2014 Buick Regal First Drive

2014 buick regal

The Buick Regal fills a somewhat limited niche -- it's too small and expensive to take on the Honda Accords of the world and yet doesn't quite have the hardware or cachet to challenge premium sport sedans like the BMW 3-series and GM's own Cadillac ATS. (The only direct competitor is the Acura TSX, another slow-selling, rebadged European expat.) It doesn't help the Regal's case that it sits between the cheaper Verano and the bigger, more luxurious LaCrosse. The 2014 Buick Regal attempts to power out of this ditch with upgraded turbo engines, an updated interior, and all-wheel drive.

It's worth remembering that the Regal is quite old. It debuted way back in 2008 across the ocean as the Opel Insignia and was supposed to arrive in the United States soon thereafter as the new Saturn Aura. Stuff happened. It took three years for Buick to adopt it as a 2011 model. Its real age was most evident in the cabin, which predated the infotainment explosion. For the 2014 Regal, an eight-inch touchscreen replaces most -- but thankfully not all -- of the buttons in the center stack. In the top-of-the-line GS model, one can also opt for an LCD instrument cluster. The Regal has also become a quick study in driver-assistance technologies. A backup camera is now standard; lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and adaptive cruise control join the options list. Updated front and rear fascias feature LED lighting.

The Regal was one of the first mid-size sedans on American roads to offer a downsized engine lineup, with a turbo four taking the place of the traditional top-of-the-line V-6. But now, cheaper competitors like the Ford Fusion offer smoother and more powerful turbo engines. For 2014, the Regal gets a new 2.0-liter turbo, the same found in the Cadillac ATS and Chevrolet Malibu.

A shift in model hierarchy accompanies the engine upgrade. The Regal Turbo, formerly a 220-hp midrange model, is now the 259-hp base model, starting for $30,615. The GS has the same output, albeit with a slightly fatter torque curve, and thus relies on its host of suspension and appearance upgrades to justify its $6215 premium. The lackluster eAssist mild-hybrid, which used to be the base model, now starts at $32,485. Buick thinks a standard turbo speaks better to the Regal's performance mission and notes that, in any event, the eAssist only accounts for 12 percent of the model's sales. We suspect Buick's heart really isn't in eAssist, but it feels obliged to offer a "green" model.

The real game changer here is all-wheel drive, which is now optional on both the Turbo and GS. Many luxury buyers in the snow belt won't consider a car without it, and, thanks largely to decades of persuasive marketing by Audi, the option carries far more prestige than front-wheel drive. Buick's system can send almost all its torque to the rear wheels. A rear differential can then apportion more torque to an individual rear wheel to help the car corner.

We can feel the system's impact, both for better and for worse, when we rotate through front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive Regals. Through sweeping, fast turns, we're able to apply the throttle and feel the car gently tuck in where a front-wheel-drive car would understeer. Through sharper turns, though, the system hurts more than it helps due to its extra weight. It also seems to bog down the car coming out of corners. That's partially the fault of the turbo four, which still suffers a bit of lag, and the six-speed automatic, which occasionally downshifts too late.

Overall, the Regal's chassis still impresses. Buick has retuned the Turbo just a bit to soften harsh impacts, but it still has excellent body control. The GS feels quite a bit firmer, especially with its dampers adjusted to GS mode. All Regals now have electric-assist steering. It's precise and rather heavy relative to the typical mid-size sedan (it's heavier still in the GS) but, at least in this pre-production iteration, builds too much feedback just off-center.

We go directly from the all-wheel-drive Regals to an Audi A4. The back-to-back mostly serves to remind us that the A4, which is also pretty far into its lifecycle, is a damn good car. The interior looks like it was designed and executed to a standard, rather than a budget. Audi's 2.0-liter turbo, though down on power and torque compared to the Buick, builds power much more linearly and emits a perfectly tuned, rowdy engine note. And though the GS exhibits better body control, the A4 feels far more balanced and willing to rotate through corners.

The bright spot in the Regal lineup is still the front-wheel-drive GS with a manual transmission (all-wheel-drive models come only with the six-speed automatic). It feels lighter and easier to toss around than the all-wheel-drive GS. Wearing optional summer tires, it rarely suffers for traction on dry pavement and exhibits practically no torque steer. And for a base price of $37,860, it still feels like something of a performance bargain. The all-wheel-drive version crests forty thousand dollars, the de facto starting price for reasonably equipped versions of "real" sport sedans like the BMW 3-series and GM's own Cadillac ATS.

