TOFINO, BRITISH COLUMBIA: The roads that meander through Vancouver Island offer exhilarating corners, fresh undulating pavement and arguably the most beautiful scenery in the country.
A perfect location to test the new Regal Sportback and Regal GS, Buick’s mid-size sports sedans that are aimed directly at the Acura TLX and Lexus IS.
This entry-level luxury segment is a tough one to break new ground in. The competition is fierce with the Germans and the Japanese dominating for what feels like forever now. Customers shopping this type of car are fiercely loyal and tend to stick with what they know.
So if Buick is serious about making a dent and ruffling some feathers, this new Regal better be good.
And I’m very happy to report that it is. In fact it’s more than just good. It’s great!
I didn’t have the highest expectations going in, but those feelings were quickly dispelled upon entering the first tight corner. Turning the thick flat-bottomed wheel (in the Regal GS) rewarded with quick turn-in and excellent stability through the corner. Once the suspension took a set the Regal held its line with minimal steering corrections and squirted out of the corner in a way that had me double checking the crest on the wheel to confirm what I was driving.
Newly redesigned for 2018, this Buick is aimed at a buyer that lives an adventurous lifestyle and values good design and a dynamic driving experience.
What sets this new Regal apart from the last generation and much of its competition is the liftback configuration, which is the only body style offered.
Pushing the Buick shield badge pops the hatch open revealing a class leading 892 litres of space with the seats up. Fold them down and you get an absolutely cavernous 1718 litres, making those Ikea trips a piece of cake.
We were asked to load a couple of folding bikes into the Regal and it swallowed two of them with room to spare. Having this kind of utility in a car that drives like this is brilliant.
It’s no surprise that the white-hot SUV/CUV market is where most consumers are choosing to spend their hard earned dollars, but no matter how good they have become over the years, you just cannot beat the dynamic quality offered by a well-sorted sedan.
The statement above was solidified when throwing the Sportback into ever tightening, blind, corners that require you to have complete confidence in the vehicle you are piloting.
While the Sportback was definitely confidence inspiring, the GS with its standard Continuous Damping Control (that can adjust damping 500 times per second), 4 piston Brembo brakes, with the all important red calipers, and the 9 speed automatic transmission was sublime through the twisties snaking between the majestic Vancouver Island Mountains.
The chassis stiffness was remarkable and the steering was one of the better electric racks that I’ve felt in a while, offering loads of information directly to your finger tips and getting appreciably firmer the faster it was hustled.
The 9-speed auto banged of quick shifts and held gears appropriately, setting me up for every corner like it was a mind reader. Popping the shifter to the left engages manual mode allowing you to swap cogs by yourself, but strangely enough the shifts were much slower this way, taking about a half second to respond to my inputs.
Left to its own devices, it shifted much faster and that’s how I left it during most of my seat time with the Regal.
One area where this Buick really impresses is bang-for-the-buck. The base Sportback, starting at $31,485, is very well equipped with a standard heated steering wheel, dual zone climate control, 3 USB ports, an 8-inch frameless infotainment screen, 18-inch wheels, 4G wireless connectivity and a standard active Safety hood that uses pyrotechnic struts to raise the rear of the hood by 4 inches in milliseconds providing an aluminum cushion of sorts that will help reduce pedestrian injury in the event of an impact.
The Sportback comes with the 2-litre turbo 4 cylinder that also sees duty in the Cadillac ATS and produces 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque that rises to 295 lb-ft if equipped with AWD. This being Canada it would be safe to assume that most Regals leaving the factory will be ordered with the AWD system that sports something Buick calls active twin clutch. This innovative system can actively portion out the torque to each rear wheel independently; something they were quick to mention was a limitation for Audi’s Quattro system.
From behind the wheel this is imperceptible. What you do notice is the seemingly endless amount of grip on hand.
Starting at $43, 845 the GS offers even more kit including some very supportive performance seats certified by AGR; the German chiropractic association. These thrones look the business and are heated, ventilated and offer a massage function.
The GS also comes standard with GM’s naturally aspirated 3.6 litre V6 that produces a healthy 310 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque propelling it from rest to 100 km/h in a quick-ish 5.8 seconds. While it felt faster than the 2 litre powering the base models it wasn’t that much of a difference, likely attributable to the low down torque delivery of turbo motors.
It did sound better and the quick response from a naturally aspirated engine is something that is getting less and less common as more manufacturers move to turbo power almost exclusively.
Different drive modes have become almost as ubiquitous as turbo motors these days, and it’s another feature exclusive to the GS. There are 3 different modes, normal (on by default), sport and GS. Sport mode didn’t really make much of difference in my opinion but GS seemed to bring everything together and turned this Regal into a veritable corner-munching machine that plastered a perma-smile on my face.
I came away with a new found appreciation for this Regal and the one thing I kept going back to was the price. This really is a bargain when you consider how much kit and refinement you get. Our GS tester had a sticker of just over 50K and came with nearly every conceivable option that Buick offers on it.
This is a great looking machine that incorporates the popular coupe like sloping roofline, innovative liftback design and the cargo space of an SUV. There really isn’t much to dislike here. I wasn’t very keen on the dashboard surface material and some of the plastics were a bit questionable.
I also felt it needed a bit more power, Cadillac’s 3-litre twin turbo would be an ideal choice for this application but would probably drive up the price significantly.
I hope for Buick’s sake that more consumers start to take notice of this impressive new offering.
The Regal Sportback and GS are available now.
Photos © Kunal D’souza
2019 Buick Regal Sportback/Regal GS
BODY STYLE: Mid-size 4 door sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, Front-wheel drive/All-Wheel Drive
ENGINE: Sportback – 2.0 litre turbocharged inline 4 (Power: 250 hp; Torque: 260 lb-ft (FWD), 290 lb-ft @ 3000-4000 rpm (AWD)) GS – 3.6 litre V6 (Power: 310 hp; Torque: 282 lb-ft @5200 rpm)
CARGO CAPACITY: 892 litres(behind rear seat) 1718 litres (seats folded)
FUEL ECONOMY: 2.0 litre turbo inline 4(FWD): 10.7/7.4 L/100 km city/highway; (AWD): 11/8 L/100 km city/highway; GS: 12.4/8.7 L/100 km city/highway
PRICE: Sportback(base) $31,845; GS(base): $43,845
WEBSITE: Buick Regal