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Imagine If Buick Made a Grand National Today

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2017

I had someone tell me the other day that Buick used to be a "really cool" car company, citing the Grand National as evidence. I concurred, but then I thought about it some more. Buick was never "really cool." In fact, they've enjoyed the same reputation for years that they have right now. It just so happens that the Grand National was an incredibly cool car.

And this got me thinking: What if Buick came out with a Grand National today?

Before I go there, let's dive back into the Buick of the Grand National era. This was the 1980s, so Buick's lineup consisted of the compact Skyhawk and Skylark, the midsize Century and Regal, the full-size LeSabre and Electra, and the "cool" Riviera. By "cool," I mean that the Riviera had two doors, although that shouldn't fool you: It was one of those GM vehicles that managed to squeeze out like 12 horsepower per liter.

In fact, I think that if you looked at Buick's lineup back then, you'd actually probably say it was far more uninteresting than it is now. Today's Buick has a convertible, a few SUVs (including a very small one aimed at young people), a turbocharged midsize sedan and a lot of modern technology. Back then, Buick had six 3-box sedans -- two of which, the Electra and LeSabre, were truly indistinguishable -- and they were offering imitation wire-wheel hubcaps. Folks: imitation wire-wheel hubcaps.

Admittedly, the nicest model -- the Riviera -- did offer a computer touchscreen system that looked like the kind of thing you'd pair with a joystick to play an early video game. But that was the extent of the excitement at your local Buick dealer throughout much of the late 1980s.

And then, out of nowhere, came the Grand National. Buick is living in this ultra-dull world where they aren't attracting any hip, young customers, and they suddenly debut an all-black coupe version of the Regal with 230 horsepower, then 240 hp, then -- in "GNX" form -- a claimed 276 hp, even though we all knew the actual number was something like 315. The GNX did zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds, which made it faster than the day's Ferraris -- and even the Porsche 911 Turbo.

All this, mind you, was going on when the standard Regal struggled to put out 110 to 140 hp, depending on the version you got. The Grand National was insane!

So insane that I'll put it in the context of today: The modern midsize Buick, still called the Regal, makes either 182 hp or 259 hp, depending on the engine you get. For comparison's sake, I'll average those, and I'll also average the numbers in the older one: 125 hp back then, 222 hp today.

And so, considering that the Grand National made more than double the power of a standard 1980s Regal, a modern version would put out something like 450 hp. FROM A BUICK REGAL! It would also be quicker than the Ferrari 488 GTB and the Porsche 911 Turbo, though I'm not entirely sure how they'd work that out.

I can only imagine how this car would be -- especially since car enthusiasts thought it was an amazing treat when Buick decided to give us the Regal GS, with 260 hp, a few years ago. A 450-hp Buick would be earth-shattering! It would be life-changing! It would never happen.

It's amazing it did back then.

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Imagine If Buick Made a Grand National Today - Autotrader