I pulled into an angled side street parking spot and two gardeners began to stare at my vehicle with puzzled looks. Did I park over the line? Did I not see a fire hydrant? Did I miss some other restricted parking designation? “Hey guys, anything wrong?” I asked. “No, nothing,” one replied. “I just haven’t seen that car before. That’s Tiger Woods car, isn’t it? It’s really a great-looking S.U.V.”True enough. The 2004 Buick Rainier is the vehicle the famed golfer touts in television commercials. And with Buick’s trademark front grill style and my test car’s deep black exterior, 2004 VB Rainier is an impressive sight.
But the exterior is further complemented by a well-designed interior, a 5.3-liter engine and a host of standard features that sets it apart from the GMC Envoy, Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mercury Mountaineer, the comparable offerings in its category.
As one example, the Rainier has a standard 6-cylinder engine, but there’s an optional V8, albeit a $1,500 option. As such, it’s the only mid-sized, five-seat SUV with a V8. The Rainier is only available with a four-speed automatic transmission, but options include rear-wheel drive with traction control or the all-wheel drive my vehicle included.
It’s nice the Rainier is marketed as a five-passenger vehicle and doesn’t claim to be larger as is often the case with other manufacturers. Head and knee space in the front and rear seats is more than adequate.
The Rainier couldn’t drive more smoothly, particularly considering its power and versatility. While exceedingly quiet and stylish, a towing package and wiring harness is standard for more rugged needs.
But when driven as a passenger vehicle and not a working car, the Rainier’s quietness is the result of 2004 model’s thicker laminated glass in the windshield and side windows. Likewise, sound-reducing material has been added into the body.
The console and instrumentation is attractive, but the monotone color dial scheme is not as visible at night when compared to other S.U.V.s with multicolored patterns. The controls and switches are well-positioned, however, and the comfort and convenience features are plentiful.
Consider: tilt, leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio and climate controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, eight-way, power front bucket seats with driver-side lumbar adjustment, heated power windows, power door locks and four interior map lights, among many other features. The power sunroof is an $885 option and with a $685 destination charge, the price of my vehicle reached $40,315.
While side and window curtain air bags might be expected as standard for a luxury S.U.V., the side front-seat airbags are a $350 option and curtain side window airbags are not available.
One unique feature is the included one-year emergency service provided by OnStar. I accidentally pushed the small button located on the bottom of the rear-review mirror and the operator answered in what seemed like a nanosecond. I apologized for the inadvertent call and received a pleasant response. Still, it was nice to know the system works so efficiently.
The Rainier’s one drawback is its estimated 15 mph in city driving and 18 mph in highway conditions. It’s an issue prevalent in much of the S.U.V. category, but one likely not considered by Tiger Woods
Safety Features — Dual-stage front air bags, auto daytime running lamps, integral fog/cornering lamps, OnStar Emergency System.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 15 mpg (city), 18 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; corrosion, 6 years, 100,00 miles.
Base Price Range — $35,295-$38,295