For 2006, the Buick Rainier receives a few small changes. StabiliTrak, which includes integrated traction control, is now standard on all models. The optional curtain airbags now have a rollover protection sensing system included. Appearance-wise, the Rainier now comes standard with a chrome exterior package that includes chrome finish on the roof rack side rails and exterior door handles; the front grille has been tweaked, with a new tri-shield badge; there is a body-coloured rear exterior license plate surround and liftgate handle; and Dark Garnet Metallic and Dark Jewel Tintcoat join the colour palette.

The Rainier is Buick’s version of GM’s mid-size, body-on-frame SUV, which also appears as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7X. The base engine is a 4.2-litre V6 that can be optioned up to a 5.3-litre V8, both with four-speed automatic transmission. Canadian buyers receive the CXL model in all-wheel-drive only; in the U.S., the CXL is a base rear-wheel-drive model that can be optioned up to the AWD CXL Plus.

The CXL comes with fog lights, privacy glass, front cornering lights, heated mirrors with curb-view assist, memory and integrated turn signals, roof rack, 17-inch aluminum wheels, variable intermittent wiper, rear washer/wiper, automatic dual-zone climate control, driver information centre, power-adjustable pedals, leather-wrapped wheel with audio and climate controls, power windows, woodgrain accents, heated front bucket seats with perforated leather and eight-way power adjustments, 65/35 split rear bench, driver’s position memory, CD/cassette with six speakers, and OnStar.

Unlike the GMC Envoy, the Rainier comes only in short-wheelbase configuration. It’s packed with luxury features and numerous options, including a navigation system and rear-seat DVD, in keeping with Buick’s more upscale image. It’s never been a tremendous seller, and that may be due to the Buick Rendezvous, which offers its own brand of client coddling at a considerably lower price. If you’re going to spend this much, the Saab 9-7X gives you a lower, sportier suspension, better handling and a cooler nameplate, at $2,180 more.

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