The demise of Oldsmobile wasn't bad for everyone, since Buick got a really nice traditional SUV out of the deal. Replacing the Bravada in GM's fleet, and based on the TrailBlazer and Envoy twins, our Rainier was equipped with the 5.3L OHV Vortec V-8 and all-wheel drive. The Rainier is only available in a short wheelbase.
Our testers felt that the styling of the Rainier was too conservative, possibly aimed at more mature customers. From the front, it has a toothy grille, similar to the Rendezvous. And out back, the Rainier maintains the Buick's status quo for styling, reminding us that Harley Earl doesn't design for Buick anymore.
With 290 hp on tap and AWD, the Rainier was able to get all of the horses to the pavement easily, clawing away from the start and posting a highly respectable sub 8-second run to 60 mph. The four-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly, and we never caught it hunting for the right gear.
Behind the wheel, we enjoyed a smooth ride that was devoid of squeaks and rattles. The steering was a bit light for our tastes, and we did experience some unwanted bumpsteer. The brakes exhibited little fade and had a good pedal feel. One complaint from the judges was how the Rainier's AWD system tracked on the highway, often wandering through the truck ruts.
Our Rainier's interior was more upscale than its siblings, with nice leather surfaces, wood appliqus, and Buick's silver gauges. The sound system was incorporated in the navigation system and sounded really good, but we didn't feel that its operation was very intuitive. Our tester also had gaps between the door panels and dash that were bigger than the competition.
The Rainier is a comfortable and competent SUV that will appeal to anyone who needs a truck-based SUV with luxury overtones in the mid-priced segment. While it is an all-weather capable cruiser that can tow a 6,500-pound trailer with ease, it just didn't have the extra something it takes to stand out in this test.
From the Logbook:
The Rainier's AWD system tracked all over the place on the freeway.Editor Steve Warner
The Rainier has a quality sound system.
Feature Editor Travis Noack
It is a nice try by Buick
.Associate Editor Dan Ward