For 2006, the Buick Rendezvous undergoes several modifications, including a new engine: a 201 horsepower, 3.5-litre V6 replaces the previous 3.4-litre on CX and CXL models (the CXL Plus uses the 3.6-litre V6 carried over from 2005). The CXL Plus replaces the 2005 Ultra as the top-of-the-line Rendezvous.

Other changes include “QuietTuning” noise reduction on all models; OnStar is standard on CXL and CXL Plus; electronic rear park assist and theft deterrent system are standard on all models; and there’s a new revised grille design and monochromatic exterior appearance. There are two new exterior colours, two new optional two-tone exterior colour combinations, optional woodgrain trim, and new 17-inch aluminum chrome wheels on the CXL and CXL Plus.

The Rendezvous now sits alone in GM’s line-up; previously it shared its platform with the largely unlamented Pontiac Aztek, which quietly takes a powder for 2006. More ‘short minivan’ than SUV, the Rendezvous is comfortable, reasonably sized, and with its high roofline, six- and seven-passenger models have plenty of headroom for the third row. The third row of seats and the second row can be removed for increased cargo capacity.

The Rendezvous is available as the CX, CX Plus, CXL and top-of-the-line CXL Plus. The two lower lines carry the 3.5-litre as standard equipment; the 3.6-litre, which features variable valve timing, is standard on the CXL Plus and optional on the CXL. All models are available with a front- or an all-wheel drive system that’s front-wheel until the wheels lose grip, whereupon the system transfers torque to the rear wheels. Torque can also be transferred from side to side between the rear wheels. The AWD version has an independent rear suspension, for a smooth ride and better handling.

Five-passenger seating is standard on the CX and CX Plus. A third-row seat is optional on CX and CX Plus and standard on the CXL and CXL Plus, turning the Rendezvous into a seven-passenger vehicle.

The new QuietTuning package includes such things as laminated front side glass, revised or additional foam seals on mirrors and door handles, and denser sound-absorbing material for a quieter ride.

The CX comes with 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 CXL Plus adds second-row captain’s chairs (for six-passenger seating), along with an exterior appearance package, 17-inch aluminum wheels, cargo cover, wood grain accents and six-CD system with eight speakers.

It’s been around for a while, but the Rendezvous still represents a fairly good deal: it’s not a pretty vehicle, but it’s a good alternative to a minivan or an SUV, and it’s easy to manoeuvre and park. It can get pricey at the higher end, but in its base configuration it offers up a fair bit of Buick luxury in a package that’s fairly funky and extremely practical.

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