportiest nation in the world". The Rendezvous is a cross breed of SUV, minivan, and sedan that ends up being a surprisingly functional, sweet-driving winner.

It was in Ypsilanti, Michigan at GM's full-line '01 preview, where I first slid behind the wheel of the Rendezvous and with a critical attitude, and drove it around for a few miles. The most memorable event was my being stopped at a light, and the cute, young guy two cars ahead of me gets out of his car, checks out the Rendezvous and hollers, "What's that your driving?" Without a doubt, the Rendezvous is an eye-catcher!

This Buick is indeed a looker. Staying true to tradition, the oval grille has Buick written all over it, but instead of chrome, this grille is finished in a black paint treatment that is better suited to its SUV mission. Loyal Buick sedan fans will be doing double-takes on the road, knowing they just caught a glimpse of the brand's signature, but wondering - "Hey, what was that?" This reaction should not be a surprise, as the Rendezvous is the first truck-based Buick since 1923.

The Rendezvous' appearance is suggestive of an SUV, yet the rear end has an unmistakable minivan look. Another minivan feature is that the Rendezvous has a relatively low sill-height, making it easy for passengers to slide in, rather than climb up in, as in a traditional SUV. The tasteful two-toned body with shaded rear windows has a bold futuristic look. The wrap-around tail lamps add a gnarly-looking touch.

In fact, the Rendezvous is so distinctively new that it stands out in the heaviest traffic. On a recent visit to Eugene, Oregon, which is quite a bustling little city, my friends who knew only that I was visiting in some "new car," consistently spotted me as I ran around town. An amazing feat, considering that "new" was the only clue they had.

The inspiration for the interior motif was Luis Vuitton luggage, and Buick's designers have chosen upscale materials with low gloss levels. The details and finish display sophisticated craftsmanship throughout. The Rendezvous is offered with two interior color schemes in shades of gray and oak-toned beige. Choices are leather, flat-woven cloth with contrasting leather bolsters, and all cloth with pile fabric. Regardless of the materials chosen, the seats are always two-toned with dark bolsters and lighter center inserts. The instrument cluster's detailing is very cool, with lights resembling rubies and sapphires set in polished metal faces.

Instead of the expected wood paneling, a techy-looking hand-etched metal look accents the door trim and dash. Utility is first rate, with plenty of open and closed storage compartments. The lockable center console serves multiple functions - offering a charging area for cell phones, and enough space to hold a laptop computer or even store a large purse!

Comfortable and roomy seating combinations, with an optional fold-flat, third-row seat big enough for two adults, will hold up to seven passengers. Set up to maximize volume with the middle-row seats removed, the Rendezvous boasts an impressive 108.9 cu ft of available cargo space.

The Rendezvous is one of the first vehicles to offer Versatrak, General Motor's sophisticated "on demand" all-wheel-drive system. This well-engineered drivetrain operates normally in front-wheel drive, and directs power to the wheels with grip when slip is detected. No low-range gearset is available in the Rendezvous, so off-road abilities are somewhat limited, but Versatrak should provide outstanding all-weather performance.

All Rendezvous SUV's are fitted with a smooth-shifting, four-speed automatic transmission. The "get up and go" to cruise to a high summit is provided by GM's 185-hp, 3.4 liter, pushrod V6 engine. Passing is a breeze, and on curvy, climbing mountain roads the Rendezvous feels confident and steady.

As fate would have it, my week with the Rendezvous covered a 1,300 mile road trip with two adults and one teenager. The original plan to take a four-seat convertible was nixed at the last minute when the forecast mentioned rain. David Dunbar Buick, the founder himself, must have been smiling at us from above when glamour lost out to practicality, and the Rendezvous was chosen as the vehicle for the trip.

Over- packing became a part of the new plan, as sleeping bags, a tent, two separate coolers and even a rubber boat were loaded into the spacious cargo area. The independent rear suspension provided easy road handling. The comfy ride was more characteristic of the Park Avenue Ultra than an SUV or minivan.

Separate rear audio controls with headphone jacks allowed a bored twelve-year-old to rock separately to the radio, while we rolled up front with CDs in the six-disc stacker. The trip was a complete joy ride, and even economical on fuel, averaging 18.6 mpg. Bottom line, I'd say travel in the Rendezvous proved an "excursion extraordinaire".

Some useful options include a cycling/nature package with two roof-mounted bike carriers and a set of utility crossbars. A ski package is also available with a roof-mounted carrier that attaches to the utility bar holding up to six pair of skis, or four snowboards. Another accessory is the trailer hitch with towing capacity of a hefty 3,500 pounds. The versatile Rendezvous offers something for everyone.

Rendezvous pricing starts at $25,499 for the front-drive CX model. The MSRP for an all-wheel drive Rendezvous equipped with Versatrak is $28,027. My test car came to $33,437 including the CXL luxury package and the upgraded audio package. True to Buick's tradition at its best, the "touch of class" Rendezvous adds another score for Buick as America's leading "affordable luxury" vehicle manufacturer with this state-of-the-art crossover SUV. Bravo Buick! By Carol Green AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

P.S. I'd like to know what you think. Email me at:

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  A Whole New Style Of SUV
Topic:  2002 Buick Rendezvous CXL
Word Count:   1031
Photo Caption:  2002 Buick Rendezvous
Photo Credits:  Buick Internet Media
Series #:   2001 - 33

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2002 Buick Rendezvous

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