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2004 new car guide, model guide, new car reviews, by brand


Buick, now a year beyond the centennial mark as the venerable car line at General Motors, scores a new sport-utility vehicle to join a cluster of four plush sedans plus another SUV that drives like a car.

Buick's newest SUV -- Rainier -- emerges as a 2004 model based on GM's mid-size SUV architecture that also underpins Chevrolet's Trailblazer and GMC Envoy. Rainier skews toward the luxury side of motoring with plush seats in a cabin and deluxe appointments including rich perforated leather upholstery. It comes with a choice of V6 or V8 powertrain and either rear-wheel-drive (RWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction for forays on slick pavement or graveled trails.

The other Buick SUV -- Rendezvous -- also has a spacious passenger compartment with room for all in the family while delivering a ride quality that seems as refined as what you'd expect from a big sedan. For 2004, a luxurious new monochromatic version of Rendezvous called Ultra emerges with appointments that elevate it beyond CX and CXL trims. It also gets a new 3.6-liter V6 engine with variable valve timing (VVT) and produces up to 245 hp.

Buick's sedans in 2004 extend from the full-size Park Avenue and a supercharged Park Avenue Ultra flagship to full-size LeSabre with special Celebration commemorative edition in limited numbers, the sporty mid-size Regal with optional supercharging and a mid-size Century available in three new bargain-priced packages.

Buick Rainier
2004 Buick Rainier

This is the second SUV for Buick following in the path of Rendezvous. It's new to Buick's line for 2004 and fits in the mid-size class as a five-door wagon with two rows of seats for five passengers plus room for cargo in a back bay.

Rainier looks big but refined and decidedly like a Buick, due to a rounded prow that prominently displays the Buick signature of an oval grille in chrome inset with vertical bars and Buick's tri-shield insignia.

Rainier's agile nature and smooth ride quality are the result of a rigid ladder-frame chassis with one-piece steel rails running the length of the wagon. An uncommon component for a truck-based wagon is the quick rack and pinion steering mechanism coupled to hydraulic power assistance.

For stopping, four disc brakes connect to an intelligent four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS), with electronic traction control (ETC) at the rear. Optional AWD utilizes a smart system to distribute engine torque between front and rear wheels. It operates automatically and requires no input from the driver.

For locomotion, Rainier presents V6 and V8 engine choices. Standard is the 4.6-liter in-line-six with 275 hp. Optional is a 5.3-liter V8 that runs to 290 hp.

In the cabin, Rainier provides a luxurious environment in monochromatic hues with personal comfort as the theme. A pair of bucket seats in front stands beside a central console with multiple functions. It cradles the shift lever and a dash stack of gear for audio and climate systems. Round analog gauges in the instruments cluster include a large tachometer to the left of the centered speedometer, with all dials displaying faces in white and needles prominent in a shade of aqua green.

Due to Rainier's long wheelbase, legroom for the rear three-person bench is ample. The seatback splits into sections and folds down to fashion a flat floor in the cargo bay with double the space at 85 cubic feet.

Rainier comes with a high content of standard equipment like power windows and locks and mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate system, OnStar telecommunications with a DVD-based navigation system, and perforated leather upholstery with front seats adding armrests and power controls plus memory settings.

Options range from heated seats to adjustable floor pedals, a Bose audio system with CD changer and a DVD-based video entertainment system for backseat riders.

Read our Review: Buick Rainier                            

Buick Rendezvous
2004 Buick Rendezvous

Buick's smaller SUV feels good -- it's easy to enter, effortless to operate, smooth in suspension and entirely pleasant for passengers. Further, the cabin contains flexible seats that flip and fold or pop out quickly to vary the balance between seats and cargo space.

Last year's editions introduced the choice of AWD traction, third-row bench seats and optional captain's chairs on the second row instead of a bench seat. For 2004, Rendezvous adds the Ultra edition in front-wheel-drive (FWD) format and charged with power from a new V6 VVT engine that rips to 245 hp. Rendezvous Ultra is trimmed in monochromatic style outside, and the cabin's lined in premium appointments with leather captain's chairs and trim accents in chrome and wood.

