It’s no news that the wildly popular sport-ute segment has seen a huge influx of new models over the last few years, and some of them from pretty unlikely sources. And there seems to be no end in sight to those wishing to join the fray. One of the most intriguing new models comes from Buick. And, as the first truck-like Buick to hit the market in nearly 80 years, it promises a combination of many of the best features found in today’s sport-utes, minivans, and premium sedans. So to get to the truth of the matter, we called up the folks at Buick and set up a rendezvous. And what they delivered was just the cross-over vehicle we expected. A 2002 Buick Rendezvous to be precise. Closely related to Pontiac’s wild Aztek, but a whole lot easier on the eyes, the Rendezvous is designed to add sport-ute versatility to the open road sedan luxury that is Buick. Visually, the most distinct Buick car cue is the brand’s signature oval grille. Otherwise, Rendezvous CX and CXL are clad in muscular, rounded sheet metal that’s more SUV than sedan. It actually reminds us most of its prime competitor, the Lexus RX300. But beneath the familiar sheet metal, the Rendevous is pure GM people mover. The platform is the same as the Aztec and Pontiac Montana minivan. That includes the proven and able 3.4-liter pushrod V6 with 185 horsepower, and 210 pound-feet of torque. 0 to 60 passes in 10 seconds and towing capacity is 3500 pounds. Power is fed through a very smooth, but quick shifting, 4-speed automatic. From there to either the front wheels alone, or all-four with available Versatrak all-wheel-drive. Versatrak is a full-time, fully-automatic system. When traction is plentiful, all power goes to the front wheels. But when those front wheels start to slip, Versatrak feeds power to one-or- both of the rear wheels. This is accomplished by use of twin hydraulic g-rotor pumps and multi-plate clutch packs, instead of viscous couplings, and can distribute up to 70% of the available torque to a single wheel. That makes the Rendevous more capable on slick roads than most all-terrain SUVs. Warm-weather front-drive models can be fitted with optional all-speed traction control. Both powertrain and brake intervention can reduce wheelspin. All Rendezvous utilize the minivan’s strut front, and a new short-long-arm independent rear suspension attached to an aluminum cradle. The later delivers far more controlled handling than its rigid axle SUV competitors. We confirmed that impression on winding mountain roads near Tucson, Arizona. Our first Rendezvous experience also found a ride that is compliant and confidence inspiring. We must say anyone expecting a pure Buick boulevard ride will be slightly disappointed. Yet we think it’s a fine and quite refined compromise. Rendezvous highway manners are matched by a refined and roomy interior. Like its exterior, the Rendezvous’ cockpit is handsome, polished, and with a dash that is far more stylish than other Buicks. It’s one of GM’s best IP designs in ages. Classy rimmed white-face analog gauges remind us of a fine watch. A head-up display is also available. Both face plush, powered front bucket seats, with standard side-impact airbags, which also put you in easy reach of one of four available audio systems, and three choices of easy to use climate systems, including a dual zone unit. Dash vents are huge. The center console is quite useful, and large enough for a laptop computer. Other high end features include optional OnStar and Rear Parking Aid. Second row seats can be had in either bucket or split-folding bench configurations and all are removable, while the optional third-row seat folds into the floor when not in use. Yes, the Rendezvous is 7-passenger capable. There’s underfloor storage, too. The 2002 Buick Rendezvous will arrive in showrooms in early spring. No prices have been announced, but expect to pay around $30,000 to start. What you’ll get for your money is an almost elegant mid-size machine that, while not ground-breaking, successfully crosses a minivan, SUV, and sedan, but with the flexibility of handling up to seven passengers. Or to quote our friends at AMI Auto World Weekly: “It does deliver distinctly more car- like ride, handling, and steering than most truck-based sport-utilities and some car-based ones…We wouldn’t call it unique, but the Rendezvous does offer advantages…” Advantages that will appeal to Buick sedan fans, in need of secure all-weather traction and more cargo versatility, and to new buyers, looking for an SUV-like solution with the refinement and long distance luxury that Buick sedan buyers enjoy. We think this is one Rendezvous that a lot of folks will meet, greet, and keep.


  • Engine: 3.4-Liter Pushrod V6
  • Horsepower: 185
  • Torque: 210 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 10 Seconds