The Buick Regal has been a flop for General Motors. Last year only 18,685 cars were sold in the US, which is a far cry from 40,144 units sold in 2011 – the high water mark for the Regal.
|Engine: 2.0L turbo four-cylinder with 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: With all-wheel drive, only a six-speed automatic is available.
Fuel Economy: Rated at 19 mpg city, 27 highway. We averaged 22.6 mpg.
Price: Starts at $32,790 with delivery. Our test vehicle costs $40,455.
Part of the sales decline can be blamed on Buick’s compact Verano sedan. In the two years since the Verano went on sale, sales of the mid-size Regal have plummeted. With similar drivetrains, interior dimensions and cargo capacity, the far cheaper Verano makes more sense for consumers.
Now With All-Wheel Drive
The other big addition for 2014 is all-wheel drive (AWD). Available on any turbocharged model, the Regal utilizes a Haldex all-wheel drive system that is front-biased, but can be coaxed to hang the tail out if pushed hard enough on slippery surfaces. With the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making it’s 295 lb-ft of torque as low as 3,000 rpm, this is a nice addition as the power can easily overwhelm the front tires. Unfortunately, all AWD models come with the six-speed automatic transmission as the six-speed manual available on the Regal GS is for the front-wheel drive model only.
The AWD turbo Regal is claimed to be able to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, but it feels much faster. From a dead stop the engine pulls hard with a sort of ferocity we weren’t expecting.
SEE ALSO: 2012 Buick Regal GS Review
The Regal is meant to be a bit sporty and although it is not going to match luxury compacts like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series in terms of dynamics, it does handle surprisingly well. Buick’s engineers have found a suspension balance that is smooth and soft over rough, pothole-laced roads, but is still tight enough to allow the Regal to attack corners with mild aggression. Gone are the days of the cloud floating Buicks, but this suspension is still quite comfortable.
Now Even Heavier
A large enemy of the Regal has always been weight and the new all-wheel drive system only makes matter worse. The AWD Regal weighs in at 3,959 lbs. which is an increase of almost 290 lbs. compared to front-wheel drive versions. That gives this Regal a less than impressive fuel economy rating of 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. During our week with the car, we averaged 22.6 mpg.
When the Regal first burst onto the scene in 2010, it was heralded as quite a good looking car. But the looks are getting a bit dated now so Buick gave it a mild refresh. Overall it still looks similar – maybe even more like the Verano. One thing is for sure, those damn Ventiports on the hood have to go. Even with a modern exterior, this car has a tough time exuding the same presence as other $40,000 sedans like the Lexus IS 250, Audi A4 and Infiniti Q50.
Interior Still Lacking
But a bigger issue for the Regal since its inception has been the interior. This year it too has been refreshed, especially around the center stack. And despite it looking stylish and somewhat luxurious, when pricing is taken into account, it can’t match interiors from Audi, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz. The rear seats feel far too small for a vehicle of this class. Although there is a decent 37.3 inches of rear legroom – more than a Lexus IS, Audi A4 and Acura TSX – the Regal feels smaller to sit in. Maybe it is the low 36.8 inches of rear headroom or the way the roof arches down into the door opening. The trunk is equally cramped and actually smaller than the Verano’s at only 14.2 cubic feet trunk.
There are some redeeming qualities inside the Regal. Buick’s Intellilink infotainment system is arguably the best from GM. It has the right combination of touch screen and button controls, including my personal favorite feature, a tuning button. Although some of the other switch gear looks old inside the car, the contrasting sunken display screens for the climate controls are a nice touch. And as should be expected for a car in this price range, the Regal is available with the latest safety technology like adaptive cruise, lane departure warning and crash avoidance.
Can get Pricey
And then there is the issue of price. The all-wheel drive Regal begins at a reasonable $32,790 after destination charges. But step up to our all-wheel drive “Premium II” test vehicle with both driver confidence packages and the sunroof added and the price jumps to $40,455. That puts the Regal in the same price range as a decently equipped Audi A4, the Lexus IS 250 and several other more prestigious options. The Regal may have more power and content at this price than those vehicles, but they offer more space, refinement and the all-important branding.
The biggest threat to the Regal though might still be in-house. Buick may have been successful in separating the Regal from Verano, but now the manufacturer has the Cadillac ATS to worry about. For roughly the same price as our test vehicle, the ATS can be had with a more powerful version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and AWD. Yes, it too is less equipped than the Buick, but it is built on a better platform and comes with a Cadillac badge.
The main issue with the Regal is that it is trying to be too many things to too many people. The car starts as a front-wheel drive four-cylinder model that competes with mid-size sedans, but can be optioned all the way up to the entry level luxury class; a Regal GS AWD is priced similarly to the BMW 335i sedan. Much like the third generation Cadillac CTS finally picked one class and price point to compete in, the Regal needs to as well. Until then, the 2014 Regal AWD Premium II will continue to be a solid car in too small of a wrapper at too high of a price.