Buick sales have been booming, and one of the sportiest, feistiest Buicks is the midsize Regal. Offered in two model lines, Regal and Regal GS, the top-line Regal GS, available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, is a world-class sports sedan. This fully spec-ed five-place performer is more than ready to take on the Acura TSX, Volvo S60, Volkswagen CC, Lexus IS 250, Infiniti Q50, and Audi A4.
The newly refreshed 2014 Regal has benefitted from the worldwide reach of General Motors, sporting handsomely world-car styling that is both carefully functional and pleasing to the eye.
This American midsize sedan profits from direct collaboration with GM’s German Opel division, which tuned the Regal chassis for a polished degree of European dynamics and road manners. The car is comfortable over irregular surfaces, as is expected from a Buick-level luxury car but, true to its German chassis tuners, when driven vigorously, it handles like a bona fide sports sedan. It is fully competitive with the German, Japanese, and Swedish sedans listed above.
Nearly all Buick Regals come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 259 horsepower and 295 pound feet of torque EPA-rated at 21/30 mpg with the automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, or 19/27 mpg with all-wheel drive; the manual transmission with front-wheel drive is rated at 20/31 mpg. Premium gasoline is recommended but it is not required.
Also available but rare is Regal with eAssist, which uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque and gets an EPA-estimated 25/36 mpg City/Highway on Regular gasoline and is only available with front-wheel drive.
The Regal offers excellent value, being priced just below its competition from overseas. But in keeping with contemporary Buick practice, Regal’s quality level and equipment content are absolutely world-standard, delivering all the latest communications and safety technology, either as standard equipment, or available in affordable, straightforward option packages. Coming to grips with ordering the Regal is a pleasantly uncomplicated matter, because much of the essential content is already standard equipment.
Year after year, Buick has increased its North American market share, while also doing well in important faraway venues like the fast-growing China market. Buick is a world player in styling, technology, efficiency, and build quality. The two new Regal lines will compete successfully as international players and mainstays in the home market.
Buick Regal’s styling is fresh, cutting-edge contemporary. With the exception of one or two signature styling cues, it’s not significantly describable as Buick. The cascading waterfall grille is an immediately identifiable Buick keynote; its forebears go back to the late 1930s. Otherwise, the athletic, concise, aerodynamically immaculate Regal shape could just as easily be an Audi or a Lexus. In the language of the world midsize sedan class, this is a distinct marketing plus.
Buick stylists speak in some detail of the Regal’s face; the expression of its grille and headlamp-complex eyes. They wanted neither a simple, wall-eyed openness nor an off-putting, overly sinister expression. The goal, rather, was a look of commanding presence and stalwart character. The swoopy, nearly glaring expression of the headlamps and LED daytime running lamps certainly captures the viewer’s attention. And in the performance-oriented Regal GS sports sedan, the nose is provided with two hungry vertical air intakes under either side of the grille, declaring open aggression very much as is done in the Porsche 911 Turbo’s huge nose inlets. This is no milk-toast people-hauler.
From the expressive nose rearward, however, the Regal is an invitingly open, airy form. Its flanks are handsomely modeled and devoid of needless character lines. Tasteful chrome ribbons surround the side windows elegantly. The Regal features a fairly small sunroof. Its wheel wells are mildly flared, especially in the Regal GS, to communicate muscularity and performance. All three Regal wheel types are good looking, but the optional top-of-the-line 20-inch polished aluminum wheels bring all of the car’s chrome highlights to life; stunning.
The rear of the Regal is more busily styled than the other major views, with modern LED taillight complexes with a familial resemblance to the Buick Enclave. These are tied together by a deluxe horizontal band of chrome. The trunk entrance is small, and its lift-over is on the high side. A spoiler is integrated into the trunk lid, and in the case of the sporty Regal GS, large, macho square exhaust outlets leave no doubt that the car is a performer. Overall, the Regal is a modern, well sized, pleasing design that shows favorably.
In recent years, Buick interiors have shown a particular gift for elegance, quality materials and straightforward operation. The entry-level Regal and the up-level Regal GS have very different interiors and instrumentation, and here you get what you pay for.
The Regal dashboard is furnished with a speedometer and tachometer that are relatively so small that seeing their exact speed indication requires a close look. The gauge faces, as well as the center-mounted information-cluster display, have a downscale look that will only satisfy people who really don’t care about them. Similarly, the touch-control climate setting system on the console is vague and unsatisfying to use; it works, but as you’re using it, you’re not sure if you’ve gotten what you asked for. The same is true of the seat-heater control; a more definite switch would positively confirm your command. Also, the switches for audio and cruise control mounted on the small steering-wheel hub are small and cluttered, requiring a distracting degree of accuracy with your trigger finger.
