1987 Buick Regal Grand National Track Test
Testing the Turbo Buick That Shocked the World...in the '80s
Edmunds tests hundreds of vehicles a year. Cars, trucks, SUVs, we run them all, and the numbers always tell a story. With that in mind we present "Track Tested," a quick rundown of all the data we collect at the track, along with comments direct from the test drivers. Enjoy.
There are moments in a gearhead's life you will always remember. Buying your first Hot Wheels. The first time you ever drove a car. Your first speeding ticket. Your first burnout. And, for many, the first time you saw the chunky blackness of a Buick Grand National tear a Mustang a new one on the drag strip.
The specter that turbocharged beast cast in our collective memories set a mental benchmark for cool cars and has stayed with us for so long that as soon as we found a good one, we bought a 1987 Buick Regal Grand National for our long-term test fleet.
As you'd expect, we were excited to test our new Buick Grand National. First, however, we needed to replace the aging shocks and throw on a set of new meats, BF Goodrich Radial T/As of course. We also paid up for some basic maintenance like a new fuel filter and transmission fluid. But make no mistake, this is one of the lowest-mileage, stone-stockest Buick Grand Nationals in the world.
In their day, Grand Nationals terrorized tracks from Epping to Englishtown, Pomona to Portland and everywhere in between. But that was a different day and a different game. Drag strips are specially prepped, while our testing facility emulates real-world pavement.
Also, our 2012-spec California-special 91-octane has nothing on the liquid chest hair that was 1987-spec 93+ octane frequently available at the tracks we grew up on — if they were even running pump gas. And remember, we've already verified that the Buick's computer is retarding the engine timing 4 degrees at full throttle in response to the low-octane modern fuel.
In other words, the crazy-quick elapsed times we remember from the Reagan administration would be very difficult to repeat these days with our 25-year-old example. Back then we remember GNs running the quarter-mile in the 14.0-14.4-second range. And they would dip into the 13s when the catalytic converter was tossed and a more aggressive "chip" was plugged into the ECM.
With that in mind, we set out to test our Buick Grand National. As expected, it's a bit off the pace set back in 1987. But it's no slouch.
We'll test it again soon on some high-octane go juice and report back.
Vehicle: 1987 Buick Regal Grand National
Driver: Chris Walton
Price: $18,514 (original price, we paid $25,000)
Drive Type: Longitudinal, front engine, rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Four-speed automatic
Engine Type: Pushrod, two valves per cylinder
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 3,800/231
Redline (rpm): 5,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 245 @ 4,400
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 355 @ 2,800
Brake Type (front): Ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): Drums
Suspension Type (front): Independent double wishbones, coil springs
Suspension Type (rear): Live axle, coil springs
Tire Size (front): P245/60R15 (100S) M+S
Tire Size (rear): P245/60R15 (100s) M+S
Tire Brand: BF Goodrich
Tire Model: Radial T/A
Tire Type: All-season
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,599
0-30 (sec): 2.3
0-45 (sec): 3.8
0-60 (sec): 6.1
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 5.8
0-75 (sec): 9.3
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 14.6 @ 92.2
30-0 (ft): 34
60-0 (ft): 145
Slalom (mph): 61.3
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.82
Db @ Idle: 52.3
Db @ Full Throttle: 71.2
Db @ 70-mph Cruise: 67.4
RPM @ 70: 2,750
Acceleration: A little pokey without pedal overlap, but the upshifts are sharp. I found holding the car steady on the brakes while raising the rpm to plus-minus 3,000 and the boost to about 5 psi netted the best launch. It seems to spool up quicker now and the midrange is definitely stronger post tune-up. So, the tune-up got us about two-tenths quicker to 60 mph.
Braking: The brakes were best when they were cool. As the number of stops increased, so did the stopping distances. Pedal feel is nearly nonexistent and lock-up (skidding) grew harder and harder to avoid despite my best efforts. I miss ABS.
Skid pad: Pretty mild steady-state understeer here. I had to get used to surging from the turbo, but eventually managed to keep the throttle steady all the way around. Steering weight is light, yet I could feel the front tires' grip ebbing. It did puke a little oil during/after the skid pad. We double-checked the level and it was fine. Also did an underhood inspection and found some oil on the right valve cover from the breather. I sopped it up with a rag and sent it on its way home.
Slalom: Obviously new shocks and new tires helped here. Hard to imagine saying this after the last '87 Buick Grand National I tested, but this car is a confident and capable handler. Not sure if I'd give all the credit to the tires because there's also so little slack in the steering (comparatively speaking) and the chassis feels compliant and forgiving (shocks). I could really attack the slalom in this one, where I wanted to throw in the towel on the other one.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.