The Truth About Cars » Buick Regal Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Buick Regal Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: 2014 Buick Regal Turbo AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-buick-regal-turbo-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-buick-regal-turbo-awd/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 14:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=729570 2014 buick regal

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.

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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?

2014 buick regal

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.

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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.

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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.

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Review: 2011 Buick Regal Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-2011-buick-regal-turbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-2011-buick-regal-turbo/#comments Wed, 26 May 2010 21:20:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=357310
Taut. Trim. Modern. Sporty. Developed in Germany. Aimed at youthful enthusiasts. Stop me when it starts sounding like I’m describing a Buick.

Since the launch of the Enclave in 2007, Buick has repeatedly touted a decline in average buyer age that still has yet to push the brand’s demographics into the fat sections of America’s population pyramid. Though the year-old LaCrosse appears to be helping Buick’s central PR narrative, even it is, at best, not your grandfather’s Buick. Despite a brand heritage based on a traditional, suburban American image whose fading appeal is evidenced in Buick’s pre-Enclave demographics, the long-term health of GM’s entry-luxury (or “premium,” to use GM-speak) marque depends on continued progress away from the “blue hair” image it has so richly earned over the past several decades.

It should come as no surprise then, that the 2011 Regal is the most substantive break from Buick’s past to date. And no wonder: born in Germany as the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, the Regal is as traditionally American as a Kraftwerk album. In Europe, the Insignia is sold as fashion-forward competitor in the mass-market, midsized segment. In the context of a Buick that still offers a taste of the geriatric image it’s desperate to escape in the G-Body Lucerne, the Regal is unapologetically marketed as a sports sedan. And until a recently-approved high-performance GS version arrives, the 220 horsepower Turbo version is the bellwether for both the Regal’s sporting pretensions and Buick’s desire to attract a new kind of buyer.

The decision to launch the Regal on 200 miles of twisting road east of San Diego, California is testament to just how much Buick believes in the Regal’s sporting credentials. And this was no mirror-smooth, touring course either. Tight hairpins, deep compressions, nasty potholes and impossibly narrow, rough roads left the Regal no opportunity to fake the funk. Nausea-control armbands left in each Regal’s center console weren’t just for show either: several of Buick’s reps were looking decidedly green around the gills at the stops between driving stages.

And no wonder. The Regal Turbo we tested proved not only to be the best-handling Buick ever (damning with faint praise, to be sure), but also an accomplished athlete by any reasonable comparison. The Regal Turbo is by far the most enthusiast-oriented application of GM’s Epsilon II platform to date, and was, throughout the test, a poised and willing dance partner. The front-drive chassis provided considerable grip through fast sweepers, performed sharp direction changes with aplomb and carried its 3,600 pound claimed curb weight with unexpected grace. And though a far cry from the squishy, all-day touring comfort that previously defined Buick chassis and suspension setups, it never felt overly harsh or hard-core. Even fitted with optional 19 inch wheels (reminiscent of the Jaguar XF’s), the ride remained impressively smooth.

Of course, on the kind of roads that one finds in the hill country east of San Diego, a well-settled chassis alone isn’t enough to deliver true enthusiast performance. The loaded Turbo model we drove was equipped with an active damping system that will be optional on Turbo models when they arrive at dealer lots later this year. With this option comes the choice of three modes, Normal, Touring and Sport, selectable with buttons on the instrument panel. According to the engineers responsible for developing the Regal Turbo, the car itself will even choose between the different modes based on its analysis of real-time telemetric data.

With Sport mode engaged, the difference in suspension, steering and drivetrain settings were immediately noticeable, and is clearly responsible for many of the superlatives in this review. Because Sport mode is self-activating, however, it’s hard to say how a Turbo model without active damping would perform, and its advantages are based on an imperfect comparison to the 2.4 liter, normally-aspirated base Regal with 18 inch rims.

But even with the performance-enhancing wheel and active suspension upgrades, the Regal Turbo we drove was not a perfect athlete. The impressively-fettled chassis, and firm, flattering suspension were consistently let down by a hydraulic-assist steering setup that failed to live up to the Regal’s promise of sports sedan performance. From the moment I slid behind the wheel, it felt almost comically disconnected from the wheels, and driving through downtown San Diego in Touring mode, my concern with the super-light, feedback-free, and vague on-center feel through the Regal’s helm only grew. Based on the number of fellow testers who waggled their wheels in curiosity on the way out of town, like Formula 1 drivers breaking in their tires on a warm-up lap, I wasn’t the only one who took notice.

And sure enough, as soon as the drive’s first leg got into the curvy stuff, the steering came into focus as the weakest link in the enthusiastic driving equation. The vagueness on-center, which was mitigated (but not removed) by pressing the Sport button, robbed the Regal’s driver of confidence when diving into an apex, while the overboosted lightness prevented a steady flow of communication between the road and the driver. As a result, it was extremely difficult to feel out the limits of the Regal’s capability, and one couldn’t help but get the impression that an otherwise capable chassis was going underexploited. Moreover, it limited the Regal’s ability to flatter the driver, an key consideration for an entry sports sedan.