Options range from XM satellite radio service to a DVD-based entertainment system, navigation system, head-up display (HUD) instruments, automatic level control and ultrasonic rear park assist (UPAS).

Buick Park Avenue
2004 Buick Park Avenue

You can pick out 2004 versions of Buick's flagship sedans by a new monochromatic ornament standing on the prow of the hood. The series consists of two sedans that vary primarily in power points and on-board amenities.

Park Avenue Ultra ripples with energy due to a mechanical supercharger used to extract more-than-normal power from a six-cylinder engine. Without the supercharger, Buick's 3.8-liter V6 for base Park Avenue musters 205 hp. Then apply the supercharger and the booster makes 240 hp.

New cluster graphics line the instrument panel in a posh cabin, with new colors evident like Light Cashmere with Dark Birdseye Maple woodgrain trim or Medium Gray keyed to Satin Walnut woodgrain.

Ultra rolls on 17-inch chrome-plated aluminum wheels and flashes portholes on front fenders plus chrome exhaust tips at the tail.

Buick LeSabre
2004 Buick LeSabre

Buick's full-size sedan has been the best-seller in its class for the past eleven years. For 2004, LeSabre divides into two trims, Custom and Limited, yet the latter serves as foundation for a Celebration series.

It emerged last year to mark the centennial anniversary of Buick and repeats in 2004 with all features of LeSabre Limited plus body-color lower fascia and rocker moldings, a monochrome badge up front and the oval grille displaying blacked-out bars inside a chrome ring. Celebration appears in three new premium paints -- Platinum Metallic, Glacier Blue Metallic and Steelmist Metallic.

LeSabre surges from the strength of a 3.8-liter V6, which reaches 205 hp and ties to a smooth four-speed automatic transaxle with electronic controls. Standard LeSabre seating consists of a 55/45 split bench in front, but a 45/45 design with console is optional. Cloth and leather upholstery may be applied to each series.

Special refinements with Celebration include two-tone leather seats, woodgrain trim on the instrument panel and doors, shiny chrome finish on door handles and floor mats embroidered with Buick's tri-shield symbol. Options range from a sunroof and Gran Touring sport suspension to XM satellite radio service.                                                          

Buick Regal
2004 Buick Regal

Buick's mid-size sedan comes in two trims with base LS stocking GM's 3.8-liter V6 for 200 hp or sporty GS applying a supercharger boost for 240 hp. The cabin pitches twin buckets up front (and, unlike other Buick sedans, there's no option for a front bench), with space for up to three on the rear bench.

Two new optional packages come in 2004 -- the Luxury Package or a Leather and Luxury Package. The former brings 16-inch aluminum wheels, Gran Touring sport suspension tuning, radio controls mounted on the steering wheel, assist grips at passenger doors with switch-on reading lamps and color-keyed floor mats. The latter carries these items plus leather seat upholstery, twin zones for the automatic climate system and a rear seatback that slits and folds.

Regal also gets new wood trim in the cabin and fresh body paint colors like Cashmere Metallic and Steelmist Metallic.

Buick Century
2004 Buick Century

The badge on this sedan traces back to 1936, when Buick first identified its products by easy-to-remember names rather than numbers. Now it's the entry-level Buick in the mid-size class and 2004 editions offer three new packages of appointments and gear ranked by ascending price points.

The packages are labeled with familiar Century trim names -- Standard, Custom and Limited. Century Standard with six-place seats brings a remote keyless entry, twin zones for climate control, power door locks and power windows, and an audio kit with CD deck.

Century Custom adds six-way power to the driver's seat, cruise control, deluxe lighted visor mirrors, rear grips with switch-on reading lamps, floor mats and a cargo net in the trunk. Then the Limited piles on luxury items like leather seats and radio controls on the steering wheel.

Century's enriched engine -- a 3.1-liter V6 -- registers 175 hp. It links to the GM 4T65E automatic transmission with four forward gears and electronic controls.