Although the Buick Regal nameplate has been around since the mid-1970s, the most common examples for automotive shoppers will be either the new, European-influenced model or the previous generation, as the latter debuted back in 1997. Between the two generations there was a six-year hiatus, and although these cars have the same name, they couldn't be any more different. The current Regal offers sophisticated styling and road manners, while the previous generation is much more in the traditional Buick mold, meaning squishy seats, an isolated driving experience and a roomy but old-fashioned cabin accented by some cheap plastic trim.
The older generation makes for an inexpensive family car, as there are plenty available, and there's even a supercharged version for those who'd like a midsize sedan with some kick. The latest Regal provides an entertaining drive along with the strengths that Buick has long been known for: a smooth ride and very quiet cabin. As such, this well-rounded midsize sport sedan should appeal to driving enthusiasts who never thought they'd consider a Buick.
Current Buick Regal
The current Regal's exterior styling combines traditional Buick elements (such as a chrome waterfall grille) with neatly tailored European lines, no mere coincidence considering the Regal is based on GM's European Opel Insignia. The cabin is likewise attractive, with splashes of metallic trim to brighten things up a bit.
The Regal comes in three main trim levels: base, Turbo and GS. There are also Premium sub-trims of the base and Turbo models. Base Regals come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with the fuel-efficient "eAssist" light hybrid powertrain. Combined, the engine and 11-kilowatt electric motor/generator and lithium-ion battery system generate 182 horsepower. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission on these models.
The Turbo packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 good for 220 hp, matched to either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. The Regal GS has a higher-output version of that engine making 270 hp with the same transmission choices.
The base Regal's standard highlights include 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power driver seat, Bluetooth, OnStar and a seven-speaker sound system. The Premium 1 package adds keyless ignition/entry, rear parking sensors and a power passenger seat. The Premium 2 package adds automatic xenon headlights, an upgraded sound system and rear passenger side airbags. The Turbo versions of these two trim levels add 18-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel and unique powertrain components.
The Premium 3 package is a Turbo-only trim and includes 19-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension and adjustable driving settings. The Regal GS comes with all of the above along with Brembo brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, front sport seats and unique exterior and interior accents. A sunroof and a touchscreen navigation system are optional for most Regals.
Inside, the Regal has an upscale-looking design that features a sweeping arc on the dash. The standard front seats provide plenty of support for spirited driving and comfort for long-haul trips. Those riding in back, however, may find the rear seatbacks a bit flat and uncomfortable, and tall adults will likely bemoan the lack of headroom.
On the move, the base 2.4-liter engine tends to generate more noise than acceleration, due in great part to the car's 3,600-pound curb weight. The Turbo models are obviously much quicker, though there's a slight delay after the gas pedal is floored before the car really hits its stride. On a curvy road the Regal displays impressive athleticism, especially in GS and Turbo versions. Some enthusiasts may find the precise steering too light (except on the GS) and disconnected for their tastes, but for most buyers this won't be an issue. The Regal's ride is hard to fault, as the suspension flattens out bumps and ruts and the cabin remains hushed at highway speeds.
Used Buick Regal Models
The latest fifth-generation Regal was brought back for the 2011 model year. For that debut model year, trim levels consisted only of the CXL and the CXL Turbo, and there were just two engines offered -- the base 2.4 (without the hybrid system) and the base turbocharged 2.0-liter. Standard equipment on these Regals essentially mirrors the current base and Turbo. This first-year Regal, however, had a rather frustrating interface for the optional navigation system (it looked like a touchscreen but instead used fussy knobs and buttons), which was replaced by a touchscreen for 2012. 2012 was also the only year where Buick offered the regular 2.4-liter engine or the 2.4 with the hybrid system. Neither is a great choice, though you will achieve notably better fuel economy with the hybrid.
The previous, fourth-generation Regal (which was available only as a sedan) was produced from 1997 through 2004. It offered a roomy interior along with peppy, yet fuel-efficient powertrains. This Regal was available with a muscular supercharged V6, affording buyers the chance to get a sedan that was both sensible and capable of giving a little thrill, at least in a straight line.
There were two trims available: LS and GS. Base LS models included keyless entry, full power accessories and a CD player, while GS Supercharged models added a more powerful engine, a trip computer and leather upholstery. A third trim, the luxury-themed LSE, was offered only in 2000. Options included heated seats, OnStar and a power sunroof.
Throughout this generation, LS models had a 3.8-liter V6, while GS Supercharged models packed a supercharged version of the V6. The standard V6 initially offered 195 hp, while supercharged models upped the ante with 240 hp. For 1999, the standard V6 saw a power boost to 200 hp. Both engines were mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
But this Regal's shine was dulled by a couple of shortcomings such as a rather archaic cabin that was dressed in cheap-looking fake wood and lacked some of the amenities provided by the competition. Additionally, the Regal's seats weren't that comfortable ? a notable failing for a family sedan. Though this Buick stood as a fair choice in the midsize segment, it was surpassed in many respects by the Japanese competition. Still, low resale values and a good reliability history make this Regal a decent choice for midsize sedan buyers on a tight budget. If possible, we'd suggest narrowing your focus to a GS Supercharged version built in 2000 or after to enjoy a model with appealing performance and the best available feature content.
The third-generation Regal was built from 1988-'96. It held the distinction of being the first front-wheel-drive version of the car, and was offered as both a coupe and sedan. Regals of this era came in a host of trims. For example, in 1996 sedans could be had in base Custom, Olympic Gold, Limited and top-of-the-line Gran Sport trims; coupe buyers had less to choose from, with just Custom and Limited trims. Custom Regals built in the mid-'90s offered a 3.1-liter V6 good for 160 hp and 185 pound-feet of torque, while Limited, Olympic Gold and Gran Sport models were motivated by a 3.8-liter V6 that offered 205 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque. A supercharged engine wasn't offered.
Previous to the '88 redesign, the Regal was, for the most part, a rear-wheel-drive luxury coupe (though a sedan was offered sporadically). Performance enthusiasts will note that the mid-1980s were the high point, as the Grand National, a blacked-out Regal sporting a turbocharged V6, made its mark by being quicker than most muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. There was also the GNX, a limited-edition, even more powerful version of the Grand National.
The Buick Regal started out in 1973 as a lower-priced luxury coupe based on the midsize Century. A sedan debuted the following year and this generation ran until 1978, when the Regal was substantially downsized. A redesign took place for 1981 and that generation lasted through '87.
Read the most recent 2013 Buick Regal review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Buick Regal page.