These steering feel complaints are popular whipping boys for road testers, but I wasn’t the only one left cold by the Turbo’s aloof tiller. Halfway through the test, Vehicle Line Engineer Jim Federico admitted that our Turbos fell short on steering weight and feel. He insisted that he understood the need to improve the steering heft on Turbo models, and promised that this would be “dialed in” by the time Turbos hit dealerships later this year. Federico is clearly an engineer who takes his job seriously, but we’re bound by the Great Communicator’s principle of trust but verify on this count.

In contrast to its steering, the Regal’s two-liter, twin-scroll turbocharged Ecotec engine is extremely well-suited to this application. Making 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the direct-injection engine provides plenty of usable power. Buick’s reps were quick to point out that the Regal Turbo offered comparable torque to the Acura TSX V6 (which makes 254 lb-ft), despite coming up a good 60 horsepower short of its arch-rival. And despite the many on-paper similarities between these two cars, this comparison offers a keen insight into the Regal’s soul.

The turbocharged Ecotec is not a rev-happy screamer, preferring to focus on mid-range power, and offering surprisingly refined performance. A subtle but unmistakable turbo whistle greets the driver under acceleration, before being drowned out by a restrained, though less-than-entirely-musical note as the engine charges up the rev counter. The results are certainly effective, feeling at least the claimed second faster to 60 MPH than its normally-aspirated cousin, and in non-enthusiast driving it’s smooth, refined and quiet.

As an enthusiast-oriented engine, however, it could stand to offer more in the way of soul. In fact, the lack of rev-rewards almost make the wait for manual transmission versions (coming in Q4 of this year) a non-event. Almost. Unfortunately, the six-speed automatic also takes away slightly from the Regal’s dancing abilities. Letting off the throttle and brushing the brakes on the entrance to a corner almost always leaves the slushbox in a higher gear than the exit requires. Truly spirited driving requires almost constant contact with the gas pedal, and early, subtle throttle inputs to keep the transmission from confusing itself coming out of a tight bend (the transmission offers a “manual” mode which helps in this regard, but not paddle shifters which are even available on the Malibu). Luckily, the chassis can take corners at a high enough speed to allow earlier gassing than you might expect, but tight hairpins can take some wind out of the Turbo’s progress and stringing fast corners together takes some planning. Again, it  wouldn’t be at all fair to call the Regal “unsporty” on this count, but it also doesn’t flatter the driver the way a true enthusiast’s sedan can.

But there I go again, criticizing a Buick for failing to live up to “true enthusiast” standards. In the real world the Regal Turbo is not only more than capable of entertaining anyone currently considering a front-drive, four-door sedan, it also offers an experience that jives surprisingly well with my concept of what a Buick should be. The smooth, quiet powerplant is complimented by a an impressively quiet cabin, which in turn compliments the chassis’s well-moderated balance between ride and handling. The exterior styling, though an undeniable break from Buick’s heritage of ventiports and sweep-spear lines, is handsome and well-detailed but subtle nearly (although not quite) to the point of anonymity. How Buick is that?

Similarly, the interior is well-appointed with surprisingly high-quality materials, and more importantly, surprisingly few low-quality materials. The interior’s Teutonic simplicity is a refreshing (if somber) break from the often overwrought interior designs that have emerged from GM in recent years. Unfortunately, it does suffer similarly from GM’s propensity for IP button overpopulation. The only real letdowns: an all-too familiar steering wheel from GM’s corporate parts bin, and seats that, though comfortable, offer little meaningful side-bolstering for the sub-200 pound driver. This last point is yet another quibble with the Regal’s sporting pretensions, and a possible clue to the nausea that afflicted several Buick reps on the test drive, as the chassis also outclasses the seat’s ability to hold the driver in place during spirited driving.

Is the Regal Turbo a “real” Buick? That’s a debate that will likely rage on until the folks who can still remember a glory year for the brand have died off. It’s certainly different, but with a crossover already in its lineup and compact sedans and MPVs on the way, Buick’s managers aren’t letting fear of the unknown stop them now. And with this less-visceral, more refined alternative to front-drive sports sedans (notably the TSX), they certainly could have taken a less-Buick-like step into the unknown. But whether it will continue the sales momentum that the LaCrosse has undeniably built up over the last year still remains very much to be seen.

On paper, the Regal Turbo’s just-under $30k price point puts it in competition with the base, four-cylinder TSX while offering power closer to the $35k TSX V6. But what exactly the loaded Turbo I drove, with navigation, active suspension damping, 19 inch wheels and more will end up costing is an open question as GM has not yet released full Turbo pricing. And with Federico’s last-minute steering tweaks and a manual transmission as yet untested, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the Regal’s sporting capabilities… let alone any sporty Buick’s youthful-customer-attracting capabilities.

General Motors offered to fly me to San Diego and put me up in some swanky digs for this launch event. I turned down this kind offer, but over the course of the event I did receive three delicious meals, a 2 GB Buick-branded USB drive (which I instantly lost), and two small pies (one stop on the test drive was a pie shop) which I was afraid to take on the airplane, and gave to a friend.

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