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 that 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 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 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 Regal's base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 259 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available as an option. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only choice unless you spring for the GS, which offers an optional six-speed manual with front-drive (the GS AWD is automatic-only). A 2.4-liter four-cylinder with mild hybrid technology called "eAssist" is offered as an option on the Premium I trim. It's good for 182 hp and 172 pound-feet of torque, with shifting duties handled by a six-speed automatic. EPA combined fuel economy with the mild hybrid rates in the high 20s.
The Buick Regal comes in four trim levels: base, Premium I, Premium II and GS. The base Regal's standard highlights include 18-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 trim adds keyless ignition and entry, rear parking sensors and a power passenger seat, while the Premium 2 trim adds amenities like adds automatic xenon headlights, a navigation system, an upgraded sound system and rear passenger side airbags. 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 is optional on all Regals, while a touchscreen navigation system and lane-departure, blind-spot and forward-collision warning systems are available in optional packages on certain trims.
In reviews, we've praised the Regal's upscale-looking cabin. The standard front seats provide plenty of support for spirited driving and comfort for long-haul trips, though they may be a bit snug for wider folks. 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. The Intellilink infotainment system is easier to use than the previous button-heavy interface, and looks better to boot. An abundance of infotainment media options should please technophiles.
On the move, the turbocharged base model is spunky and quick, though there's a slight delay after the gas pedal is floored before the car really hits its stride. However, we'd recommend skipping the 2.4 "eAssist" version. Though it gets decent fuel economy, its acceleration is sluggish for a car in this price range. On a curvy road the Regal displays impressive athleticism, especially in the GS version. Some drivers 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. The GS also gets adaptive dampers that can firm up the ride or make it comfier at the press of a button.
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 184-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder (without the hybrid system) and the base turbocharged 2.0-liter good for 220 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Standard equipment on these Regals essentially mirrors the current car. The 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. That year also saw the introduction of the mild hybrid eAssist model and the high-performance Regal GS. While the eAssist is the same powertrain as the current version, the original GS boasted a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder than today's, with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
For 2014, the Buick Regal received a host of changes. A 259-hp turbocharged four-cylinder replaced both the Turbo and GS trim levels' engines, while all-wheel drive became newly optional on all turbo Regals. Other changes included exterior design tweaks, an updated equipment roster (including new electronic safety features) and a redesigned dashboard with a standard 8-inch touchscreen in place of the many buttons that cluttered the dashboards of previous Regals.
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 lb-ft 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.