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Buick’s brand new Rainier impressive
Greg Zyla, syndicated columnist

Base price: $36,230
Price as tested: $40,018

This week we test drive the 2004 Buick Rainier, a brand new sport utility vehicle that hit showroom floors for the first time last fall.

Rainier, based on General Motors’ mid-size utility architecture, joins its smaller cousin Rendezvous as Buick’s two SUV offerings. Buick hadn’t been in the truck market for nearly 80 years until the Rendezvous in 2002.

The Rainier certainly helps produce immediate credibility after that long absence, as it offers beautiful style inside and out. It’s a step ahead of many other vehicles in amenities and technology, and produces one of the smoothest SUV rides we’ve encountered. Buick believes it has successfully married its fine car heritage with GM’s truck tradition of ruggedness and power with the Rainier. We can’t argue.

Approaching Rainier from the front, you don’t have to look twice to know this new model is Buick. The familiar vertical bar pattern grille is front and center featuring Buick’s tri-shield insignia that is framed in a chrome ring and mounted in the center of the grille. There’s a lot more that stands out on the exterior, including clear, jewel-like headlamps, fog lamps outlined in chrome, sculpted wheel flares and eight-spoke, 17-inch wheels.

Inside, we were struck by Rainier’s classy instrument panel. Green needles stand out nicely against a coarse-looking silver base, creating a look more of fine jewelry than vehicle gauges. Throughout the cabin, Buick utilizes a mix of chrome accents and dark burled walnut woodgrain to create a luxurious feel. The interior is available in either pewter or cashmere monochromatic color schemes. The front bucket seats and three-passenger rear seating areas are perforated leather and all door panels are trimmed in soft-touch materials.

A technological highlight inside is the Driver Information Center, a narrow strip of computer screen under the speedometer that provides information on 13 on-board systems ranging from fuel mileage to seat position programming. The driver can scroll through the options with push-button controls on the steering wheel.

What we also noticed inside is that we didn’t hear noise from the outside. Rainier’s exclusive QuietTuning process uses an acoustic laminate windshield, laminated front side-door glass and special quiet-tread tires; these work in conjunction with 26 strategically positioned acoustic absorbers and seals to help prevent exterior noise from reaching the cabin. Noise is even further reduced by a modular ****pit design that Buick says virtually eliminates instrument panel squeaks and rattles.

Cabin comfort is also enhanced by Rainier’s ride. From the swing of back-road turns to the bumps of the interstate, Rainier kept the ride smooth. Its double A-arm, independent front suspension and a five-link, solid-axle with electronically controlled air suspension in the rear produce a smooth, stable ride that feels more like luxury vehicle than mid-size SUV. Again, this is Buick heritage.

Our tester also came with Buick’s optional 5.3-liter V8. We’re sure the standard Vortec 4200 4.2 liter I-6 provides ample power, but there’s nothing like having eight cylinders if you want more power and gas mileage isn’t an issue. The bigger engine is a plus, too, if towing is a consideration, with Rainier able to pull an impressive 6,500 pounds with the V8, all-wheel drive (AWD) model.

Rainier comes standard with a four-speed automatic transmission featuring electronically controlled automatic overdrive. It also comes standard in rear-wheel drive, but we’d certainly recommend the additional $1,000 to upgrade to AWD in climates where that makes sense.

Beyond the comfort and performance highlights already featured, Rainier has a long list of other amenities. They include the HomeLink garage-door transmitter and recording device, one-year OnStar Safe and Sound service, Bose CD player and rear-seat audio controls, a cargo storage well and bins, eight-way power seats, and heated power side-view mirrors with built-in turn signal indicators. Options include DVD-based navigation and entertainment systems, power moonroof, XM Satellite radio, power-adjustable pedals, heated front seats, front-seat side airbags, chrome side steps and luggage rack.

Important numbers include an 18.3-gallon fuel tank, 16-mpg city and 21-highway fuel economy, eight-inch ground clearance, 113-inch wheelbase and 4,628-pound base curb weight.

Rainier will likely fulfill GM’s goal of appealing to current Buick owners while also attracting a new audience of active, successful professionals looking for a luxury vehicle that fits their family-oriented lifestyle. To some, Buick may sound old, but this sharp model is new in looks, style and performance. We rate it a nine on a scale of 1 to 10.

source
 

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Some commentary:

Some might accuse the author of this review of being paid under the table, drugged, tortured, or otherwise unduly influenced for actually having the audacity to write a generous review of the Ranier; but it's nice to finally read a review that goes beyond the "the Buick Ranier is nothing but a tarted up TrailBlazer" cliche'.

I'll be the first to admit that it's more difficult to find glowing reviews of the Ranier than it is to find, well, not-so-glowing reviews. It would be really stretching it to say that this article puts to rest any doubts that many have about Buick's biggest SUV, but the opinion expressed here is not the only one of its kind among reviews of the Ranier, even if it might be in the minority column.

So, not to beat the old "Ranier: Good or Bad" dead horse, but SeaBiscuit just hopped up on his hoofs and I'm loaded for bear. :woot2:

Rather than point out the same redeeming qualities of the Ranier that many of us who actually really like the Buick are constantly cackling about, I'll let the writer of the article speak for himself.

The article appears below with emphases (<= plural for "emphasis") added in appropriate places. This isn't any kind of an "I told you so", as good people will still disagree on the merits and warts of the Ranier no matter what the writer of this article thinks, but it's a recognition that other people who have nothing to do with GMI can actually come to the same conclusion as the pro-Ranier faction of folks who hang out here...

Buick’s brand new Rainier impressive, and Cool Caddy agrees
By Greg Zyla, syndicated columnist, with contributions by Cool Caddy, bold-button clicker

Base price: $36,230
Price as tested: $40,018

This week we test drive the 2004 Buick Rainier, a brand new sport utility vehicle that hit showroom floors for the first time last fall.

Rainier, based on General Motors’ mid-size utility architecture, joins its smaller cousin Rendezvous as Buick’s two SUV offerings. Buick hadn’t been in the truck market for nearly 80 years until the Rendezvous in 2002.

The Rainier certainly helps produce immediate credibility after that long absence, as it offers beautiful style inside and out. It’s a step ahead of many other vehicles in amenities and technology, and produces one of the smoothest SUV rides we’ve encountered. Buick believes it has successfully married its fine car heritage with GM’s truck tradition of ruggedness and power with the Rainier. We can’t argue.

Approaching Rainier from the front, you don’t have to look twice to know this new model is Buick. The familiar vertical bar pattern grille is front and center featuring Buick’s tri-shield insignia that is framed in a chrome ring and mounted in the center of the grille. There’s a lot more that stands out on the exterior, including clear, jewel-like headlamps, fog lamps outlined in chrome, sculpted wheel flares and eight-spoke, 17-inch wheels.

Inside, we were struck by Rainier’s classy instrument panel. Green needles stand out nicely against a coarse-looking silver base, creating a look more of fine jewelry than vehicle gauges. Throughout the cabin, Buick utilizes a mix of chrome accents and dark burled walnut woodgrain to create a luxurious feel. The interior is available in either pewter or cashmere monochromatic color schemes. The front bucket seats and three-passenger rear seating areas are perforated leather and all door panels are trimmed in soft-touch materials.

A technological highlight inside is the Driver Information Center, a narrow strip of computer screen under the speedometer that provides information on 13 on-board systems ranging from fuel mileage to seat position programming. The driver can scroll through the options with push-button controls on the steering wheel.

What we also noticed inside is that we didn’t hear noise from the outside. Rainier’s exclusive QuietTuning process uses an acoustic laminate windshield, laminated front side-door glass and special quiet-tread tires; these work in conjunction with 26 strategically positioned acoustic absorbers and seals to help prevent exterior noise from reaching the cabin. Noise is even further reduced by a modular ****pit design that Buick says virtually eliminates instrument panel squeaks and rattles.

