- Regal Turbo and GS' turbo four
- New IntelliLink interface
- Dynamic looks
- Taut Euro-style handling
- AWD now available
- eAssist gas mileage lags full hybrids
- Power's down on Regal GS
- Premium pricing
- Rear seat space is on the tight side
The Regal GS is the best driver's car in the Buick lineup, and it makes for an interesting alternative for cars like the Volvo S60.
The 2015 Buick Regal is one of the best sedans currently built from GM; it marries European driving dynamics, tidy sport-sedan styling, and quite a bit of elegance, and it's probably the strongest argument, at present, for Buick's moves toward being seen as a premium (if not full-luxury) brand.
Based on a car sold by Opel, the Regal showed up in 2011, and it's moved closer and closer to the luxury category, thanks to a turbocharged engine, high-tech safety equipment, and an advanced infotainment system.
The tasteful cabin also looks great for 2015. The big shield of controls on the center stack melds better into the dash, and an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen replaces a smaller screen there, while a 4.2-inch screen tucked in between new gauges displays info from the available nav 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. Two-tone themes with wood trim on some models liven up the already attractive cockpit. Plus, the Regal now offers 4G LTE connectivity via OnStar, and it can broadcast a WiFi connection in the car, too.
On the road, the Regal splits its identities into fun and frugal. The Regal Turbo and Regal GS now get a single turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The new turbo's related to the one found in the Chevy Malibu and Cadillac ATS, with a twin-scroll turbo and direct injection. There's no longer a distinction between the two in output, however: Buick's settled on a single quote of 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, down 11 hp from the last GS but up 39 hp in the Turbo, both with the same choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmission as before. Zero to 60 mph times are identical to the previous models.
Buick carried over the Regal with GM's eAssist mild-hybrid pack last year; the 182 horsepower accrued from its four-cylinder and battery/motor duo yields middling gas mileage compared to some full hybrids like the Ford Fusion, and handling and refinement have fallen short of the rest of the Regal lineup in recent test cars we've driven.
As for the GS, it's the only place to get a manual transmission now, and the only Regal to have the three-mode Interactive Drive Control system. It's not a 3-Series, or an 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.
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, last year Buick 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 a thousand contacts--while integrating smartphone-based streaming audio and accessing navigation with natural-voice commands. Bose audio tops off the package.
2015 Buick Regal
With one of GM's best designs, the only thing dated about the Buick Regal is its fusty name.
The modern Buick Regal looks nothing like the notchback Regals of yore–or even the bloated, marshmallowy sedan of the more recent past. Instead, it's looked like a relative athlete in the Buick stable since 2011, and its sheetmetal is swoopy and tightly-drawn in all the right places. Plus, the interior has grown handsome and mostly intuitive, with an attractive integration of buttons, screens and technology.
The Regal's handsome interior's grew simpler for last year. The low instrument panel is highlighted by crisp LED-lit gauges, and the shield-shaped center stack of controls are framed by high-quality trim. The big shield of controls on the center stack melds better into the dash, and an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen replaces a smaller screen there, while a 4.2-inch screen tucked in between new gauges displays info from the available nav 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 doors have glints of metallic trim and sweeping lines that read upscale, and on GS cars, the white-stitched black leather seats do the same. Regal owners can choose from satin metallic interior trim, piano-black plastic or a dark wood called Kibo; we come down in favor of the satin trim, which doesn't date the cabin or leave it smudged with fingerprints.
The pings of the past are few: the Regal has a waterfall grille, and the 19- and 20-inch wheels are more a concession to old-school American taste than to modern-day handling and engineering. The Nike-like swoosh pressed into the doors is the telling detail: the Regal may be the best-looking four-door GM has in its stable today, still a knockout, trimmed out even better with LED "wings" factored into its headlamps and taillights for the new model year, along with a retouched grille and a metallic band that connects the taillamps.
The GS' front end is broken up with bladed, vertical air intakes. In back, the exhaust tips are reshaped, and the small decklid spoiler is a bit larger.
2015 Buick Regal
Buick Regal turbos are composed, sporty sedans; we're less enthusiastic about the eAssist mild-hybrid models.
Last year, the Buick Regal consolidated its turbocharged four-cylinders into a single engine offered on both Turbo and GS models. That leaves fewer differences between two models, though the GS still offers its manual transmission and adaptive suspension for enthusiasts shopping within the Buick brand.
Buick Regal GS
The Regal GS is still the version we'd choose, every time. It gives the Buick brand a new benchmark for precision, without falling over itself in homage to Germany's sport sedans (though at heart, it is one--it's based on GM Europe's Opel Insignia sedan).
The Regal GS may not have its own stand-alone engine this time, but it has some carve-outs to call its own. The manual transmission now is limited to the Regal GS, and so is the three-mode Interactive Drive Control, which changes the responsiveness of its adaptive dampers, of the throttle and transmission and even steering feel. It continues to ride on a lowered suspension with beefier front struts, and on standard 19-inch wheels with all-season tires, while 20-inch summer tires are available.
It's still a bit notchy, with just enough foot space to the left of the third pedal for wide feet, but the Regal GS' manual shifter connects well with the turbo four. The automatic goes without paddle shift controls, so no matter which one you pick, you'll be moving a hand from the wheel to change gears. If you're shopping for all-wheel drive exclusively, you'll have to take the automatic, and the slightly redesigned rear suspension.
With either transmission, the Regal GS has a wider range of handling, and clear levels of resolution between the three driving modes. Out of the gate, the "Touring" mode is soft enough for any daily driver, but handles flatter and more cleanly than the base turbo. Even in Sport mode, the Regal GS doesn't tighten up in any unreasonable way.
By the time it's progressively tightened up to the GS setting, the Regal still behaves in a way both of its names imply, while it tightens its reflexes to a sporty degree that's acceptably shy of the true sports sedans from BMW, Cadillac, and others. The Regal GS omits the overly heavy steering, the crazy-quick throttle of some of those cars, but doesn't have their nine-tenths precision, either. All-wheel drive amplifies the car's composure over scrubby pavement; the GS' big disc brakes have a reassuring bite, too.
Regal eAssist: too mild a mild hybrid?
There's also an electrified Regal, the one outfitted with GM's mild-hybrid eAssist drivetrain. It returns for 2015, and it still suffers a fuel-economy penalty and a smoothness deficiency against most full hybrids in its class. The eAssist neuters what we like best about the latest Buick Regal--its supple ride and capable electric power steering.
The eAssist basics include a 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, lithium-ion batteries and an electric motor. The electrification pieces can't power the Regal by themselves; instead, GM uses them to run ancillary systems like the oil pump, and to contribute torque to the Regal's drivetrain. The lithium-ion batteries recapture brake energy to recharge, and also draw a little engine torque to do the same.
In our recent test drives, the eAssist drivetrain performs well enough in other applications, such as in the Buick LaCrosse. In the Regal eAssist, the numbers and smoothness don't seem to justify the performance penalties. The Regal eAssist grabs and hitches as it seeks to hold on to all the available regenerative energy from the electric motor; the switch from regeneration in the motor to the Regal's friction brakes is obvious. It also rides on 17-inch, low rolling-resistance tires, and they lack the precise feel imparted to the other Regals. The eAssist is rated as high as 25/36 mpg on the EPA cycle, but we've seen only up to 29 mpg in mixed driving. A Nissan Altima is EPA-rated at 38 mpg highway; a Ford Fusion Hybrid, at 47 mpg, in which we've earned an easy 41 mpg.
None of today's Regals have a V-6, much less a V-8, but the new turbocharged four-cylinder that's standard on all non-eAssist Regals is a sweet-revving engine that generates strong acceleration.
Both the Regal Turbo and Regal GS now get a single turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder to replace last year's last-gen turbo four, which was offered in 220-hp and 270-hp spec. The new turbo's related to the one found in the Chevy Malibu and Cadillac ATS, with a twin-scroll turbo and direct injection.
There's no longer a distinction between the two in output, however: Buick's settled on a single quote of 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, down 11 hp from the last GS but up 39 hp in the Turbo. Buick says 90 percent of peak torque is available as low as 1700 rpm on the GS, and says 0-60 mph times should be identical to last year's model, at well under 7.0 seconds. On the mid-line Regal, the turbo four comes with the same six-speed automatic as before.
In our first drive, this Regal turbo's undisturbed by the powertrain transplant. It remains a composed, quick performer with mainstream moves. It's muted well to near-redline revs, and as usual, GM's automatic clicks off shifts as well-damped as the Regal's ride. GM's new electric power steering doesn't load up with too much weight off-center, and doesn't feel antsy with an overly quick ratio, either. With struts in front and a multi-link rear end, the front-drive Regal is responsive enough, its handling tempered with a fair amount of lean.
The Regal also can be fitted with a new all-wheel-drive system, one with electronically controlled limited-slip differential at the rear wheels and with a differently designed rear suspension to accommodate the drivetrain. It can split up to 90 percent of its available torque to the rear wheels, or shift torque between rear wheels with an electronic limited-slip differential. The result: better response to on-power cornering, and maybe more important, a few thousands more interested buyers who put AWD in the "must-have" bin.
2015 Buick Regal
Comfort & Quality
The back seat is skimpy, but the Regal's front seats pair good grip with ample room.
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.
The Regal's back seat is rated for three people, but two adults could have trouble fitting in. Leg room is similar on the spec sheet to that in the Honda Accord, but something about the cushioning in the Regal makes the back seat seem less spacious--while it's still about three inches more generous than the same space in the Acura TSX. For sure, the roofline meets more heads than in taller sedans, but it's comparable to truly large four-doors like the VW Passat in that respect.
