2004 Buick Rainier Auto Review

24 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2004 Buick Rainier Auto Review

Buick Rainier

2004 Buick Rainier

Distinctively Buick, intrinsically SUV

James M. Flammang on 09.01.2003

Celebrating its centennial year, Buick adds a second sport-utility vehicle to its lineup. Unlike the smaller Rendezvous, which ranks as a crossover model, the new Rainier is an unabashed truck-based SUV. Featuring full-frame construction, the latest Buick is based upon GM’s midsize SUV architecture, also used for the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, and Oldsmobile Bravada.

In fact, Buick is essentially easing into the luxury-oriented spot currently occupied by the Bravada, which will fade away next year.

Buick promises a silky feel and performance. more akin to a fine touring car than a truck. Instead of steel coil springs, the Rainier uses an electronically controlled rear air suspension, intended to yield a cushiony ride that melds with Buick’s long-lived image of gracious comfort.

Rainiers may have rear-wheel drive or on-demand all-wheel drive. Incorporating a locking rear differential, the AWD system is fully automatic and needs no attention from the driver. Though mainly intended for driving on regular pavement, an all-wheel drive Rainier is said to offer off-road capability, which means an unpaved two-track road rather than serious wilderness.

Rear-drive models include traction assist, to ease operation on slippery surfaces.

A glance at the front end reveals the Buick heritage is evident, centered on an oval grille with a long row of vertical bars, surrounding a tri-shield badge. Sculpted wheel flares and noticeable shoulders aim to highlight the rugged look, without losing elegance in the process. Fog lamps are standard.

A monochromatic interior is available in pewter or cashmere, with chrome accents and dark burled walnut woodgrain trim. Trimmed with perforated leather, the seats are well cushioned, but side bolstering is nearly absent. Front seats have a memory feature and can be equipped with heat.

Powertrains reflect those used in other GM midsize SUVs. The standard 275-horsepower 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine delivers 275 pound-feet of torque. An optional all-aluminum 290-hp, 5.3-liter V-8, which is exclusive to the Rainier in GM’s short-wheelbase midsize group, produces 325 pound-feet. Both engines drive a four-speed Hydra-Matic transmission.

Towing capacity ranges from 5,600 to 6,700 pounds, depending on drivetrain. Acceleration with the V-8 engine is truly energetic and the automatic transmission responds rapidly, without awkwardness, at any speed. The Rainier moves out quickly from a standstill, too.

Buick claims best-in-class body stiffness, to help isolate occupants from road vibrations and noise. Rack-and-pinion steering is installed, along with vented, anti-locking all-disc brakes. Side-impact airbags for front occupants are optional.

All seating positions have three-point safety belts.

Buick Rainier

Built on a 113-inch wheelbase, the Rainier measures 193.4 inches long overall and stands 71.9 inches tall. Minimum ground clearance is 7.7 inches, and step-in height is 18.2 inches. Michelin tires ride 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Cargo space is 80.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down or 39.8 cubic feet with all seats up.

With its rear air suspension, the Rainier delivers a ride that’s a bit more refined than some other GM midsize models, though not dramatically so. The Rainier copes very well with lumpy pavement, absorbing most of the roughness. Even so, you can expect to feel nearly all of the imperfections, at least a little.

Impressively stable on both two-lane roads and fast-moving expressways, a Rainier handles confidently, though not necessarily above the SUV norm. A Rainier is quieter on the road than its GM cousins, thanks to Buick’s QuietTuning construction that includes acoustic laminate in the windshield and front door glass, as well as additional sealing at the C- and D-pillars, and increased sound absorption materials throughout.

Visibility is fine all around, except for a slight constriction over the driver’s left shoulder. Instruments with green needles on a silver background are unusual in appearance and not the easiest to read at a glance. Style, it seems, has taken precedence over substance on the dashboard.

Rainiers go on sale in September 2003, competing against the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, Lincoln Aviator, and Mercury Mountaineer. GM’s OnStar communications system is standard. A navigation system, DVD-based video entertainment system and XM Satellite Radio are expected to be available. Factory-offered accessories include chrome-plated assist steps, a cargo management system with adjustable dividers, and a pet divider. (www.buick.com)

Buick Rainier
Buick Rainier
Buick Rainier
Buick Rainier
Buick Rainier
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