New & Used Buick Regal: In Depth
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The Buick Regal is a mid-size sedan that provides more luxurious appointments than most of its competitiors, but not as many as the true luxury automakers. The Regal is sportier than the LaCrosse and Verano in the Buick lineup. Currently, only front-wheel drive is available, but 2014 models will have all-wheel drive.
The Regal nameplate dates back to the early 1970s. In 1973, GM introduced the Regal as a two-door coupe spun off the Century sedan, as a "personal luxury" car along the lines of the Thunderbird. The Regal later added a four-door sedan model, and both were sold with V-6 or V-8 powertrains.
The second-generation Regal arrived in 1978 and garnered a reputation for being a little bit sporty thanks to its three-speed manual--and to turbocharged models sold as the Regal T-Type, Grand National, and GNX.
In 1988 the third generation of the Regal was launched, this time on a brand-new front-wheel-drive platform. This version both departed from and returned to Regal tradition--being front-wheel drive for the first time but once again offered only as a coupe. Performance fans looked elsewhere as there was no longer a V-8 or turbocharged V-6 option available and eventually, sales started to decline. A sedan variant was reintroduced by 1990.
When the fourth generation of the Regal arrived in 1997, Buick was no longer offering a coupe and there was still no V-8 option. However, a new supercharged model with 240 horsepower on tap was launched bearing the GS name. A dealer upgrade labeled the GSX SLP Performance Package was offered on this GS model, boosting output to 270 horsepower and adding an assortment of performance accessories. Production of the fourth-generation Regal eventually died off in 2004.
The popular nameplate made its return in the 2011 model year with what is essentially a rebadged Opel Insignia sedan. In fact, the Regal was initially planned as the replacement for the Saturn Aura sedan, but that GM division was shuttered in 2009, before it could offer the four-door.
The resulting fifth-generation Regal is priced competitively against rivals like the Acura TSX, Volkswagen Passat and new Volvo S60. It has barely anything in common with past namesakes, and it's offered in a few different flavors. In its first model year, the Regal came with either a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter model or a 220-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four. For the 2012 model year, the high-output turbo version dubbed the Regal GS brought 270 horsepower to the table, along with an adjustable suspension and distinctive tuning and styling treatments.
Late in the model year, a version with a mild hybrid system called eAssist was added; it features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder teamed with lithium-ion batteries that recapture energy from regenerative braking to add some torque and to improve fuel economy to 25/36 mpg. For 2013, the eAssist hybrid system became the standard drivetrain.
All powertrains feature direct injection and come paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control.
The current Regal has been fairly well-reviewed, with our editors complimenting its aero style, its neutral front-drive handling and the turbo thrust of the new GS edition. Rear-seat space is a rub for bigger passengers--the Regal's head and leg room in the back row aren't as good as some of the mass-market four-door sedans. Safety scores have been excellent, though, and every Regal has a good set of standard features, from satellite radio to leather upholstery.
For the 2013 model year, the Regal lineup is simplified into three models: the eAssist mild hybrid is the base edition, with the 2.0-liter turbo four powering upscale editions in either 220-hp or 270-hp form. An LCD touchscreen-driven IntelliLink interface controls phone, audio, and navigation when present--and now it can be ordered with the navigation system (in previous years, the features excluded each other).
Buick brings all-wheel drive to the Regal lineup (GS and Turbo) for 2014, as part of a mid-cycle refresh that includes new infotainment systems and some safety upgrades. Inside, a new eight-inch touch screen system tops the dash, and there's a new 4.2-inch display between the gauges; new materials and trims help liven up the cabin, too. Power for the GS model is down to 259 hp, but it's up 39 hp for the Turbo, to 259. New safety features for 2014 include a standard rearview camera system, plus optional adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, a lane-departure warning system, and a forward-collision warning system.