We're on the Blackfoot
In the five years since Buick started revamping its vehicle lineup, the average age of buyers has dropped seven years, officials say; they’re also quick to point out it is the only brand in North America to see such a drop.
While the average age of a Buick Regal buyer is 55 (45 for a Regal GS buyer), the company hopes to attract younger buyers with a redesigned 2014 mid-size sedan that gets fresh styling, a fancier cabin, more safety gadgets, an available all-wheel-drive system and an all-new turbocharged four-cylinder engine with better power and improved fuel economy.
One strong selling point is price. The Regal starts at $33,095 for the base FWD model, which is well equipped with fog lamps, cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear-view camera, an eight-inch colour touch screen, power windows, leather seats and heated front seats. Add AWD and the price is $35,375. Besides the base Regal, you can get the Premium I, Premium II, and GS models – the most expensive costs $40,650 for the GS FWD and $42,925 for the GS AWD.
There are two powertrains. The new standard 2.0-litre, turbo, four-cylinder produces 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque – 18 per cent more power than the outgoing 2013 Regal Turbo. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, it also delivers a 17-per-cent improvement in city fuel economy over the Regal Turbo. The second engine is a carryover – the 184-hp, 2.4-litre four-cylinder with eAssist light-hybrid – which wasn’t available for testing.
Driving through Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, the new 2.0-litre turbo powering my Regal Premium II FWD tester was a dream to drive on the winding roads. Nail the throttle and the power is instant. The ride is refined, smooth and comfortable. It feels composed and secure; there’s no body roll and the noise and vibration has been significantly reduced. The steering, however, feels a little light at times.
Switching to the Regal GS AWD tester was more exciting thanks to a drive control system that lets you switch between different driving modes – standard, sport, or GS – each offering tighter suspension and swifter steering response. The result was quick acceleration, agile road manners and a spirited ride, especially in GS mode. The six-speed automatic was smooth – shifting gears seamlessly. You can also get a six-speed manual, but it’s only available on the GS FWD model.
The GS’s styling is distinct and sharper than its siblings. The front fascia includes big bold vertical air intake slots while the rear has funky satin-metallic trapezoidal exhaust outlets, rocker panel extensions and a rear spoiler extension. It also has a lowered ride height and beefy 19-inch aluminum wheels, which give it a muscular stance (20-inch wheels are also available). The other trims have a more conservative, yet attractive design with new headlamps, standard LED daytime running lamps and a revised grille. At the rear, a new chrome accent runs horizontally across the back, bridging the LED wing-shape tail lamps to give the sedan a wide, elongated stance.
Also new for 2014 is an advanced all-wheel-drive system. It’s a fully automatic on-demand system with electronic limited-slip differential and standard HiPer Strut front suspension. Electric power steering is now featured on all models.
The cabin is spacious and dressier with a new steering wheel, and redesigned central instrument panel and console. An eight-inch colour touch-screen radio with Buick’s next-generation IntelliLink is simplified with fewer buttons – seven compared with the previous 17. You can swipe through screens as you would on a tablet or smartphone.
The Regal comes with more safety technology, too. But it’ll cost extra for the two optional packages. The Driver Confidence 1 package comes with lane departure warning, side blind zone alert and a rear cross-traffic alert; while the Driver Confidence 2 package adds collision preparation (with collision mitigation braking) and full-speed-range adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic.
The 2014 Buick Regal rolls off the line at GM’s assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont. – another strong selling point for this value-packed sedan