2004 Rainier New Car Test Drive
Remember the old advertising jingle: Wouldn't you really rather drive a Buick? Many people would. But until the introduction of the 2004 Rainier, GM's near-luxury brand had nothing to offer buyers who seek a mid-size sport-utility vehicle. The Buick Rainier seats five and boasts an engine powerful enough to pull a boat or horse trailer.
The Rainier shares its underpinnings with several other mid-size GM SUVs, but it alone offers a V8 engine in the standard-length wheelbase configuration. The others offer the same V8, but only in their extended vehicles that come with three rows of seats, namely the GMC Envoy XL and Chevy TrailBlazer EXT.
But that V8 engine is just one of several perks that come with the Rainier. It's among the quietest SUVs we've driven. And it rides more smoothly than the other GM models.
With a price range from the mid-30s to the low 40s, the Rainier is an appealing prospect for those who appreciate strong silent types. This is an SUV that can more than pull its own, and a loaded horse trailer to boot.
The Buick Rainier is packed with luxury features. Technically, it comes in only one trim level, the CXL ($35,945), though there is a CXL Plus ($36,995) that comes with a Bose premium audio system, six-CD changer and XM satellite radio.
Rear-wheel drive (2WD) is standard. Four-wheel drive, GM's SmarTrak system, is optional for the the CXL ($36,995) and CXL Plus ($38,945).
Standard on all Rainiers are leather seating surfaces, with eight-way power for the front seats and memory controls on the driver's side, automatic and dual-zone climate controls, with temperature and audio controls on the tilting steering wheel, cruise control, power windows and remote keyless locks. Also a driver-information center that monitors 13 on-board systems, a center console with front and rear cupholders, an overhead console with digital recorder, electrochromic rearview mirror with compass, HomeLink garage-door transmitter and one year of OnStar Safe & Sound service. All Rainiers also come with a Bose CD player and rear-seat audio controls, a cargo storage well and bins, fog lamps, intermittent wipers, and power heated outside mirrors with built-in turn signal indicators.
Standard mechanical equipment includes a four-speed automatic transmission, rack-and-pinion steering, electronically controlled air suspension with automatic load-leveling, locking rear differential, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and dual-stage driver and front passenger airbags. Traction control is standard on 2WD models.
The standard engine is GM's highly regarded Vortec 4200, an inline six-cylinder that provides an impressive 275 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. Optional is the Vortec 5300 V8 ($1,500) with 290 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque.
Options include a Sun & Satellite package that includes a DVD-based navigation system, power moonroof, XM Radio and audio upgrades. The option package is priced at $3,615 on the CXL and at $2,550 on the CXL Plus, which already is equipped with the Bose system and XM radio. Other options include the power moonroof ($885), a DVD-based entertainment system ($1,435), power adjustable pedals ($150), heated front seats ($275), front-seat side airbags ($350), chrome side steps ($450), luggage rack ($45), cargo storage system ($150) and a smoker package ($30).
However, the option list does not include full-length curtain airbags or vehicle stability control.