The 2014 Buick Regal represents a real departure from the model line it descends from. For years, the Buick Regal was one of the stodgy statesmen of the sedan world. It was a nameplate that stood for reliability, comfort and sturdiness, perhaps at the expense of excitement. After a long, successful run, the Regal was discontinued early in the 2000s. Fast-forward several years to 2010, when the Regal was unearthed, dusted off and brought back to life as an all-new car. But this one was nothing like its ancestor. Rather, it was a svelte European-style sport sedan with an infusion of advanced electronics. The two versions resembled one another in name only.
However, the new Regal had problems. First, it alienated the nameplate's previous fans: older drivers who wanted a big, comfortable cruiser, not a Euro-tuned handler. For them, Buick offers the mild hybrid eAssist, which stands out for gas mileage and smoothness rather than performance and handling.
Another challenge was the car's reserved overall performance character, despite its handling prowess. To remedy this situation, Buick offers both the Regal Turbo and the even sportier GS model. These two use the same turbocharged engine, but in two distinct states of tuning.
Buick hopes the Regal can make deeper inroads into the highly competitive near-luxury sport-sedan segment.
What's New for 2014?
The Regal is face-lifted for 2014, adding new styling, an updated interior, available all-wheel drive and several new safety features.
What We Like
Dramatic exterior design; athletic tendencies; high-performance potential (GS); premium-level cabin; long list of standard amenities; good fuel economy (eAssist Hybrid)
What We Don't
Lethargic off the line; turbo lag; tight trunk; poor visibility; road noise with 20-inch wheels (GS)
The Regal offers two engines. Most models use a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is standard and returns 21 miles per gallon city and 30 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, or 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway with optional AWD. Drivers who opt for the sporty Regal GS can get a 6-speed manual; it returns 20 mpg city/31 mpg highway and comes standard with front-wheel drive.
Those who choose the Regal Premium I can instead opt for a 182-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that uses a mild hybrid technology dubbed "eAssist." Also standard with a 6-speed automatic, that powertrain is only offered with front-wheel drive and returns 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway.
Standard on most Regal models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that's offered in two varieties. The Regal Turbo gets a 220-hp version with 260 lb-ft. It returns 18 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with the standard 6-speed automatic or 20 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with an available 6-speed manual.
For even more power, drivers can upgrade to the Regal GS, which offers 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It returns 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with either the 6-speed manual or available 6-speed automatic transmission.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Buick Regal offers four trim levels: a base-level Regal, the mid-level Premium I, an upscale Premium II and a high-performance Regal GS.
Drivers who choose the base-level Regal ($31,600) already get a lot of equipment standard. In addition to the turbocharged 4-cylinder, the Regal includes dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, dual power front seats, steering-wheel audio controls, a reversing camera and typical features such as keyless entry and power accessories.
Step up to the mid-level Regal Premium I ($33,500) and you get keyless entry with a push-button starter, a remote starter, rear parking assist and a heated steering wheel. The sedan's eAssist hybrid engine also joins the options list.
Next up is the Regal Premium II ($35,700). It adds a Bose audio system, xenon headlights and Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system with navigation and an 8-in color touchscreen.
Topping the lineup is the Regal GS ($38,800), which includes the sedan's most powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. The GS also adds front parking assist, sport suspension, high-performance Brembo brakes, dual exhausts and unique front and rear fascias.
Among the Regal's major options are all-wheel drive, its eAssist hybrid engine, a 6-speed manual transmission and safety features such as lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitor.
Occupant protection comes from six standard airbags -- front, side and curtain. Premium II trim Regal models and higher get two more side airbags for the rear-seat outboard passengers. The Regal also has ABS, stability control and OnStar emergency telematics. Options include a lane-departure warning system, a blind spot monitor, a forward-collision alert system and a rear cross-traffic alert system.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, the Buick Regal earned a perfect overall 5-star crash-test rating. The rating included 4-star frontal and rollover ratings, along with a 5-star side-impact score.
Behind the Wheel
The hybrid-powered Regal eAssist quietly delivers smooth and refined power. It also splits the difference well between ride and handling. Steering isn't as responsive as one would hope, but the car still displays nimbleness.
Moving up to the Regal Turbo enables this chassis to live up to its sporting credentials. The steering feels sharper, and the car has a more dynamic feel. This Regal's Euro-tuned suspension was designed to show off its athleticism on quick-cutting switchbacks and in high-speed maneuvers. Unfortunately, the Turbo suffers from a noticeable lag when launching from zero.
But the Regal GS delivers fully athletic agility thanks to its sport suspension, 20-in wheels and powerful brakes. Even hard-core enthusiasts will be impressed with its high-performance dose of power and track-caliber capabilities.
Granting flexibility to the Regal driving experience is the Interactive Drive Control System, which alters suspension damping, throttle response, shift points and steering speed based on three adjustable drive settings: Tour, Normal and Sport.
Other Cars to Consider
Acura TSX -- The TSX is richer in content but falls short of the Regal's comfortable ride. Both cars are equally sharp and precise in turns.
Audi A4 -- The A4 doesn't have the same hybrid option as the Regal, but it otherwise boasts many similarities. It's more expensive, though, and offers a nicer interior with higher-quality materials.
Volkswagen CC -- The CC is better engineered with improved dynamics and more features, but the Regal, with more horsepower and torque, delivers better straight-line performance.
Volvo S60 -- The S60 and the Regal Turbo are comparable in ride and handling. Both are sporty but also comfortable. The Volvo, however, feels more solid and offers greater safety.
We like the Regal Premium II, as it's available with your choice of either the fuel-sipping eAssist engine or the more powerful turbocharged motor. Plus, it comes with premium equipment such as the Harman Kardon sound system and HID headlights, and it can be specified with a sunroof and navigation, both of which are recommended extras. Choose the eAssist for superb, 36-mpg hwy fuel economy, or get the turbo for a more dynamic driving experience.