- Dramatic, exciting sheetmetal
- Tight, composed handling (GS)
- Turbocharging replaces big sixes, eights
- Nav system finally welcomes your touch
- Priced at a premium
- Rear-seat room at a premium, too
- No rearview camera or all-wheel drive
- eAssist isn't a flat-out mileage champ
The 2013 Buick Regal is a worthy sport sedan with arresting looks and sweet handling--so long as you stick with the turbos.
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 is our version of GM's global car, which is sold across the Atlantic as an Opel Insignia. Blessed with a good shape, a hockey stick stamped into its side flanks, and a wedged version of Buick's corporate waterfall grille plugged into its nose, the Regal is a domestic take on a worldwide car. The interior is modern with a large array of controls and handful of finishes dressing up a sober 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. A standard 220-horsepower turbo-4 or high-po 270-hp version are available in the Regal turbo and GS respectively. Both have a verve and immediacy that place it among the tops in its front-drive sedan category. The Regal gets the added benefit of a European development that bestows a solid ride and handling, with reasonably good steering and muted damping borrowed from the Germans (that's where it was developed). The adjustable driving modes in GS models help draw every last drop of performance from the engine, but we'll stop short of calling the Regal a true sport sedan like the BMW 3-Series.
The Regal's shape means that it won't have the same interior space as a Hyundai Sonata or a Volkswagen Passat, but it's only an inconvenience for tall back seat passengers. The Buick's trunk is a little 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.