2006 Rainier New Car Test Drive
The Buick Rainier shares its body shell and mechanical platform with GM's other mid-size SUVs, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy. But of the three, only the Rainier offers a 300-horsepower V8 engine in the handier, standard-wheelbase configuration. Rainier doesn't even offer an extended-wheelbase version like the TrailBlazer EXT and Envoy XL; and that's fine with us, because the stretch-model Chevy and GMC fall short of the standard trucks in handling and stability, while failing to match the space efficiency of GM's full-size Tahoe and Yukon SUVs.
Buick offers other benefits. Rainier rides more smoothly than the other GM models, and it's among the quietest SUVs we've driven. Rainier has a uniquely Buick style and a near-luxury sensibility. Yet it still seats five and boasts an engine powerful enough to pull a boat or horse trailer.
As with the GMC Envoy, however, choosing the Rainier (especially the six-cylinder model) over the corresponding Chevy may be mostly a matter of image. Just as the GMC badge stands for Serious Trucks, the Buick name has, for over a century now, meant arrival at a certain station in life, an achievement of an elevated socio-economic plateau. From the aptly named Roadmasters of the 1930s-50s, through the sculptured Rivieras of the '60s, a Buick has been about stepping up from the ordinary. The old Chevy may have served you well, and you might still aspire someday to own a Cadillac. But in the meantime you're enjoying the quiet comfort, easy performance, and confidently conservative style of a Buick.
With a price range from the mid-30s to the low 40s, Rainier continues this tradition as an appealing alternative for buyers who appreciate strong silent types.
The 2005 Buick Rainier comes in just one well-equipped trim level, called CXL. The Rainier is available with two-wheel drive ($35,080) and four-wheel drive ($36,905).
Leather seating surfaces are standard along with a comprehensive list of luxury features: eight-way power for the front bucket seats and memory controls on the driver's side; automatic dual-zone climate controls; temperature and audio controls on the tilting steering wheel; cruise control; power windows and remote keyless locks. The driver-information center monitors 13 on-board systems, a center console houses front and rear cupholders, and an overhead console includes a digital recorder, HomeLink garage-door transmitter, and OnStar button to access one year of Safe & Sound service. The electrochromic rearview mirror features a compass. All Rainiers also come with CD and cassette players 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 equipment includes a four-speed automatic transmission, electronically controlled rear 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-6 that provides an impressive 275 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. Optional is the Vortec 5300 V8 ($1,500), up-rated for 2005 to 300 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, and now available with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive.
The Sun, Sound & Entertainment package ($1,115) bundles a tilt-and-slide glass sunroof with XM Satellite Radio, Bose premium audio, a six-disc CD changer, and rear-seat DVD player; each of these features is available separately or bundled in smaller packages. Other options include power adjustable pedals ($150), heated front seats ($275), side-curtain airbags ($495), chrome side steps ($450), luggage rack ($45), and a cargo storage system ($165). New for 2005 is an optional ETR AM/FM stereo ($135) with CD/MP3 player, speed-compensated volume, TheftLock, auto-reverse cassette and Radio Data System (RDS).
Safety features abound. Available head-curtain side airbags ($495) act like a protective curtain when deployed, unfolding from the roof rail between the A-pillar and side window header. When the bag deploys in a moderate to severe side impact, it is angled somewhat toward the window to help provide protection for front- and second-row outboard passengers. Rainiers equipped with these optional airbags also come with a new rollover protection system that, should you tip your truck, triggers both the side curtain airbags and the safety belt pretensioners.