2014 Buick Regal

On Sale: Fall 2013
Base Price: $30,615 (Turbo, front-wheel drive) to $40,195 (GS, all-wheel drive)
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, 259 hp; 295 lb-ft; 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 182 hp, 172 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Drive: Front- or all-wheel
EPA fuel economy: 21-25/27-36 mpg city/hwy
percynjpn
"builds too much feedback just off-center"Since when is there such a thing as "too much feedback"?
OMEGATALON
This is how guys get into trouble as they go on a date and begin talking about another girl; this is supposed to be a road test of the 2014 Buick Regal as it would been nice to know how it actually performed with real numbers like it's acceleration zero to sixty numbers, braking and cornering then if you want to compare it to other cars, give the same test numbers for the Cadillac ATS and BMW 3-Series so we can see how this analysis was decided.
syakov79
ATS turbo performance model with AWD, 18" wheels, heated seats, CUE and Nav rings in at $47,365.  That's quite a bit more than the supposedly overpriced Regal GS AWD with the same engine and more space. 328xi with HIDs, heated seats, 18" wheels, rear camera, adjustable damping, premium sound, leather,  alarm and navigation (all features on the GS standard) comes in at $54k.
 BTW, the BASE price of the 328xi is in fact $40k. And its hardly well equipped at that price.
syakov79
I dare the author to find a reasonably equipped ATS or 328xi for $40k. In fact, I think the BASE price of the 328xi is close to $40k. The GS is nearly fully loaded with brembos, 19" wheels, heated seats, BOSE, nav, HIDs, etc. No way in hell you are getting that stuff for $40k on a Cadillac or Lexus. Tell the whole story.
tt618
The 8 and 9 speed transmissions are absolutely about gas mileage, and a simple improvement that should have come around much sooner, in my opinion.  I think this is a nice car.  I would probably choose this over the Lexus ES300 with which it competes.  The 30-40K segment is chock full of great machines, though.  But at least Buick is in there with a competitive machine.  Remember, we're less than 10 years removed from the Century, LeSabre and Park Avenue.
ed124c
What's with the 8 and 9 speed transmissions?  When I was young we had 2 speed Powerglides and they worked great.  Are our new engines so under-torqued that we need all those gears?  (The 2014 Ford Fusion now comes with an optional 1.5 liter engine, for example.)  Is it simply because of gas mileage?  I consider anything from 5 to 6 speeds (in modern cars) to be good enough. 
Whatnow
Once GM brings their upcoming 8 spd transmission into all the Caddy and Buick models, then it will be worth it. Though I have an 11 CTS 3.6 DI with the same 6 spd, I prefer the ZF in the current Chrysler (Fiat)/ Dodge lineup. This Regal will soon have another competitor since the TSX is being faised out. The Legacy is due to move more upscale according to Subaru, so we'll see how the 2015 Legacy GT fairs in comparison to this Regal Turbo and GS models. Over-all this Regal does offer quiet a nice package for the money. However, since the RWD ATS comes with Cadillac's free schedule maintenance for 4 yrs/ 50K miles, the few thousand extra for a better looking RWD car may be a better overall buy.
ed124c
After reading AutoBlog, it seems that the 2,4 engine is only used in the Regal with eAssist.  But I still think the 2.5 would work well with the Regal.  I drove a 2013 Malibu with the 2.5 and I was impressed with both the engine and the 6 speed transmission.
ed124c
The "new" Regal gets the old 2.4 liter and not the new 2.5 with 197 hp?  The Regal combo I would want would be the 2.5 with a manual-- 5 or 6 gears.  Really, though, the Regal doesn't sell well, probably due to its being in a group of well-known names.  If I had to buy a Buick it would be the Verano turbo with the manual.  But all Buicks are expensive, and there are a lot of great midsize cars out there that I would want. 
smokymtnscott
Buick needs to hire me as their President.  It needs a total commitment as a near Luxury player.  Hey it is really simple.  Cadillac plays with the expensive Germans.  Buick should play with the expensive Japanese toe to toe.  How much more simple could it get?
percynjpn
@OMEGATALON Yes - thank you.
syakov79
@tt618 this is too small to compete with the ES, which is now built on same platform variation as the full size avalon. This would compete with the IS250 AWD.
syakov79
@ed124c Buicks are expensive compared to Toyotas or Hondas, not compared to Acuras or Volvos. bUICK isnt a mass market brand and its vehicles are not priced that way. That's what Chevy is for. In other news, you can also get a camry or accord for far less than a smaller BMW 3 series.
freetome
@ed124c The only 2014 Regal non-turbo 4 is the 2.4 e-assist, and that engine hasn't received all the tricks of the 2.5L.

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