The Car Connection Buick Regal Overview
The Buick Regal is is a mid-size sedan with a balance of luxury and sporting appeal.
Today's Regal is the middle child in Buick's three-sedan lineup, which also includes the large LaCrosse and the compact Verano. Helping it stand out from those siblings, the Regal has European-bred performance and handling as well as a tasteful and globally influenced design.
The resulting fifth-generation Regal is a rival for sedans like the Acura TLX, Lincoln MKZ, and Volvo S60. The current car has few things in common with past namesakes—perhaps thankfully—and it's offered in a few different flavors to appeal to a wide range of buyers.
MORE: Read our 2016 Buick Regal review
Off and on, Buick's Regal has been a part of the brand's family for decades, in many different forms and sizes. It rejoined the brand's lineup for the 2011 model year after a brief hiatus.
Today's Regal is essentially a rebadged and Americanized version of the European Opel/Vauxhall Insignia sedan. The car was originally intended to replace the Saturn Aura when it made its way to the U.S., but was shifted to Buick once the Saturn division closed in 2009. The new Regal was launched in 2011, bringing the nameplate back to the brand.
When today's Regal was introduced, it offered a choice between a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that made 220 horsepower. In a nod to the model's heritage, Buick revived the Regal GS nameplate for 2012, with that car powered by a higher-output version of the turbo engine tuned to produce 270 hp. The GS also received its own exterior and interior treatments as well as an adjustable suspension that could be tuned for comfort or sportier driving.
Late in that model year, a version with a mild-hybrid system called eAssist was added; it featured a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder teamed with lithium-ion batteries that recaptured energy from regenerative braking to add some torque and to improve fuel economy to 25 mpg city/36 highway, according to the EPA.
All powertrains featured direct injection and came paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control; the GS offered a manual transmission in addition to the auto.
The current Regal has received fairly good reviews, with our editors complimenting its style, its neutral front-drive handling, and the turbo thrust of the reborn 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. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) scored the Regal "Good" in its crash tests, and the feds gave the car a five-star overall rating. Every Regal has a good set of standard features, from satellite radio to leather upholstery.
Buick changed the powertrains in the Regal for the 2013 model year. Buick dropped the entry-level 4-cylinder and the eAssist engine became the standard powertrain. The 220-hp Regal Turbo and 270-hp Regal GS remained, both using turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4s.
Since the 2014 model year, the Regal Turbo and GS have shared an engine—a 259-hp version of the turbo-4—and are differentiated by trim and chassis tuning. All-wheel drive was made available on both turbocharged Regals that year as well. The 2014 update also brought new infotainment systems across the lineup, as well as safety upgrades, such as a now-standard rearview camera, available adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warning.
An LCD touchscreen-driven IntelliLink interface controls phone, audio, and vehicle settings—and can be ordered with navigation. Buick now offers 4G LTE connectivity that can turn the car into a wi-fi hotspot for mobile devices and also speeds up the link to OnStar.
For the 2016 model year, Buick has brought back the base 2.4-liter, normally aspirated four-cylinder and demoted the eAssist Regal to fleet-only sales.
Buick Regal history
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, a sort of "personal luxury" car along the lines of the Ford Thunderbird. The Regal later gained a four-door sedan model, and both were sold with V-6 and V-8 powertrains.
The second-generation Regal arrived in 1978 and garnered a reputation for being a little bit sporty thanks to its 3-speed manual. Upping the performance ante were turbocharged models sold as the Regal T-Type, Grand National, and GNX. These are now easily the most collectible of all Regal models.
The third generation of the Regal was launched in 1988, this time on a brand-new, front-wheel-drive platform. This version both departed from and returned to Regal tradition—the name was applied to a front-wheel-drive car for the first time but it was once again offered only as a coupe. Performance fans looked elsewhere as there wasn't 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 hp on tap was launched bearing the GS name. A dealer upgrade—labeled the GSX SLP Performance Package—was offered, boosting output to 270 hp and adding an assortment of performance accessories. Production of the fourth-generation Regal eventually ended in 2004.