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2003 Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Buick Rendezvous
Buick Rendezvous

Buick's crossover-style SUV (as opposed to the new, truckier Rainier) blends the functionality and space of a 7-passenger minivan with the styling and all-wheel-drive capability of an SUV. Sure, General Motors offers all-wheel-drive versions of its Pontiac Montana and Chevrolet Venture minivans (with which the Rendezvous shares its mechanical bits), and in effect, the Rendezvous is more minivan than sport-ute. And in many respects, that's a good thing.

For example, not many sport-utility vehicles boast as much room in the third-row seat when so equipped (the Rendezvous comes with seating for four, five, six or seven passengers, the latter two capacities indicating the presence of a third-row, two-person bench). Not only that, but getting into the back is much easier affair in the Rendezvous than in most SUVs, as the tall bodyside means less ducking as you step past the tumbled second-row seat. Also nice about having some minivan in your pedigree is the low center of gravity, low floor and pleasant ride quality.

Unlike the gutsy Rainier (which comes with a 275-hp inline-six or a 285-hp V-8), the Rendezvous is powered by a rather anemic 185-hp V-6 (an unfortunate but unavoidable factor of this particular minivan architecture). The powerplant is neither terribly powerful nor fuel-efficient, although it does get better mileage than virtually any other 7-passenger SUV on the road. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is a worthwhile option for those who live in inclement climes. Its modest ground clearance, however, renders it most comfortable on the road, not the trails.

All said, the Rendezvous is worth considering on account of an elegant interior, generous interior space and appointments, as well as its slew of options like OnStar, DVD entertainment, XM radio, head-up instrument display and power liftgate. Furthermore, its low price of entry (less than $26K for the base CX) means that you can actually check some boxes on the options list and still have room to fill up that generous cargo hold with some impulse buys at the outlet mall.