- Turbocharged thrust
- Clean infotainment interface
- Lovely styling
- No more mild hybrid
- Pricing is lower, still at a premium
- Tight rear seat
The 2016 Buick Regal turbo intrigues us, with excellent styling and handling; we'd skip the base car, and make sure our back-seat passengers were small.
The Buick Regal sports all the equipment it needs to make it a convincing performer in the sport-sedan and luxury-sedan world: a turbocharged engine, high-tech safety equipment, and an advanced infotainment system. The Regal is simply one of General Motors' best sedans, and some of that is due to its roots. The Regal is essentially a version of the Opel Insignia, a car developed and sold by GM's European sales arm.
The Regal is a Goldilocks among mid-size sedans: it marries sport styling with great road manners. It's elegant, refined, and makes an excellent pitch for the kind of car shoppers Buick wants more of—the ones who pay a little more for premium features and finishes for a car that's similar in other ways to less expensive family sedans.
The swoopy, sleek, and tightly composed look of the latest Regal is one of the reasons we recommend this mid-sizer so often. It's the most athletic-looking vehicle in the Buick lineup, and it's completely discarded any Buick cues from the past. The Nike-like swoosh down its sides says as much about its mission, as the absent chrome ventiport holes that can be found on just about every other Buick, past and present.
Inside, the Regal is mostly intuitive and completely pleasing. Its two-tone wood and leather trim on top models is handsome but subdued, and the cockpit's been progressively updated for a smooth integration of buttons, screens and new technology.
On the road, the Regal splits its identities into fun and frugal. On the frugal side, there's a base model powered by a 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower inline-4. It's just adequate in power and in refinement; there's a reason it's been on and off again in the Regal lineup over the past few model years. Off the menu this year: the Regal's mild-hybrid eAssist model, which is only offered to fleet buyers in 2016.
We'd take either of Buick's Regal turbos, in any case. Whether it's the standard or the Regal GS edition, both get a single turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 with 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph times below seven seconds and a sweet growl give this powertrain the nod; but if you're looking to shift it yourself, the base turbo only comes with a 6-speed automatic.
The performance-oriented GS isn't a BMW 3-Series—or a Cadillac ATS—in the level of handling precision it offers, but the GS remains our favorite Regal because it imparts a sporty feel without sacrificing its well-controlled ride, albeit at a price that overlaps some true sport sedans.
The Regal also can be fitted with an all-wheel-drive system, with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential across the rear wheels. The reasonably taut feel baked into the Regal's ride and handling is still here—it has the muted damping of a good German sedan, and electric power steering that avoids the heavyweight cliches. With all-wheel drive, there's more effective power delivery out of corners—and maybe more interest from shoppers.
The Buick Regal is comfortable for four adults, assuming the rear passengers aren't too large, as the car is slightly smaller than some other mid-size cars in the segment. It doesn't come up shy in front-seat space; the Regal's back seat may be rated for three people, but two adults could have trouble fitting in, if they're very tall.
As for safety, Buick's earned great crash-test scores with the Regal in the past. It has a standard rearview camera (and on the GS, front and rear parking sensors), and adds optional adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, a lane-departure warning system, and a forward-collision warning system.
Bringing the Regal's infotainment system another step forward, Buick recently upgraded the available IntelliLink system to a simpler, more brightly colored interface based on Cadillac's CUE, without its haptic feedback—but also without the Regal's old knob-style controllers. The touchscreen interface allows users to reconfigure the home screen, to choose up to 60 favorites across its suite of applications, and to store up to 1,000 contacts—while integrating smartphone-based streaming audio and accessing navigation with natural-voice commands. Bose audio tops off the package.
As an assist to the touchscreen interface, the Regal sports a 4.2-inch screen tucked in between its gauges, to display info from the available navigation system, phone, audio system, and vehicle. On the Regal GS, the center of the gauge cluster swaps out for an 8.0-inch LCD screen with customizable looks for different driving modes. The Regal also has an option for 4G LTE connectivity via OnStar, and can turn itself into a wi-fi hotspot.
Base Regals are rated at 19/31/23 mpg—well below 4-cylinder Hyundai Sonatas and Nissan Altimas. The Regal's turbo 2.0-liter inline-4 earns a 20/31/24 rating when paired with a manual transmission, or 21/30/24 mpg with the automatic.