This September, Buick will finally get the truck it's always wanted.
Built on the same rugged, full-frame GMT360 SUV platform as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy, the Buick Rainier will take the place of the fading Oldsmobile Bravada as General Motor's premium midsize sport/utility. That means a standard 275-hp Vortec 4200 inline-six, RWD or AWD drivetrains, and standard rear air suspension. For '04, an optional 5.3L/285-hp V-8 will be offered, the same one that does such fine duty in most Chevy and GMC full-size pickups. At present, the V-8 can be had only in long-wheelbase versions of the TrailBlazer and Envoy, so the Buick will be the only short-wheelbase member of this platform to get the V-8.
Up front, there's a tough-looking new Buick-style fascia, big-mouth grille, and quad-headlamps. Out back are new taillamps and a fresh rear hatch, while 17-in. eight-spoke alloys are standard. The inside also gets mildly Buick-ized in the form of a monochromatic treatment set off by chrome accents and dark-walnut woodgrain trim. Unfortunately, the new instrumentation has the same odd, exotic characters as those in the Rendezvous, but they're upsized for improved legibility.
Overall, the morph from Bravada to Rainier appears well executed, and our feet are itching to plant the pedal in what will be Buick's only V-8 powered model.