By dramatic contrast, the primary instrumentation in the GS is superb. Rendered in large, high-contrast fonts, the large tachometer and speedometer are legible and handsome, and the info cluster is first-rate. The GS climate-setting system suffers from the same vague touch-control complaints as the Regal, but the GS driver compartment’s standard black trim throughout gives it a classy, serious-minded elegance. The Regal’s open, airy greenhouse allows excellent outward vision in all quadrants.
In contrast with the standard Regal front seats, which are merely adequate, the GS sport seats are just what you’d expect; firm, supportive, well-fitted. Leather upholstery is standard in all Regal models. The Regal’s standard rear-view camera adds standard navigation in the GS. Regal navigation graphics are unexciting but serviceable.
Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment suite is fully furnished, using icons to navigate from phone to apps such as Pandora. It is highly customizable for future use and has natural language voice recognition that really works. Users can swipe and drag on the 8-inch screen like on a tablet, and compatible smartphones can link with the system via Bluetooth or USB. Another provision allows users having Regals with embedded navigation to enter destinations in a single step, without entering state, city, street no. and street name.
Technically a five-seater, the Regal rear outboard seats are comfortable, with fairly good lateral support. The center rear seat, however, is nobody’s choice; the back is hard, the center ridge high, with minimal headroom. Maximum cargo space is 14.2 cubic feet.
The attractiveness of the two ranges of Regal interiors is surprisingly diverse. The entry-level Regal is just that, an econo-Buick. It’s probably not surprising that for another $8000 to $9000, the higher levels of Regal and the deluxe GS furnish a fundamentally different caliber of car. The GS and upper trim ranges of the Regal deliver the luxury and finesse that Buick, and many Buick customers, will consider fundamental to the brand.
Both the standard Regal and the GS have 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines. (We didn’t drive the carry-over 2.4-liter Regal eAssist engine.)
With the 6-speed automatic transmission, the Regal is a very lively accelerator that delivers better-than-average performance. But if you want a fun Regal, the standard 6-speed manual gearbox is not to be missed. The manual gearbox is accurate and excellent.
One of the most startling qualities of the double overhead cam Regal turbo engines is how little throttle hesitation, or turbo lag, they exhibit. If you creep along in a high gear at 20 miles an hour, then suddenly floor it, there will be a lot of hunting around for a couple of moments, but this hunting around isn’t in the engine. The automatic transmission takes a moment or two to kick down three gears and get some leverage. Otherwise, this drivetrain is ready, waiting to pull vigorously whenever the pedal says, let’s go.
Fuel economy for the 2014 Buick Regal 2.0-liter turbo is an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg with the 6-speed automatic, 20/31 mpg with 6-speed manual, all on Regular gasoline. Regal with all-wheel drive drops the ratings to 19/27 mpg. Regal with eAssist 2.4-liter rates 19/31 mpg.
The standard Regal is a smooth-riding car that will be satisfactory to most drivers. The GS, however, features suspension enhancements that turn it into a real corner burner. Standard equipment in the GS is Buick’s HiPer Strut front suspension, which minimizes torque steer, improves front camber control and isolates road surface impacts, producing more accurate steering. The GS also has Computer Damping Control, which automatically recalibrates shock damping over varying surfaces, and Interactive Drive Control, which allows the driver to select firmer shock damping for aggressive driving (Sport Mode), or track-oriented competitive driving (GS Mode). Never mind how these systems operate; they really work. The GS is a fine commuter which, at the twist of a dial, becomes a crisp, very aggressive track car.
With fully competent ABS disc brakes and the usual stability and traction control additions, the Regal knows how to say in line and stop as well. In rain driving, the brakes on the regular Regal were excellent. And the giant Brembo 13.6-in. four-piston front brakes, standard on the GS, will haul it down from speed again and again without fear of brake fade.
The Buick Regal and GS are provided with balanced performance, handsome styling and world-class build quality. From the most modest Turbo to the brilliantly accomplished GS, whether all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, Regal offers solid value well priced. The line represents an American interpretation of the world midsized sedan that will be as attractive and practical around the world as it is at home.
Ted West filed this report from upstate New York.