Preview: 2018 Buick Regal Sportback

Update (April 5, 2017): GM has stated that the mention of the GS trim on the Buick website was an error. We've updated the article to reflect this information.

WARREN, Michigan – Buick as a whole is a brand on the rise. Sure, a disproportionate amount of its 2016 global sales of 1.4 million units happened in China, but GM’s middle-child brand (not quite Chevrolet, not quite Cadillac) registers in as the fourth largest luxury brand in the United States. With the exception of a slight sales dip in 2015, the brand has been on an upward sales trajectory in Canada, too, since 2009.

With a decidedly European flair, this new Regal will in fact be a Sportback (hatchback) and not a traditional sedan.

A large part of that success has revolved around Buick’s trio of crossover SUVs: the wee Encore, the slightly larger Envision and the seven-passenger Enclave (a new version of which is set to be revealed next week at the New York Auto Show). And although sales of large and mid-size cars are on a significant decline, Buick is launching an all-new 2018 mid-size Regal with the hopes of capturing their fair share of what’s still the third-largest automotive sales segment.

As it was with the outgoing Regal, the new model is based on a re-badged Opel Insignia – a very handsome sedan recently introduced in Europe. With the pending sale of GM’s money-losing German Opel brand, this new Regal is sure to be among the last GM products we see based on their Euro brand.

With a decidedly European flair, this new Regal will be a Sportback (hatchback) and not a traditional sedan. This more practical format offers 892 litres of cargo capacity that expands to 1,719 litres with the available 40/20/40 split rear seat folded down (a 60/40 split is standard).

This cargo space puts it ahead of notable competitors from Audi with its new A5 Sportback, to BMW with its 4 Series Gran Coupe.

During our limited opportunity to climb around inside the new Regal Sportback at the media launch, interior passenger space proved to be generous with sufficient, adult-sized rear legroom. Up front, driver and front-seat passenger are treated to comfortable accommodations and high-quality materials. Ergonomically, the new Regal is uncluttered and sophisticated with primary controls operated by sensible knobs and a pair of traditional round gauges for each the tachometer and speedometer.

The infotainment system follows GM convention with standard 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity and OnStar, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a MyBuick app that emails owners monthly diagnostic reports about the car’s key systems. A 7-inch touch screen is standard fare, while an 8-inch system with navigation is optional.

Buick is offering active safety features including front pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, plus 10 air bags. Another interesting safety feature showing up as a Buick first is a standard active hood pedestrian safety system that predicts a pedestrian impact and lifts the back of the hood up 102 mm to potentially reduce injury due to impact.

The sweeping fastback styling is backed by improved performance and a driving experience claimed to be more engaging than the outgoing model. At introduction, all Canadian Regal Sportbacks will be powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Base front-wheel-drive versions will produce 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, while the all-wheel-drive models (available on each of the three trim levels offered) will feature 250 hp, but 295 lb-ft of torque.

While not officially announced at the launch presentation, at one point, Buick Canada’s website referenced a 3.6L V6 GS trim with AWD. However, GM later confirmed that this was an error on the website.

Front-wheel-drive variants will direct power through a nine-speed automatic, whereas AWD versions utilize an eight-speed. Start-stop technology is standard across all models in the interest of helping to conserve fuel.

All-wheel-drive cars use a twin-clutch system in the rear to apportion torque laterally as required to aid in both low-traction motoring as well as spirited driving. Plus, AWD models feature a new five-link rear suspension that, when coupled with the wider stance and lower weight of all new Regals, contributes to a better-handling car than its predecessor, according to Buick representatives.

As exciting as a new Sportback version of the Regal is, a second variation of the Regal was introduced: an all new wagon Buick calls the Regal TourX. Presented in a deep red hue, the TourX, with its high contrasting wheel arches reminiscent of an Audi Allroad or Volkswagen Alltrack, definitely stole the show.

Claimed to have more interior room than a Volvo V60 wagon, the Regal TourX dazzled the audience with its long, low and wide proportions and handsome styling details such as the silver trim that arcs from the roofline through to the tail lights.

Disappointingly, the AWD-only TourX will be a US-market offering only, so would-be Canadian buyers of this crossover SUV alternate should express their displeasure to Buick Canada for this injustice.

The 2018 Buick Regal Sportback will reach dealerships in the fourth quarter of this year. Pricing will be announced closer to the sale date, but is expected to be aggressive compared to other luxury-make competitors.

2018 Buick Regal Sportback Specifications

All-new mid-size sedan with an emphasis on interior space and refinement 4/5/2017 7:00:00 AM