Buick begins its second century (it turned 100 years old this past May) by jumping on the SUV bandwagon. The Rainier (based off the GMT 360 TrailBlazer platform) inherits many bits and pieces of the soon-to-depart Oldsmobile Bravada, including sheetmetal from the doors back and most of the interior, then mates them to a LeSabre-like front clip.
The Rainier is available only in the short-wheelbase (113-inch) configuration--no seven-passenger stretch version (GMT 370, TrailBlazer EXT platform) will be offered. It comes loaded with such standards as leather seating, OnStar, heated front seats with memory, dual-zone climate control, and blue-on-silver-finished instrument faces. In addition to the more-than-adequate standard 275 horses the Vortec 4200 DOHC I-6 produces, the Rainier is available with the torquier 290-horsepower Vortec 5300 OHV V-8 (the base rear-drive model with the 4.2-liter DOHC I-6 for about $3500 less).
It's the only short-wheelbase GM midsize SUV fitted with the V-8 so far and should make the Rainier a pleasant rig for towing midsize trailers up to 6500 pounds. Standard Bilstein gas shocks, self-leveling pneumatic rear suspension, and four-wheel vented discs hold up their end of the deal. Buyers get a choice of rear drive with traction control or on-demand all-wheel drive.
Buick tuned the Rainier's suspension for less harshness and more compliance, allowing engineers to exorcise most of the truck jounce without compromising driver control. While turn-in could be crisper with the standard 17-inch Michelins, the Rainier's rack-and-pinion steering is fairly precise and nicely weighted. The cabin is luxury-car quiet at speed, courtesy of extra sound- deadening materials, as well as acoustic laminated side glass and windshields (that other GMT 360 models don't get).
Expect pricing to start at $37,000 and move north quickly.
|2004 Buick Rainier CXL AWD V-8 |
|Base price ||$37,000 (est) |
|Vehicle layout || Front engine, RWD or AWD, 4-door, 5-pass SUV wagon |
|Engine || 5.3L/290-hp V-8, OHV, 2-valves/cyl |
|0-60 mph, sec || 7.5 sec (est) |
|On sale in U.S. || Currently |