I have to admit, from what I've seen of the Rainier, it really impresses me. The interior looks like a Chevy Blazer (the old one), which is a downside, but perhaps Buick buyers don't need angular shapes and black with chrome accents. I love the extra effort GM went through to differentiate it from the other Trailblazer twins - sound dampening and the like - while maintaining the other unique aspects of the Olds Bravada. Mark Savage (below) has a point, if Buick were to only offer the Rainier with a V8, it would further differentiate, and would keep the V6 type buyers buying a Rendezvous or Rendezvous Ultra. Of course, I'm not sure what is up with his article title....I guess he forgot about the Rendezvous... Sure, its a little tall but have Buick Roadmaster fans found the equivalent at last? I only hope the Saab 9-7 is as different from the Trailblazer as the Rainier.
Rainier is Buick's first sport utility
It's expensive, but ride's great, punch is excellent and transmission is smooth-shifting
Posted: Jan. 9, 2004
Savage on Wheels
The 2004 Buick Rainier finally gives the upscale brand a proper sport utility vehicle that it has been lacking for years.
Rainier has the same underpinnings as General Motor's Chevrolet TrailBlazer, a good-handling, good-riding SUV.
The Rainier rides on the same 113-inch wheelbase and touts the same 275-horsepower I-6 engine in the base unit and the Rainier CXL Plus AWD. The light gold test truck carried GM's muscular 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 that creates 290 horsepower. The optional engine adds $1,500 to a truck that already starts at $38,295.
It seems that Buick might want to just offer the V-8 to begin with to help differentiate the Rainier from the TrailBlazer.
2004 Buick Rainier CXL Plus AWD
Certainly the Rainier provides a pleasant ride and drive experience, just like the TrailBlazer LS, which starts at $29,670 for a four-wheel-drive version.
That V-8 provides excellent power when pulling away from a stop, and while it delivers a bit of growl, it's not excessive. Folks wanting the power surely won't mind. This is another smooth-shifting, four-speed automatic transmission from GM, and that gives both the Buick and Chevy a luxury feel.
Handling is fairly responsive for a midsize SUV. This one delivered among the best turn-ins of any such ute I've driven - with minor body roll in the turns. I liked its feel.
Ride was well controlled with only moderate bumps delivered to the passengers on rough roads and railroad tracks. Overall, the ride was great on most streets and the Rainier would be a super highway cruiser for trips. Aiding that feel is a rear air suspension system, plus independent suspension up front with Bilstein shocks.
Braking from the four-wheel, anti-lock disc brakes also is good, and the all-wheel-drive system gives the truck solid footing even in slippery conditions.
The interior is a good looking, two-tone tan leather with only a small touch of fake wood.
At night I liked the dash, with its turquoise digital trip computer and needles on the gauges. However, the gauges were a little hard to read in daylight.
The Rainier's radio was an excellent Bose system, plus the vehicle came with an XM satellite radio.
As with other GM vehicles, the radio has large buttons and big knobs, so adjusting it while driving is easy. This one also came with a CD player.
The dual climate control system is simple to adjust and use, plus the heater fired up quickly, a benefit in Wisconsin. I also appreciated the optional, for $275, heated front seats. They have three heat levels, and the seat back can be warmed.
The seats themselves are fine, with moderate lateral support top and bottom. These were power seats up front, and the driver's seat had a power lumbar support. Buick also uses a tilt wheel here, but not one that telescopes. For this price I'd expect both features.
Folks in back said they had plenty of head and legroom, which you'd expect here, and there was no third row seat, which is just as well because those rarely provide comfortable seating. Also note that the second row seats are easy to fold down. Flip a button and they fold forward; the headrests automatically fold down, too.
In back the test truck featured GM's rear entertainment system, with a fold-down video screen in the roof and a DVD player, complete with two remote headsets. The kids will love it, no matter their age.
Overhead there is an automatic day/night mirror with the OnStar navigation and emergency system built in. The Buick also has the HomeLink remote system and a voice recorder so you can make verbal notes as you drive.
I like the way GM puts the power mirror controls high on the driver's door so they are easy to find. The truck also has automatic headlights, a plus.
Side air bags are optional and cost you $350 extra. I also don't care for quite so many buttons on the steering wheel hub. With the radio, cruise control trip computer and others there, it can become confusing.
Gas mileage? Well, SUVs are just plain bad. I got 13.5 mpg in about 50% highway driving, while the computer said I was getting 14.6. The EPA says to expect 15 city and 18 highway.
The final price on the Rainier was $42,505, which seems high to me, considering a nicely appointed TrailBlazer would run you much less.
Performance, though, is fine, and the truck looks good. So if you've been waiting for a real sport utility from Buick, Rainier looks like a solid option. Note, too, that a larger Buick ute, the Terraza, is coming along next year.
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