Buick’s Rendezvous SUV undergoes very minimal changes for 2005: its 3.6-litre V6, previously found only on the 2004 top-line Ultra, is now available in the CXL as well, providing a much-needed power increase for this heavy vehicle (the base CX is still a 3.4-litre OHV V6). All but the base model now receive 17-inch wheels, and touch-screen navigation has been added to the multimedia sound system.

The popular Rendezvous is based a platform shared by the less-successful Pontiac Aztek; while the Buick version can hardly be called handsome, its appearance is helped immeasurably by the fact that it simply isn’t an Aztek.

More of a short minivan than SUV, the Rendezvous comes by its popularity honestly; it’s comfortable, its size is not unwieldy, and with the high roofline, the six- and seven-passenger versions have plenty of headroom for those in the third row. The third row of seats folds and the second row can be removed, turning the Rendezvous into an upscale delivery van capable of carrying bulky objects.

The Rendezvous comes in front- or all-wheel-drive; both configurations are available in three main trim lines. The AWD version has an independent rear suspension which makes for a smooth ride and decent handling. The base CX comes with a 3.4-litre V6; the CXL is standard with the 3.4 but can be optioned to the 3.6-litre; and the Ultra uses the larger engine exclusively.

The CX comes with five-passenger seating (seven-passenger is optional), manual air conditioning, a rear three-bin storage system, cruise control, floor mats, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, power windows, cloth seats, CD player with six speakers, four-wheel disc brakes, power locks with keyless entry, fog lights, power mirrors, side roof rails, 17-inch wheels, variable intermittent wipers and intermittent rear washer/wiper. ABS is standard on all Rendezvous except for the CX and CX Plus with FWD, where it’s optional.

The CX Plus adds roof rack crossbars, manual dual-zone climate control, trip computer, and on AWD models, a tire pressure monitor.

The CXL adds leather interior, heated mirrors, heated seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, chrome accents, leather-wrapped wheel with simulated wood accents, six-way power driver and passenger seats, driver’s position memory, OnStar, traction control, rear parking assist, CD/cassette with eight speakers, and rear-seat audio controls. The CXL Plus adds head-up display (HUD) and seven-passenger seating.

The Ultra is a six-passenger, with second-row captain’s chairs, along with an exterior appearance package, 17-inch aluminum wheels, cargo cover, wood grain accents and six-CD system with eight speakers.

The Rendezvous is a good alternative to the new Buick Terraza minivan; it’s easier to manoeuvre and park, and interior room is still fine if you’re hauling anyone smaller than a basketball player. The slightly smaller Pontiac Aztek is cheaper, but good heavens, just look at it. The Chrysler Pacifica is larger and more elegant, but has less headroom and a higher price tag than the Buick.

The Rendezvous is built in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.

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