Buick in general, and its Regal sports sedan in particular, have been piling up the accolades lately. Last month, J.D. Power and Associates rated Buick second to Lexus in overall quality. About the same time, Consumer Reports magazine named the Regal one of the 10 Top Picks of 2015. The praise is well deserved.
We test-drove a Regal several years ago and mostly were confused by it. The midsize Regal seemed competitive with a similarly sized Buick model, the LaCrosse, while the big Lucerne was the brand’s flagship. After the 2011 model year, Buick dropped the Lucerne, bulked up the LaCrosse and let the Regal find its niche as Buick’s midsize sedan.
The Regal is a moderately priced 4-door near-luxury sedan with European-style road manners quite unlike the Buick land yachts of old. It competes in a very crowded market, and sales have declined this year in month-to-month comparisons. That may change as the Consumer Reports and J.D. Power rankings become widely known.
All Regals, with the exception of the hybrid model, come with a 2.0-liter, 259-horsepower turbocharged Four; most are equipped with 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission. But Buick offers two pleasing alternatives: an all-wheel-drive model and a 6-speed manual transmission, available only in the front-wheel-drive Regal GS.
Much to our relief in late February, our Regal GS test car had the all-wheel-drive option, and we put it to good use on the snowy, often icy Connecticut roads. The car’s base price was $39,810; a pair of safety-oriented Driver Confidence Packages, plus a power moonroof, brought the sticker price to $44,965. A base Regal, with front-wheel drive, an automatic transmission and no options, starts at just under $30,000.
The Regal’s handling and power delivery were faultless. While the ride is firm, as befits a model based on the German Opel brand, it’s also very quiet and composed. The front seats are roomy, fore and aft as well as side to side, but tall passengers didn’t have enough head room in back.
Even at base level, the Regal is very well equipped. Standard features on our high-end GS model included remote start, heated seats and steering wheel, keyless start, wi-fi hotspot, navigation system and rear-vision camera.
We would have liked to have a few more shelves and cubbyholes for small items, and the car’s fuel economy was disappointing: We never got much above 20 mpg in mostly highway driving, even though the car is rated at 19 mpg in the city, 27 highway. On top of that, Buick recommends owners use premium gasoline.
While the audio and climate controls are simple and convenient, they don’t always respond quickly, and sometimes don’t respond at all on the first try.
The Regal has a better-than-average reliability record, based on Consumer Reports magazine owner surveys, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Regal its top rating of ìGoodî in all crash-test categories.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 259 horsepower, 295 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,981 lb.
Suspension: HiPer strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19-in. alloy
Tires: P245/40R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 14.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)