The 2016 Buick Regal
has the look and feel of a solid European sports sedan.
In fact, the Regal is an Americanized version of the upscale German Opel Insignia. Opel is a General Motors subsidiary, and the Regal was built in Germany before North American production began.
The high-performance turbocharged Regal GS, which I tested, is the most desirable of the several Regal models and the one we will concentrate on here.
Buick has built high-performance cars since the turn of the last century. Its 1910 race car nicknamed the "Bug" was radically streamlined for its time. The Bug had an enormous 622-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine that let it hit 110 m.p.h. when regular cars chugged along at about 30 m.p.h.
However, despite its upscale, rather soft image, Buick went on to build the 1938 Century model with a 320-cubic-inch eight-cylinder that made it one of the fastest cars of its day. The 1970 Buick GSX was one of the best hard-charging, plushest muscle cars, and the 1987 Buick GNX could out-accelerate a Chevrolet Corvette.
The various Regal models come with either front-drive (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD). Prices range from $27,065 to $36,490. The top-line turbocharged Regal AWD GS has the largest list price.
New for 2016 Regals is an enhanced 8-inch color touch screen radio that allows phone integration technology with applications such as navigation, hands-free text messaging, contact lists and entertainment apps for news and music.
Engines are a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 182 horsepower, a 2.4-liter "four" with the same power, but "light electrification technology" lets a Regal get an estimated 36 mpg on highways and is for fleet customers. Then there's the turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder with 259 horsepower and 295 pound/feet of torque.
Estimated GS Turbo fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon city and 30 highway with FWD and 19 and 27 with AWD. Premium fuel is recommended for the turbo engine.
The AWD system is offered only for the turbo Regal GS. Its smooth, quiet engine provides fast acceleration under city and highway driving.
My test car's Selective Ride Control had standard, sport or GS driving modes. Standard was fine for most driving. sport mode stiffens the shock absorbers for sharper handling, although I couldn't tell much difference between normal and sport modes.
However, the GS mode provided more responsive handling with stiffer shock absorbers for better body control. Also, the powertrain reacted a bit more quickly to the accelerator pedal, and power steering assistance was reduced.
But GS mode is overkill for normal street driving, and the Regal Turbo AWD GS handled sweeping on-off freeway ramp curves well in just standard mode, thanks partly to the AWD system. On the other hand, the FWD Regal GS doesn't feel as heavy because it weighs less.
No matter mode, the fast steering in my test car didn't feel as firm as I expected. A Buick spokesman noted when I mentioned this that the test car's steering feel probably was caused by its variable-assist electric steering, a different rear independent suspension design than that of FWD GS and optional 20-inch (up from 19-inch) wheels.
The GS Turbo's ride was on the firm side no matter what the driving mode, but was comfortable--thanks partly to an all-independent suspension. A FWD GS might offer a slightly smoother ride.
Strong brakes worked well with linear, firm brake pedal action. The car stopped quickly with no swerving with its anti-lock brakes, helped by a Brake Assist feature.
Gauges could be quickly read in the quiet, upscale interior, and controls were easy to use.
A high resolution 4.2-inch color display is the focal point of the GS instrument cluster, providing such things as vehicle information, navigation, audio system functions and phone features.
In the Regal GS, a standard 8-inch configurable color instrument cluster screen lets a driver customize the displayed information with adjustments via steering wheel controls. This instrument display delivers chronograph-style graphics in two modes: Touring and Sport. It's complemented with a pair of semicircle mechanical instruments for the tachometer and other vehicle functions.
My test car's front seats provided exceptionally good support. Even the rear seat was unusually well shaped for two occupants. The backseat on many cars feels somewhat like a padded park bench.
However, the center of the backseat was stiff and best left to the wide pull-down armrest, which contains twin cup holders and a shallow storage compartment. Front cup holders are partly blocked by the center armrest.
There's decent room for two tall adults in the backseat, although legroom is snug for a long-legged 6-footer behind a tall driver. All doors open wide, but rear doors have rather narrow openings.
One convenient feature, found on top-end luxury cars, is a 110/120-volt power outlet on the rear of the center console. It can be used to plug in electrical equipment with a limit of 150 watts.
The trunk is roomy, and the rear seatbacks fold forward to greatly enlarge the cargo area.
Transmissions are a responsive six-speed automatic with an easily used manual shift feature or a six-speed manual. Being the turbo version, my test GS had the automatic.
A six-speed manual transmission is unusual for a fairly large sporty luxury U.S. car in America, but this transmission can only be had with the FWD GS. A Buick spokesman said few GS models are ordered with the manual, but that Buick felt it should offer it in the U.S. in keeping with the car's sporty image.
Regals are nicely equipped with upscale interiors and lots of comfort, convenience and safety features. They include leather-appointed seating, numerous air bags, electronic stability control, traction control, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and a rear-vision camera system.
My test Regal AWD Turbo had a worthwhile $1,040 Driver Confidence Package with items including a forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, side blind zone alert with lane departure alert and a following distance sensor.
A power moon roof added $1,000, and 20-inch aluminum wheels were $700.
The Regal is smoothly styled, but the turbocharged GS looks especially racy with unique front and rear fascias, exclusive 19-inch wheels (20-inchers are available), lowered ride height and nicely integrated rear spoiler.
The front fascia incorporates prominent, vertical air intake slots, and the rear fascia has a pair of integrated, satin-metallic trapezoidal exhaust outlets that enhance the car's racy, upscale look. Rocker panel extensions are part of the package. On each side of the hood are Buick's simulated "ventiport" air inlets. The restyled, sleek 1949 Buick set a Buick trend with the automaker's now-legendary small, nonfunctional round "portholes" in its front fenders.
Buick says the median age of its buyers is dropping, thanks partly to its performance models. However, it adds that most Buicks are sold for such things as their luxury, styling and high-quality ratings.
The new, sleek Buick Cascada four-seat convertible, which I've driven and found to be a nice top-down "cruiser, should help sales and enhance Buick's image. And guess what? It's also partly based on an Opel.