Driving Impression – February 2014

Taking a Trip Across the Pond
2014 Buick Regal Turbo AWD

By Greg Cavanaugh

Authors Note:  I had the chance to drive the Buick Regal when it was first released in 2010 as a 2011 model.  That particular Regal was FWD and equipped with Buick’s base 4-cylinder engine.  Given that much of this Regal is the same, I thought I would reprint my original article with the proper additions noting the unique characteristics of the Turbo AWD model.  Enjoy!

Gallup Journey 2014 Buick RegalMerkur. Contour.  LeMans.  What types of feelings do these cars conjure for you? While the idea of taking a European car, rebadging it and bringing it to the US is not new, the aforementioned list demonstrates the difficulty of doing it well.  I’ll make no excuses here; the 2014 Buick Regal is precisely a rebadged and tweaked Opel Insignia.  Fortunately, this one will likely go down in automotive history as a successful implementation of this idea.  Even now, several years after the current Regal’s reintroduction to the US market, I can easily say it’s my favorite in Buick’s lineup.  Here’s why.

First and foremost is the ride and handling. The 2014 Regal is taut.  In 2011 I called it “borderline rough.”  Now in 2014-Turbo-AWD guise, it’s well sorted and an excellent balance of comfort and sport.  An inherent characteristic in most European cars is a very firm and controlled ride and Buick left it in when they brought the Insignia across the pond.  After several days of test driving, I appreciated the Regal’s penchant for bouncing only once over a bump and for staying true to where it’s pointed when cornering on an off ramp.  Where many cars get downright wallowy after many miles, the Regal will only be getting more comfortable and still in control.

Handling is not the only European trait left in this car, either. I’m still not quite sure where this car fits in the car classifications or just exactly which other cars it intends to compete with; the new Regal is truly a European-sized car.  While it’s certainly not a compact car, compared with today’s midsized offerings like the Accord, Camry, and Fusion, it’s a good bit smaller.  Frankly, I like the size.  Out here in the West we tend to think big, but the Regal fits nicely wherever it goes and is easy to park and maneuver around town.

Up front the Regal is comfortable and out back it offers a fairly generous trunk.  But where the Regal’s dimensions are compromised is in the back seat, made no more apparent than when I put my daughter’s car seat back there.  While the car seat fit without too much adjustment needed to the front seats, it was clear that the back seat is narrower, a bit low on head room (mainly from the rear roofline’s severe slope) and short on knee room.  But don’t think the Regal is severely limited.  For many buyers it’s probably just the right size.

The Regal is sharp.  The styling is largely carried over from Europe, but with a Buick grill and some interior work.  The interior is very attractive and fully functional.  2014 receives updates over the 2011 I drove, including the addition of two very nice LCD screens, one located between the two sharp gauges in the center of the instrument cluster.  The other sits at a great height to take advantage of Buick’s excellent IntelliLink infotainment system.  The climate control now has touch-sensitive temperature and heated seat controls.  While I have no problem with buttons, the change to more touch control means a cleaner look and a techy feel. Of course the leather seats and steering wheel, with their contrasting stitching, are awesome.  I like the way Buick does interiors: classy and contemporary.

For 2014 Buick has dropped the base 2.4-liter naturally aspirated option and made the direct injected 2.0 EcoTec turbo for the main engine.  While you can still get a non-turbo Regal, it’s now paired with e-assist as more of a mild hybrid/efficiency model.  Frankly, I think the switch to turbo is a great fit.  Combined with a 6-speed automatic and AWD this 2.0-liter uses plenty of boost  (over 20 psi) and makes a healthy 259 hp and, more impressively, 295 lb-ft. of torque!  The powertrain gives the Regal a legit sporty character that matches nicely with the Regal’s suspension tuning.   All in all, the Regal T AWD is wholly fun to drive.  I’m so glad turbos are en vogue because I love the head-tossing torque punch they deliver. At an EPA rated at 19 city/27 hwy/22 combined mpg, you do pay a bit at the pump for the Regal’s turbo thrust, but after driving it, you won’t care!

When you look at Buick’s current lineup in showrooms, it’s clear that the brand has changed.   From the Regal on up to the LaCrosse and Enclave, their image is gaining traction for buyers well below retirement age as stylish, luxurious, smart and, probably most importantly, different.  Now with the Regal firmly in showrooms and buyers’ driveways, we just may need to add “sporty” to the Buick name, as well.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $33,805,  (base price: $31,865)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1998 cc
Power: 259 hp @ 5300 rpm
T orque: Turbo 6AT AWD, 295 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

Wheelbase: 107.8 in
Length: 190.2 in
Width: 73.1 in Height: 58.4 in
Curb weight: Turbo, 4015 lb

*Special thanks to Mickey at Rico.  Hopefully that snow storm got it good and muddy!*

**Jump over to my YouTube channel “Gallup Journey Test Drives” to see more of the handsome Regal in and around Gallup.**

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