What's New for 2000
New alloy wheels, a standard body-colored grille on the GS and two new colors, Gold Metallic and Sterling Silver debut. Inside, there's now a split-folding rear seat and an optional side airbag for the driver on leather-lined Regals.
Back in 1997, Buick released a new Regal Sedan. The slow-selling coupe was dropped, leaving LS and GS versions of the four-door. This new Regal was larger in nearly every dimension, and was designed to reduce squeaks and rattles by increasing structural rigidity with one-piece side-panel stampings and cross bracing behind the instrument panel. A full load of standard equipment and reasonable prices have made this front-drive Regal competitive, and it continues to entice buyers who might normally limit themselves to Toyota or Nissan showrooms to at least visit a Buick store.
Think of the Regal as Park Avenue Light, or Century Deluxe. LS models are powered by GM's award-winning 3800 Series II V6, which boasts an even 200 horses. Move up to the GS, and you're getting an honest-to-goodness sport sedan equipped with a supercharged 3.8-liter V6 putting 240 horsepower through a heavy-duty version of Regal's four-speed automatic transmission. With a starting price of around $25,000, the suave, speedy Regal GS makes an excellent argument against purchasing any other sporty midsize V6 sedan.
Basic design is shared with the lower-rung Century. Regal has a unique front fascia, but barely different rear styling. LS versions are distinguished by a chrome-accented grille, while GS models have a body-colored grille this year, with P225/60 radials on restyled 16-inch alloy wheels (chrome is an option).
Inside, a comfortable interior beckons, and now features a split-folding rear seat to make hauling long items such as skis and fishing rods easier and more convenient. A 220-watt Monsoon audio system with eight speakers also is optional on GS models. Heated leather seats are again available, and with leather comes the option of a side airbag for the driver.
One thing this Buick offers that few in its class can is the availability of OnStar, an optional mobile communications system formerly available only on Cadillac models. OnStar provides a hands-free link to real-time, person-to-person in-vehicle safety, security and information services from GM's 24-hour, seven-day-a-week OnStar Center. A new three-button system eliminates the need for a customer to buy separate cellular phone service to access OnStar services.
The Regal GS comes equipped with full-range traction control, which uses the ABS and engine controls to reduce traction loss on slippery surfaces. Engine modulation provides traction-control assistance on LS versions. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on both models. An exceptional array of standard features and option packages make the LS a smart choice among premium midsize sedans. Yet pounding out 240 ponies to the pavement in the GS through its Gran Touring suspension leaves us wondering, where is Buick trying to go with this car?
Despite recent efforts at establishing strong GM brand identities for each division, sharing platforms between multiple divisions is likely to continue to be a problem. Pontiac's Grand Prix and Oldsmobile's Intrigue share Regal's underpinnings and basic structure. Grand Prix is obviously the driver's car with a youthful image and the "We Build Excitement" marketing theme. Intrigue is conservatively styled and import-oriented. So where does that leave the Buick Regal? Buick officials say the Regal is targeted at 40-49 year-olds with families who want a blend of performance, dependability and safety. Basically, Buick is going after the kinds of buyers who snap up thousands of Camrys every year.
The Camry is plainly styled, like the Regal. The Camry is a roomy, safe car, like the Regal. The Camry also has an outstanding reputation for reliability and resale value. Can the Regal compete in this arena as well? Given Buick's penchant for award-winning quality and continued refinement, we wouldn't be too surprised. For now, rest assured that the Regal is an excellent value, and with 240 supercharged horses under the hood, the GS model easily gets our nod.