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A Truck for Car People

Tow Test: Buick Rendezvous CXL

May 1, 2002
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Buick has hopped on the SUV bandwagon with its new Rendezvous CXL. This is not your typical ground pounder, but rather a truck-like hybrid of luxury sedan, minivan, and SUV. It may look strange but it delivers more versatility than just about any conventionally configured vehicle. The Rendezvous CXL tows, hauls seven, and can swallow a huge amount of cargo.

Basic underpinnings started life as a Pontiac Montana minivan. To enhance tractability, GM engineered an all-wheel-drive system that engages rear-wheel drive the instant the front tires start to slip. As an added bonus, the rear suspension was upgraded to a predictable-handling independent arrangement.

Unfortunately, powertrain improvements were negligible. The Rendezvous CXL soldiers through life with 185 hp from a 3.4-liter V-6 and a four-speed automatic transmission. We clocked an unladen 0-to-60 acceleration of 11.8 seconds.

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To investigate this vehicle’s appetite for towing, we hitched up a single-axle OMD trailer toting a 2,600-pound 19′ Checkmate runabout. The test vehicle was equipped with an optional $325 trailering package that boosts the maximum permissible tow load from 1,500 to 3,500 pounds.

Some huffing and puffing is evident when the Rendezvous CXL is asked to hustle, but it has little difficulty achieving stride or cruising a trailer load at 70 mph. Suspension settings that feel slightly mushy in the unladen state settle down when hauling a boat. The chassis does a commendable job of masking any thumps and jiggles kicked in by the trailer.

Launch ramp manners were laudable. When the throttle is gunned, the tach races to 2500 rpm, the front tires slip half a turn in anticipation of rear traction kicking in, and the rig climbs the slippery grade.

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Interior appointments are a cut above. Up front there’s a spacious center console, the middle seat is roomy enough for three, and two kids can be stashed in the third row. A huge rear hatch serves as an umbrella while loading wet gear into the tall, wide cargo hold.

MODEL Buick Rendezvous CXL
Engine 3.4-liter OHV V-6
Net hp/rpm 185/5200
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Suspension Front strut-type, coil springs
Suspension Rear control arms, coil springs
Brakes (front/rear) vented disc/disc standard 4-wheel ABS
Tires Uniroyal Tiger Paw M+S, P215/70SR-16
Wheelbase (in.) 112.2
Length (in.) 186.5
Width (in.) 73.6
Height (in.) 71.9
Curb weight (lbs.) 4,320
Towing capacity (lbs. max.) 3,500
Cargo capacity (max. cu. ft.) 109
Fuel capacity (gal.) 18.5
0-60 mph acceleration (without/with 2,360-lb. towed load, sec.) 11.8/20.3
60-0 mph stopping distance (without/with 2,360-lb. towed load, ft.) 141/197
Observed towing fuel economy (mpg avg.) 12
Price (as tested) $34,812

LAST WORD. The comfort of a luxury sedan with sure-footed towing ability.

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