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The 2013 Buick Regal has a traditional name, but if you've wandered into a showroom looking for a V-8 and rear-wheel drive....well, things have changed. Today's Regal is a front-drive four-door. Sometimes it's a mild hybrid. It's never a V-8--it's never even a V-6. Under the skin, it's an Opel, from Germany.
And it's the best modern-day Regal yet, and the best Buick you can buy today.
That doesn't make it a perfect fit for everyone. The 2013 Regal has a premium price tag to go with its brand, and performance numbers and rear-seat specs are down when compared to some bargain family four-doors. If you're past that, you'll see the Regal is insistently handsome, and in GS trim it's truly entertaining--and that's an entirely new place in the world for Buick, though it's also a place that could take some time for value-minded buyers to find.The Regal's essentially our version of GM's global mid-sizer, sold in Europe as an Opel Insignia. It's a dynamic shape, with an optical hook stamped into its side flanks and a petite interpretation of Buick's waterfall grille applied to the nose to let you know it's still a domestic sedan. The interior's modern GM, not old GM, too, with a big shield of controls and a trio of finishes that dress up a soberly styled cockpit.
This year, Buick's dropped the standard four-cylinder from the Regal lineup, and has inserted its mild-hybrid "eAssist" powertrain in its place. With 182 horsepower and a 20-kilowatt lithium-ion battery, and an electric motor and six-speed transmission playing tag in between, the eAssist aims to split the difference between dull hybrid driving and exceptional hybrid gas mileage. It does: it delivers what's now middling gas mileage for the class, and middling handling for the otherwise dandy Regal lineup. The tires give up more easily and tell you less about the road--while the drivetrain turns in less EPA-rated highway mileage than the larger, gas-only Nissan Altima.
We'd gladly give up the notion of saving the planet for either of the Regal's punchy turbocharged four-cylinders. Both the 220-hp turbo four and especially, the 270-hp GS four, have the zesty, immediate feel of other front-drivers in the class. The Regal has Euro-feel baked into its ride and handling, with the muted damping of a good German sedan (hint: that's where it was developed), and reasonably good steering feel in turbo cars. The GS' three-mode adjustable driving feel pushes the performance envelope to a pleasing level, but one shy of true sports sedans like the BMW 3-Series.
The Regal's tidy shape doesn't endow it with the vast interior room you'll find in a VW Passat or a Hyundai Sonata, but it's only in the back seat where it can be an issue with adult passengers. The trunk's a bit small, too.
As for safety, Buick's earned five stars from the NHTSA, and a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS, but a rearview camera and blind-spot monitors aren't yet in its tech goodie bag. Navigation now works with IntelliLink and Bluetooth voice controls, though, and connectivity with mobile apps puts the Regal on par with other leading mid-size luxury sedans.
With its premium price and its class-average space and gas mileage, the Regal doesn't shine on a spec sheet. It does in person, so long as you steer in the direction of forced induction.