At the midpoint in wheelbase and overall length of compact and full-size--think Ford Focus and Fusion--the Regal doesn't come up shy in front-seat space. Base models have more mildly shaped seats than the GS' buckets--they have much better bolstering--but they're all trimmed in leather. We'd ask for more support on the base Regal's bottom cushions, but head and leg room aren't constrained, unless you slide the seat forward and opt into the sunroof.
Cargo capacity isn't the Regal's strongest suit, either. With just 14.3 cubic feet of trunk room, it's about 3 or 4 cubic feet smaller than other sedans, and a piece of luggage less than the enormous 20-cubic-foot trunk in the Ford Taurus.
2015 Buick Regal
The NHTSA nitpicks a little on the Regal's crash-test performance, but it's a strong performer, mostly.
The Regal's safety ratings are strong, but there's some room for improvement. Neither of the agencies that test the safety of vehicles have rated the 2015 Regal at this point, but with no changes to the chassis for this year, we expect the 2014 ratings to carry over for this year, too.
Several features were upgraded last year, and they remain for the 2015 model, too. A rearview camera is now standard on all Regals, while the GS also gets standard front and rear parking sensors. That's in addition to the usual airbags, and the Regal's optional rear-seat side airbags.
The Regal doesn’t have much of a problem with visibility, and uplevel Regals do have rear parking sensors, with an option for front sensors. Still, some of its new safety options may appeal: adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, a lane-departure warning system, and a forward-collision warning system are all now available in the Regal.
In IIHS testing, the Regal has achieved top 'good' scores in every category; and when properly optioned, it earns the 'Superior' rating for front crash prevention.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the Regal a rating of five stars overall. It's given four stars for front-impact protection and rollover resistance, but five stars for side-impact protection.
2015 Buick Regal
IntelliLink was improved last year; the Regal has standard Bluetooth and a backup camera.
The 2015 Buick Regal goes unchanged from last year's model, when Buick consolidated its turbocharged engines into a single drivetrain. It still offers a mild-hybrid eAssist model, and the option for all-wheel drive.
Buick's latest navigation system, an option on the Regal, eliminates our biggest complaint with previous models. The touchscreen display makes entry of destinations much easier. You can choose a turn-by-turn navigation service offered through OnStar, which doesn't have any resident maps or POIs in the car. OnStar also offers 4G LTE connectivity for 2015, which includes the ability to create a WiFi network from the car.
The base version is no longer the eAssist; a turbocharged model takes its place as the least-expensive Regal.
All Regals come with leather-trimmed front seats with a power driver seat and seat heating; a rearview camera; a leather-trimmed steering wheel; automatic climate control; cruise control; power locks, windows, and mirrors; and an AM/FM/CD/XM audio system with a USB port.
The Regal eAssist and Regal Turbo sedans with Premium packages get remote start; rear parking sensors; a heated steering wheel; and a power passenger seat.
The audio system and the Regal's connected mobile phones are controlled by IntelliLink, which has a large 8-inch LCD touchscreen integrated into a much less complex center stack of controls. 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 a thousand contacts--while integrating smartphone-based streaming audio and accessing navigation with natural-voice commands. IntelliLink also displays redundant information on a 4.2-inch screen tucked between the gauges.
The Regal GS with front-wheel drive has the adjustable suspension as standard equipment and its own 19-inch wheels; 20-inch wheels and summer tires are an option, as is a sunroof. Also 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 (Touring and GS). The Regal GS also offers the lineup's only manual transmission, a no-cost option.
2015 Buick Regal
Mild-hybrid eAssist Regals are the best on fuel; the turbo models are middling at best.
Today's Regal is more efficient than it has been in the past, at least as far as its turbocharged versions go. However, it still doesn't quite measure up to some of its competitors, especially when you look at its mild-hybrid eAssist version.
Opt for a turbocharged Regal, and mileage is only average with either the automatic or the manual transmission. The Regal's turbo 2.0-liter four earns a 20/31-mpg rating when paired with a manual transmission, or 21/30 mpg with the automatic. With all-wheel drive, the Regal is rated a bit lower, at 19/27 mpg, or 22 mpg combined.
The eAssist had been the base Regal since the 2012 model year, when Buick dropped its non-turbo, non-hybrid standard engine. Last year, a less-expensive version of the turbo supplanted it as the entry-level Regal. The eAssist combines lithium-ion batteries and motors to boost acceleration when the Regal accelerates--in tandem with a larger-displacement four-cylinder engine--but it's a bit more limited in scope and intent than a true hybrid. The Regal eAssist can't run on electric power alone, for example.
As a result, its EPA gas-mileage ratings of 25/36 mpg, or 29 mpg combined, aren't in the same league as the Ford Fusion Hybrid's 47/47-mpg rating, or the new Honda Accord Hybrid's 47-mpg combined rating. In fact, it's not much more than the non-hybrid Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, or the EcoBoost 1.6-liter Ford Fusion--and it falls well behind the 38-mpg highway registered by the Nissan Altima.