Test Drive: 2015 Buick Regal

Photos don’t really do the Buick Regal Turbo justice. It’s got really alluring lines that connect the whole car and make it seem really cute and playful. It might be the best executed sedan design in the entire GM lineup – and yes, I’m including the Cadillac range in that. So kudos to Buick for designing a properly attractive little sedan.

In what can only be described as a complete shock, GM has actually built a car that looks smaller than it is.

I say little, but this is a mid-size sedan. In what can only be described as a complete shock, GM has actually built a car that looks smaller than it is.

After driving it for a week, I feel the Regal might well become one of those hidden gems down the track. It hits a great spot between the regular Chevrolet lineup and the pricey Cadillac range, representing an alternative to the smaller and sportier ATS that doesn’t give up much in performance or luxury.

This twin-scrolled turbo-four ekes 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from 2.0L of force-fed displacement in a refined and strong engine. From go to woah the engine pulls like a train, applying the sort of confident, burly strength to the road you might expect from a much larger engine with a few more cylinders.

The all-wheel-drive powertrain keeps the power in check and the six-speed automatic is well matched to the rest of the motivational unit. I’d prefer shorter ratios to really keep the Regal feeling alive. If you like a quiet, consistent, fatherly presence from your drivetrain this setup will make you feel warm and happy all day long.

On the highway it is unhurried and fuss-free, pulling out to pass with nary a concern and no disruption to the smoothness of the drivetrain. It’s a great engine and a great package. Even the fuel ratings are solid at 12.4/8.7 L/100 km city/highway according to the new Canadian five-cycle testing methods. I finished the week of 90 percent city driving on 12.2 L/100 km.

Curiously I didn’t find any of the issues I found with the gearbox in the ATS, but I need to point out that this one also has the sequential tranny set the wrong way (forward should be down guys, seriously!) and also has no paddle shifters.

So why no issues with this one? Honestly it might be because the smaller, sharper ATS is marketed and feels like a sportier sedan than the Regal, so I tried to drive it harder. The Buick I really didn’t push.

The ATS had sharper steering and better feedback through both the wheel and the brake pedal, as well as a chassis that felt more alive. The Regal feels really capable, but in a much more understated way. The steering is precise enough for a car in this class but lacks communication. The brake pedal likewise.

It’s a slightly detuned execution when compared to the ATS. It rides about the same as an ATS over bumps in the road, with a little suspension noise but a quick recovery. On the highways the Regal could be softer, but is well within acceptable limits.

Once past the driving dynamics and engine of course, comparisons between Cadillac and Buick make a hasty exit. The interior design is a case in point. Why on earth are there so many shades of brown in here?! I mean, sure, one of those shades is actually cream, but my goodness, this interior reminded me of a wood-clad basement from the 1980s. Too. Much. Brown. Why is brown even a colour anyway? It’s terrible.

The brown is broken up by fake aluminum trim – which is gross – and then accentuated by fake wood with a thick lacquer effect which is not only gross, but also brown. So gross. I guess what I’m trying to say is: “Ew”. And don’t get me started on the chrome alloys either.

Fortunately, you can order the Regal in a less “grandpa’s slippers” colour palette. Once you look past the colours you see some really decent design. The Buick Intellilink infotainment system is comprehensive and easy to navigate with regular knobs for volume and tuning, a clear and easy-to-use touchscreen and well-sorted steering wheel controls. The instrument cluster is pretty and the 4.2-inch TFT screen embedded in the middle has good graphics, great legibility and is sensible to navigate using the steering wheel controls.

The shapes of the infotainment screen and button panels in the centre stack are nicely balanced – but you might find the pseudo-buttons for the automatic climate control system frustrating.

The buttons for the memory driver’s seat are in a strange position on the front-left corner of the seat, making them hard to get to when you’re actually sitting in it.

I liked the leather seats, finding them comfortable, if a little wide for my tastes. I noticed though that there were already stress marks appearing on top of the door-side bolster where the leather is worn out by the driver sliding in and out repeatedly.

Backseat legroom is tight, and the middle seat passenger has to straddle a lump in the floor rendering that seat useless in most instances. The seats in the back are extremely flat, so your kids will get a good core work out back there.

The boot is less tight, I managed to get three large suitcases in it at one point, and found all 402 L useful. Also, it has a cargo net that holds stuff in place – like a motorbike helmet, or a laptop computer. It would probably hold a desktop computer too, but that would affect handling I reckon.

The seats fold 60/40 but there is no pass through – no matter. You own a hacksaw, right?

Having been through the good (the drivetrain) the not-so-good (passenger space) and the bad (interior styling) we come back around to the good. The Regal is well-featured. This was the mid-level Turbo AWD Premium II trim fitted with the $1,565 Driver Confidence Package 1, the $1,370 Driver Confidence Package 2, a $1,395 sunroof and $1,050 chrome 18-inch wheels. I think I mentioned those elsewhere, but suffice to say; I spy an instant $1,050 saving. Oh yeah, there was a $995 white-diamond tricoat paint too.

It’s the two driver-confidence packages that add the most impressive feature content to the Regal. In the first you get blind-zone alert, lane-change alert, cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning as well as a forward collision alert, following distance sensor and the seat memory.

The second gives you adaptive cruise control and automatic collision preparation as well as a safety alert seat – also known as the “good vibrations” upgrade.

Standard features included bi-xenon HID headlights, 18-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, OnStar, leather seats and steering wheel, remote keyless entry and cruise control as well as my personal favourite thing - a heated steering wheel.

There was also my other favourite thing, a 115v power outlet as well as the 8-inch Intellilink touchscreen with Sirius XM and a nine-speaker Bose premium audio system.

I’m no audiophile, but I could hear every high hat in Ice Ice Baby as I angered the nanna in the much older Buick two lanes over at the traffic lights on Lakeshore, so I figure it’s a good system.

At $47,770 as tested, the Regal isn’t a cheap car by any means, but it does have a luxurious appeal, a worthy engine and a capable chassis. By the time you spec them both identically, this is around $2,000 cheaper than an ATS, but the ATS is a fair bit smaller. Why do I keep measuring the Regal against the ATS? Because one reminded me of the other. Driving the Regal made me think about my time in the ATS. They share the same drivetrain and that shows when you use the pedals in the Regal. I also think they’ll have a similar demographic, people who like those smaller luxury cars with a bit of sporting potential at the same time.

Now, if only they’d get rid of all the brown….

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/160,000 km corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance

Competitors:
Acura TLX
Audi A4
BMW 3 Series
Cadillac ATS
Ford Fusion
Lexus ES
Lexus IS
Lincoln MKZ
Volkswagen CC
Volvo S60

2015 Buick Regal Turbo Premium II AWD
2015 Buick Regal Turbo Premium II AWD
Base Price $39,645
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,650
Price as Tested $47,770
Optional Equipment Driver Confidence Package 1 – $1,565; Driver Confidence Package 2 – $1,370; Sunroof – $1,395, 18-inch chrome wheels - $1,050, White Diamond Tricoat paint $995
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 6.8
8 Performance
4 Interior
8 Exterior Styling
7 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy