Used 1997 Buick Regal Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

The complete redesign of the Regal means Buick finally has a viable entry in the midsize sedan marketplace. The standard equipment list is long, including ABS, traction control, dual-zone climate controls, heated exterior mirrors, retained accessory power and battery rundown protection.

Vehicle overview

In 1990, Buick released a sedan version of the Regal coupe to do battle with the Ford Taurus, Toyota Camry and Nissan Maxima. Shortsighted in terms of design and engineering, the Regal sedan won few converts from established domestic and import nameplates. Tight times delayed replacement of Buick's lame duck, and by 1996, the Regal's main selling point was a strong 3800 Series II V6 engine. Sales were limited to die-hard Buick buyers and rental fleets.

Now, Buick has released a new Regal sedan. The slow-selling coupe has been excised from the lineup, leaving LS and GS versions of the four-door. The new Regal is larger in nearly every dimension, and is manufactured to reduce squeaks and rattles by tightening the structure of the car with one-piece side panel stamping and cross bracing behind the instrument panel. A full load of standard equipment and reasonable prices make the new Regal very competitive, and should entice buyers who might normally limit themselves to Toyota or Nissan showrooms to at least visit a Buick store.

Think of the new Regal as Park Avenue Light, or Century Deluxe. LS models are powered by GM's tried and true 3800 Series II V6, which puts 195 horsepower to the ground via the front axle. Move up to the GS, and you're getting a real sport sedan equipped with a supercharged V6 making 240 horsepower. Buick says the GS will be the focus car of the lineup, and with good reason. At a starting price of $23,495, the suave, speedy Regal GS is an excellent argument against purchasing a Honda Accord LX V6.

Basic styling is shared with the lower rung Century. Regal gets unique front styling, and barely different rear styling. LS models are distinguished by a chrome accented grille, while GS models get blackout trim and sharp 16-inch alloy wheels. Inside, an attractive interior beckons. Heated leather seats are optional, as is an integrated child safety seat. Both cars get traction control, but the system on the GS works at all speeds rather than at lower speeds like the unit on the LS.

Good things are happening at GM. However, sharing platforms between multiple divisions is likely to continue to be a problem, despite recent efforts at establishing strong brand identities for each division. Pontiac's Grand Prix and Oldsmobile's new Intrigue share Regal's underpinnings and basic structure. Grand Prix is obviously the driver's car with a youthful image. Intrigue is conservatively styled and import-oriented in focus. So where does that leave the Buick Regal? Mark Hines, assistant brand manager, says Buick is focusing on 40-49 year-olds with families who want a blend of performance, dependability, and safety. Basically, Buick is going after buyers who snap up thousands of Camrys every year.

The current Camry is plainly styled, just like the new Regal. The Camry is a safe car, just like the new Regal. The current Camry also has an outstanding reputation for reliability and resale value. Can the Regal compete in this arena as well? Time will tell. For now, we can only say that the Regal is an excellent value, and with 240-supercharged ponies under the hood, the GS model is our recommendation.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.