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2004 Crossover Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Buick Rendezvous
2004 Buick Rendezvous

The name is alluring. The shape is familiar. The purpose? Well just about anything you could ask from a multitalented, vehicle that's part auto, part truck and perhaps even part minivan.

That description isn't a dig at Buick's highly successful Rendezvous crossover. It's the proud comment from many happy owners who vow they'll never have anything else in the driveway, like the former coupe owner who now doubles the miles she drives just for fun.

For 2004, Buick has done some updating of this handsomely crafted showhorse, adding a premium, near lux "Ultra" trim, like the frosting on top of the cake. There's a new, all-aluminum 3.6 liter V-6 variable valve timing (VVT) V-6 in its powerhouse stable that's an upmarket Ultra standard. The new "global" 245 HP engine was designed for premium and performance vehicles, says GM.

On demand all-wheel drive and rear gas-pressure shocks help keep the Buick tradition of smooth, quiet ride. Automatic level control is an option for trailer package equipped Ultras. (Its rear compartment pressure outlet can blow up a raft or beach toy.)

Among standard features are GM's unique "heads up" instrument display, superimposing driving data at eye level so you don't take eyes off the road. If trouble occurs, GM's On Star communications safety system is there to assist.

Among other new adds: One-handed liftgate operation with electronic release, a boon for one loaded with packages. And for someone driving cross country wanting opera in a country music-only zone, there's XM Satellite radio.

On the options side: A DVD entertainment system with seven-inch, ceiling-mounted monitor to occupy junior grade passengers in the second or foldable-seat third row. A GPS nav system can be added, as well. And for shoehorning into those seemingly undersized parking spots, there's something called Ultra Rear Park Assist. That, it seems, is a fancy name for "STOP!