Cabin comfort is also enhanced by Rainier’s ride. From the swing of back-road turns to the bumps of the interstate, Rainier kept the ride smooth. Its double A-arm, independent front suspension and a five-link, solid-axle with electronically controlled air suspension in the rear produce a smooth, stable ride that feels more like luxury vehicle than mid-size SUV. Again, this is Buick heritage.

Our tester also came with Buick’s optional 5.3-liter V8. We’re sure the standard Vortec 4200 4.2 liter I-6 provides ample power, but there’s nothing like having eight cylinders if you want more power and gas mileage isn’t an issue. The bigger engine is a plus, too, if towing is a consideration, with Rainier able to pull an impressive 6,500 pounds with the V8, all-wheel drive (AWD) model.

Rainier comes standard with a four-speed automatic transmission featuring electronically controlled automatic overdrive. It also comes standard in rear-wheel drive, but we’d certainly recommend the additional $1,000 to upgrade to AWD in climates where that makes sense.

Beyond the comfort and performance highlights already featured, Rainier has a long list of other amenities. They include the HomeLink garage-door transmitter and recording device, one-year OnStar Safe and Sound service, Bose CD player and rear-seat audio controls, a cargo storage well and bins, eight-way power seats, and heated power side-view mirrors with built-in turn signal indicators. Options include DVD-based navigation and entertainment systems, power moonroof, XM Satellite radio, power-adjustable pedals, heated front seats, front-seat side airbags, chrome side steps and luggage rack.

Important numbers include an 18.3-gallon fuel tank, 16-mpg city and 21-highway fuel economy, eight-inch ground clearance, 113-inch wheelbase and 4,628-pound base curb weight.

Rainier will likely fulfill GM’s goal of appealing to current Buick owners while also attracting a new audience of active, successful professionals looking for a luxury vehicle that fits their family-oriented lifestyle. To some, Buick may sound old, but this sharp model is new in looks, style and performance. We rate it a nine on a scale of 1 to 10.
 

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Yes, the Rainier is very impressive to drive and to look at... Although, the interior (to me) is too much like that of the Envoy...
 

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I'm just waiting for a Rainier with a better interior, more safety features, and improved crash test scores...
 

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Originally posted by powervette@Feb 29 2004, 12:59 PM
Yeah,the interior is surely impressive...
I sense a note of sarcasm....what, you don't like Rubbermaid? :p

I like the GMC interior MUCH more:

Envoy:


Rainier:


Trailblazer:


1998 designed Blazer:


Is it just me, or is the Envoy interior the only one that looks like it was designed post 2000?

But other than the ghastly interior that looks like it was penned by a 5-year old with a box of crayons, I actually like the Rainier. The exterior is handsome, and the quiet tuning is cool.

I also like the exclusive short wheel base V8.

Those leather seats are sweet looking as well.
 

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Why GM does not take the Trailblazer platform, what is it GMT???, and make much different models from a exterior standpoint. The differing interiors are fine. I know the Envoy and Trailblazer share very few exterior components but why can't they be even more different? If GM is going to go to the expense of making a different SUV why not make it even more distinct. I like the Rainer but the GMC Pontiac Buick dealers in Canada must have some fun selling the very similar looking SUVs on the same lot.
 

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Originally posted by Canuck@Mar 2 2004, 04:53 PM
Why GM does not take the Trailblazer platform, what is it GMT???, and make much different models from a exterior standpoint. The differing interiors are fine. I know the Envoy and Trailblazer share very few exterior components but why can't they be even more different? If GM is going to go to the expense of making a different SUV why not make it even more distinct. I like the Rainer but the GMC Pontiac Buick dealers in Canada must have some fun selling the very similar looking SUVs on the same lot.
GMT is a GM Truck designation.

GMX is a GM Car designation.

GMT355/360/370 are the Traliblazer-eque models.
 

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Why oh why GM still makes their interiors looking like I made them! Get rid of that ugly "gray suit" please and make the center console nice and smooth with flat panels, not an invitation for dust! Cadillac has pretty good interiors and so does Pontiac, but Buick and ESPECIALLY Chevrolet are still hideous. Although La Crosse has a good interior with exception of that thin chrome running across the dashboard.
 
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