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It's been a while since I was last excited about a Buick. The Reatta intrigued me in the late '80s and early '90s, but mostly because of its George Jetson styling. In high school, the 350-horsepower Gran Sport GSX of 1970 stoked my daydreams even before I could drive. The '87 GNX was a turbocharged, albeit unobtainable, supercar that came and went like a meteor.
And that's about it: It's been at least 10 years since Buick has peddled excitement. For that very reason, Buick's continued existence is a popular matter of debate. So it's about time that an eye-catching, if oddball, novelty like the Buick Rendezvous should debut for the 2002 model year. It's about time precisely because time is what Buick mostly lacks.
Chances are, the Rendezvous will inspire a lot of different reactions as it infiltrates the traffic stream. Cynics will grudgingly admit that it's downright pretty compared to its dog-faced horse's a-- of a sister, the Pontiac Aztek. Kids, like my youngest, will recognize the Rendezvous as "Tiger Woods' car," since the Linksmeister seems to be having so much fun in one in the current crop of TV spots. I myself am caught between two conflicting emotions: "Ugh! Another SUV," is one; "Wow! Maybe it'll save the brand," is the other.
At the very least, the Rendezvous suggests that there are still some folks at Buick with their thinking caps on. Subtle yet important styling decisions — commonly known as "taste" — have spared Rendezvous from sharing the Aztek's fate as the butt of all jokes. Say what you will about all the glittering chrome and all the diamond, ruby, and amber sparkles from so many lighting assemblies, but the Rendezvous looks perfectly at ease among such SUV socialites as the Lexus RX300, Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and BMW X5. Moreover, its base prices ($24,924 for front-wheel drive; $27,452 for all-wheel drive) are anywhere from one-quarter to one-half less expensive than these other high-society worthies.