Time: 2332, Eastern. Outside temperature: six degrees. Speed: 83 mph, climbing.
One needs to remind himself of following distance when letting the dogs run.
Thoughts appear as bullet points in the frontal cortex.
- Led Zep II makes me hammer down
- The left lane is clear, but there are some right lane travellers that could become obstacles.
One thousand one…
One thousand two…
“I should have quit you, baby, long time ago…”
One thousand three…
“down on this killing floor, break it down for me now…”
One thousand four…
- Prius just oozed into the left lane to pace, not pass, the fuel tanker putting up considerable spray.
- Headlights are dirty. Need to slow down anyway.
- Too bad.
Wait a second, I’m lamenting having to back off while driving a Buick!
“People worry I can’t keep you satisfied…”
This 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a parts-bin car. A re-badge, and yet, it’s one hell of a highway flyer. The Regal is also surprisingly adroit in kinkier situations. It’s kind of a damn shame that this car is an automotive Palestinian. It’s sold as a Buick, but it started off as an Opel with a side of Saab, and was supposed to be a Saturn. For many, the Regal does nothing to recommend itself. That changes when you drive it, but if you think about it too much, it’ll piss you off.
The Regal Turbo AWD makes me angry with General Motors. Where the hell were cars like this in the ’80s and ’90s? GM passed those decades playing Program Objective Bingo. Does the under-engineered, over-budget, late-to-market shitbox du jour tick all the boxes for the Vehicle Line Director? If yes, proceed directly to market. Lather, rinse, bankrupt.
Regals then were GM-10 (later W) platform garbage. Nostalgia has already kicked in. The myth goes that a vicious public bought in to so much “hype” over the Camry and Accord and didn’t give the all-around-solid GM front-drivers a fair chance. Fiction. In reality, now is the only time in a generation that General Motors has built a modern midsize sedan that isn’t lashed together from pig iron and offal.
General Motors is making complete-package cars that compete. Why did it take so long? Did it really require kicking the blue-collar backbone in the jewels and a quick-rinse bankruptcy for GM to get it? It didn’t have to. It shouldn’t have had to, and that’s why I’m upset by the Regal.
The last time a Regal wasn’t a total shitbox was…gosh, was it ever not a shitbox? Maybe the first Colonnade Regal, or the last-gasp G-body? It’s been at least thirty years since the Regal was anything but woefully assembled with dull orange-peel paint covering slap-dash bodywork with chintz horror chamber interiors.
Now we have this 2014 Regal, which wasn’t even supposed to be a Buick. Inside left me more impressed than a Lexus ES. On the road, you can feel the benefit of the Russelsheim engineering. Punch it and will fly. The structure feels brick-outhouse solid. This is the kind of car we used to wish GM could make. What the hell took so long?
There’s a whole bunch of cousins built off the Epsilon II architecture the Regal is based upon. Among the Malibus, LaCrosses and XTSes, the Regal Turbo with AWD is the most compelling. Yup, it’s not that roomy, but neither is the Audi A4, the revered BMW 3 Series or even the Infiniti G37. The reality is that the back seat space, while snug, is actually better than those other cars, and the Regal has a 14.2 cubic foot trunk, also actually pretty good.
The Regal draws an inevitable comparison to the Cadillac ATS. It’s only natural, the cars are priced closely together, and they appear a close match size-wise. You can’t knock the Regal on space and then turn around and say “king me” to an ATS. It’s got a teensy 10.2 cubic foot trunk, and there is no interior dimension that is larger than the Regal. It’s no surprise, then, that the ATS interior is just 90.9 cubic feet, noticeably tighter than the Regal’s 96.8 cubic feet.
Ah, but the Regal is also too expensive to play in this sandbox, even if the ATS and its weaker value are on your automotive fantasy team. The Regal definitely isn’t as special as the ATS, the 3 Series, or heck, even a milquetoast-spec Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But if the Regal with turbo engine, AWD, leather, Driver Confidence Package #2, Premium II Package, and Power Moonroof is too pricey at $40,000, then what does that make the ATS equipped roughly the same way at about $47,000? Remember, there’s less space all around and the maddening burden of CUE, so clearly the differentiator is the driving experience. The ATS is indeed better to drive, but is it $7,000 better?
That’s a question best answered on your own, but most would say no. If you’re the practical sort, wait a year or two and take advantage of the Buick’s more prodigious depreciation for a great pre-owned deal. The Regal is great to drive. It’s precise, responsive and powerful. The ride is on the stiff side of compliant. The exhaust is on the drone-y side of throaty. Switch the traction control off, though, and you will be shocked to find that you can rotate this thing with the throttle. It may be FWD-based, but that tail will wag. The HiPer Strut front end, with its tuned-up geometry does its thing like a grown up. All the smooth wheel control would be better served by more feedback at the steering wheel rim, though.
The Regal gets a cleaned-up dashboard for 2014. There’s fewer buttons on the center stack, and the layout is logical. Ergonomics for the hard controls are good, though a knob for fan speed control would be more elegant than the up/down buttons. The touch panels for temperature and seat heater control look great, but are dismal to use. They’re unresponsive and distracting. The latest version of Intellilink drives the larger in-dash LCD, but it suffers from organization problems and too many sub-menus. The system also has a speed issue, sometimes hanging up for a few seconds while tuning through radio stations or calling up functions. I’d be especially upset to be making monthly payments for that kind of underachievement.
The Driver Confidence Package, by the way, is something you can completely live without. Skip it and drop the price of this weaponized midsizer back into the $30,000s. The dynamic cruise control is pretty well-tuned, but everything else is just unnecessary for an attentive driver. Of course, the flip side of that is that it may be more than necessary to offer the blinking lights, beeping warnings and last-ditch interventions. Those features give Buick some safety talking points, and when buyers opt for it, the profit margin puffs up.
The Regal Turbo AWD is a good car in a tough spot. From behind the wheel, it’s surprisingly good. But it’s between a rock and a hard place. Even within the GM family, it’s not as good as the ATS, but it’s a lot better than the ho-hum Malibu. The Regal does have the chops to keep a reasonable enthusiast entertained, but it falls short in the cars-by-the-pound measures of space and stuff for the lowest price.
The 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a charmer of sorts, but its like trying to get someone’s attention in a room full of Kennedys. There’s pressure on all sides, and even though the Regal has done yeoman’s work to drop the average age of Buick buyers and driven a bunch of conquest sales for Buick, it will probably finish its life as it started: a carpet-bagger Opel that’s mostly irrelevant, nice enough, and surprisingly frisky.