25. February 2014
The 20th century had more than its share of mysteries. What happened to Judge Crater? What about Area 51: is the truth out there? Was there someone on the grassy knoll? How did Pia Zadora have a career (and don’t say it was because of her starring role in Voyage of the Rock Aliens)?
The 21st century is going to have its share of things mysterious, murky and bizarre. And among them is the mystery as to why the Buick Regal isn’t a far more popular car than it is, why the Buick Regal sales have been stuttering when the car is the boldest statement in the Buick lineup.
It is one damn fine car.
During the Polar Vortex Part LX or whatever it was (it seemed that one would lumber off to the East Coast, leaving even more snow in southeastern Michigan, only for another to come storming in), I found the GS with AWD highly capable and satisfying, especially as the car was equipped with not only heated seats but a heated steering wheel, which one can be skeptical about only if they live in a climate that doesn’t require thermometers with digits below 32.
Quite honestly, I think a large part of the problem is that the Regal is a Buick, which is not to be disrespectful of Buick, but to point out that the sort of person, demographically speaking, who might be interested in buying a Regal—let’s put that as someone on the north side of 50—probably has certain notions of what a Buick is, even though those notions were created at an earlier point in that person’s life, to say nothing of an earlier period in what Buick was putting out on the road.
In other words, what a Buick is right now has little relationship to what, by and large, Buick had been putting out on the road.
One could make the argument that the reason the Buick Verano sales are so solid has something to do with the fact that the Verano buyer is likely to be younger and doesn’t associate Buick with boats, barges and Barcaloungers. It is a cost-based, not brand-based buy.
The Regal’s sales have slipped precipitously (according to Autodata, 2013 sales of the Regal were off 24.1% compared to 2012 sales), although there are signs of improvement thanks to the introduction of the 2014 model.
According to Buick, the average age of a Regal GS customer is 43, which is certainly a good thing for the brand, but I did receive an eye roll from a colleague in his mid-40s when I brought up Buick.
It takes a long time for perceptions to change. Presumably, those perceptions could be changed somewhat more quickly by a spin in this car.
It has a 259-hp turbocharged engine that produces 295 lb-ft of torque, which means that it is peppy (and the fact that there are alloy pedals underscores this fact), yet it is also sufficiently fuel efficient so as to make gas station visits not particularly painful (19/27 mpg).
According to Buick, the competitive set for the car includes the Acura TSX, Audi A4 Sport, Volvo S60 TS, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50, and Volkswagen CC. Had I not been in the Regal GS before reading that list, I might have done a spit-take. But it seriously has the chops both inside and out to stand up to those vehicles.
Here’s the thing: the Regal GS with all-wheel drive (in normal driving, there is a 50/50 torque split; there is a Haldex module to direct the drive to the rear wheels and an electronic limited slip differential to shift torque between the two rear wheels as required) has a boat-load of features, capabilities and options, from a continuously variable damping suspension to a rear camera to heated seats to pushbutton start to 19-inch alloys to adaptive cruise control (this one is an option; the others are part of the GS package) to. . . .
But I don’t think that anyone who has a preconceived notion of “Buick” can read a sufficient number of reviews, look at a sufficient number of pictures, watch a sufficient number of videos, or be smacked alongside the head a sufficient number of times to be convinced that this is a really good car. See it live. Sit in it. Drive it.
And I wouldn’t be surprised (assuming that you’re looking for a midsize car and have approximately $40K to spend before adding the options) that you might buy it.
One thing before I finish, however. The Regal must be a bona-fide Buick because it has ventiports on its hood. Fake chrome-surrounded openings. For those of you who don’t know, the ventiports go back to the late ‘40s. They should have stayed there. On the one hand, the continuation of the trim pieces seems to be a sop to the seasoned citizens who have long considered Buicks, which may not be the message that a 21st century company ought to be sending. On the other hand, the younger demographic might have the sense of “What the heck are those things?” and remember that a few years ago seemingly every mass-market OEM was slapping some sort of fake vents on the front quarter panels of their cars, as if that would signify performance. Please, Buick, get rid of them. Their continuation is analogous having a smartphone with a rotary dial.
Engine: 2.0-liter DOCH I4 turbo
Horsepower: 259 @ 5,300 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3,000 to 4,000 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and head
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Steering: Belt-driven electric
Wheelbase: 107.8 in.
Length: 190.2 in.
Width: 73.1 in.
Height: 58.4 in.
Passenger volume: 96.8 cu. ft.
Cargo volume: 14.2 cu. ft.
Curb weight: 3,981 lb.
EPA: 19/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined