2018 Buick Regal Drive

New profile and powertrains for the sixth generation

(Tofino, BC) I embrace any opportunity I get to visit beautiful BC, and it was a great chance when Buick rolled out to the Island for a road test in two of the company’s latest Regal sedan models.

The lineup was shy a couple of the trims this sixth generation offers – the FWD model wasn’t there, and as you may know, the wagon version of the global offering, the TourX, isn’t being sold in Canada.

What the event lacked in variety, though, it made up for in quality, as we got to finally drive the cream of the lineup, the Sportback and GS.

Two different powertrain combinations, both models rolling on Buick’s all-wheel drive platform; here’s a quick look at what was on hand:

The Sportback (‘Essence’ trim level)

You could consider this the slightly-above-entry level into Buick’s ‘attainable luxury’ world, a reasonably well equipped and appointed car that starts at an MSRP of just under 32K

Powered by a 2.0L inline-four cylinder engine capable of 250 horsepower and a sprightly 295 lb.-ft. of torque, which is put to the wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission in the AWD version I drove (the front-wheel drive models get a 9-speed auto)

Vancouver Island provides some wonderful driving roads, with a lot of twists and turns between Nanaimo and the west coast, and a good demonstration of the car’s pavement-handling abilities. Buick’s steering has improved dramatically from what you may be expecting if you haven’t been in one of their cars for a few years.

An electronic, variable-effort power setup, it keeps the impression of smooth and easy operation while maintaining the feel of being connected with the driving experience; without the ‘floaty’ sensation that characterized the company’s cars back in the bad old days.

Response is very good, and braking backs it up with four-wheel ABS

Overall, the Sportback doesn’t lack for power (and frankly, 250 horses is more than adequate for my needs), and I doubt a buyer will regret not moving up to the larger engine of GS trim; and fuel economy from the turbo two-litre makes a case for itself, aided as it is by an auto-stop function that turns the engine off when the Regal is waiting at a light.

Fuel frugality is a worthy consideration, too, especially out here where gas was closing in on $1.40 a litre when I visited.

The price goes up when a number of desirable options are added into the mix – the Sportback Essence I drove packed on an “Experience Buick” equipment group (which brings a power moonroof, infotainment system with HD radio, and 8-speaker Bose stereo) along with a Driver Confidence package and a red metallic paintjob.

The options brought the price up to $44,480 including destination charge.

The Sportback GS AWD

This is the top-end for the Regal line, boasting the larger engine, sportier seats and a nine-speed automatic tranny.

(Pricing starts where my Sportback Essence tester left off, in the low forties).

The GS loads a six-cylinder engine into the platform, a 3.6L powerhouse with 310 horses and 282 lb.-ft. of torque on tap. The larger mill is noticeably more energetic than the four-cylinder of the Essence, especially with Sport mode engaged (there’s basically Sport and default modes, unlike a number of competitors there is no ‘Eco’ mode).

The twin-clutch nine-speed automatic makes the shifts incrementally smoother, and a more exclusive brake setup provide extra stopping power – the Regal GS gets Brembo brand front calipers on the four-wheel disk system.

It puts great seats inside the cabin, too; both driver and front seat passenger get a highly adjustable performance seat, with tailorable bolstering and seat length. Both seats are heated and ventilated, and equipped with one of my favorite features, a massage function.

(For an interesting trivia note, Buick states that these massage seats are the only ones in the industry certified by a German chiropractic organization called AGR).

As with the Essence trim, the GS improves with the available options, but the cost climbs.

The one I used was also ramped up with the Experience and Driver Confidence groups, and a block heater ($150), bringing the sticker price to $51,235 (dest. included)

All the new Regals available in Canada share the coupe-like bodystyle, the increased interior cargo space, which has been expanded dramatically for 2018. A maximum volume of 1,719 litres is available, thanks to the flat-folding rear seats (and is easier to reach with the wide-opening rear hatch lid), which blows away competitors like Toyota’s Avalon or Ford’s Fusion.

The Regal trunk is an electronic-activated affair, operated by touching the Buick badge on the rear. Odd thing is there is no manual trunk release button inside the car.

That would be one of a couple of cautions I would offer about the vehicles – that and the entry/exit to the rear seats. If you have a couple of six-footers riding up front, I found the rear seat legroom gets tight. Overhead room is okay, but the shape of the rear door opening makes the Regal tricky to get in and out of.

Ultimately, though, Buick is indeed bringing forth the attainable luxury that the enlarged and re-imagined Regal promises. Designed and built in Germany, the sixth-gen sedan is on dealer lots across the country.

But Vancouver Island is arguably the best place to drive one.

 

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