The Buick Rendezvous may not have been the proverbial silk purse, but it certainly was made out of a sow’s ear. Introduced in 2002, Rendezvous was a better looking variation of the much despised Pontiac Aztek. Unlike Aztek, however, it was a sales success and really helped Buick’s bottom line through some difficult times. GM’s Versatrak all-wheel drive was optional on CX and CXL trim levels and standard on Ultra, which joined the line-up in 2004. All models originally were powered by a 185-hp V6. Later, the base engine became a 3.5-litre V6 and a potent 3.6 V6 (borrowed from Cadillac CTS) was an available option. The only transmission throughout Rendezvous’ run was a four-speed automatic with column shifter.
THE GOOD STUFF
Rendezvous was one of the earliest crossover utility vehicles (CUV) and even with AWD was not meant to venture too far off road. It was a foul weather friend rather than a pack mule. With that in mind, Buick was successful in giving it a plush, car-like ride. Not so successful, however, was an attempt to have it compete with Acura MDX and Lexus RX 300. Rendezvous was priced many thousands less - and it showed. Still, the spacious interior was quite versatile and could carry a 4x8 sheet of plywood. Front seats are comfortable and the ride is quiet. Some examples will have two plush captain’s chairs in the second row in place of the standard three-passenger bench.
Avoid 2002-05 models with the underpowered and outdated 3.4-litre pushrod engine borrowed from Aztek. These also were the most trouble-prone years, especially 2002, with common complaints being intake manifold gaskets, automatic transmissions, air conditioning condensers and ABS sensors. By 2006 Buick seemed to have corrected these problem areas and that year’s Rendezvous got a better-than-average repair rating from Consumer Reports. Final 2007 models were available only with FWD and the 3.6-litre Cadillac engine was dropped. In crash tests conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Rendezvous with side airbags scored five stars for side impacts but in offset frontal crashes rated only three and four stars, respectively, for driver and front passenger.
Rendezvous was built in Mexico on GM’s second generation minivan platform. However, it was one of the first vehicles to be marketed as an alternative to the minivan with a third row of seating that was optional on all but later CXL versions, where it became standard equipment. Front-wheel drive versions will deliver significantly better fuel economy than those with AWD. Rendezvous was replaced by the more refined Enclave, which really is a competitor for Acura and Lexus.
PRICES AT A GLANCE
Note: These are asking prices, not selling prices, in a cross-Canada survey using Autonet.ca and other sources.
Year Approximate price range
2002 $3,995 - $6,495
2003 $4,995 - $7,950
2004 $5,995 - $7,995
2005 $6,999 - $9,950
2006 $7,995 - $12,995
2007 $11,995 - $14,950
Engines: 3.4L V6 (185 hp); 3.5L V6 (201 hp); 3.6L V6 (245 hp)
Transmissions: 4-speed automatic
Layout: front engine/FWD or AWD
Bodies: 5-door CUV