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2014 Buick Regal First Drive

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
October 7, 2013
5 min. Reading Time

Design, execute, revise.  Design, execute, revise.  These three simple steps are key to successfully introducing a new automobile to the market, but they are occasionally ignored by companies who simply drop a fresh model in showrooms and walk away with nary a backward glance (see the Honda Element and the Toyota FJ Cruiser). 

The Buick Regal in particular could have presented an especially tempting abandonment case, released after a five-year hiatus as it was in 2011 in partnership with GM’s European division Opel.  Fortunately for us that’s not what happened, because the 2014 Buck Regal offers an evolutionary refresh that balances everything I liked about the fifth-generation edition of the car with a range of improvements that have addressed several of the original Regal-take-two’s faults.  The effort that has been poured into tweaking this mid-size sedan into a globally-competitive product is proof positive that Buick’s renaissance is built on more than just hype.

All-New Engine Headlines Lineup

The most important aspect of the light redesign afforded the 2014 Buick Regal is its dramatically-revised 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.  Although the previous version of the sedan was offered with the same-size turbo mill in two different specs, the new motor replaces both the base naturally-aspirated Regal’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder as well as the Regal GS’ hi-po unit.

The 2014 Regal’s turbo 2.0 is good for 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque – regardless of whether it sits under the hood of the sporty GS trim or not.  While the Regal GS does offer a broader torque band for the four-cylinder engine, Buick elected to differentiate the top-tier edition of the car by way of its handling dynamics rather than with the power boost that came with the earlier model.  The GS also features exclusive availability of a six-speed manual transmission (with all other versions of the car yoked to a six-speed automatic), as well as standard four-piston Brembo brakes up front.  The option of all-wheel drive has also been expanded to the GS trim in 2014.

The 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder has had its fuel mileage rated at 21-mpg city and 30-mpg highway for the base model, a worthwhile improvement over last year’s force-fed motor (the GS even adds another mile per gallon on the highway in 6MT trim).  If even greater efficiency is what you are after, it’s still possible to order the Buick Regal with GM’s eAssist mild hybrid drivetrain.  The 2.4-liter four-cylinder’s battery-assisted setup is a no-cost option on certain trim levels, and it offers 25-mpg around town and 36-mpg during highway cruising.


The Secret To Front-Wheel Drive Success

The 2014 Buick Regal asks buyers to choose between two different front suspension setups: either a traditional MacPherson strut (front-wheel drive Turbo and eAssist models) or GM’s proprietary HiPer strut design (all-wheel drive and GS) that does an excellent job of negating any torque steer that might result from the 295 lb-ft of twist that the car’s turbocharged engine can dump to the front wheels.  The sedan’s rear chassis geometry also provides a pair of options, with a four-link serving every version of the car but the Regal GS with all-wheel drive, which gains an H-arm design.  The GS also sits 19 mm lower than the base car for better road-holding.


A Prettier Face – But It’s What’s Inside That Counts Most

I have always been partial to the Buick Regal’s visual palette, and apparently Buick customers share my opinion because the brand has elected to make only subtle changes to the car’s sheet metal so as not to upset its fans.  You can’t help but notice a bolder grille and new headlights at the front of the car that are meant to convey a greater sense of width, helped by an integrated rear spoiler as well as a strip of chrome that bisects the flat face of the trunk.  LED’s also put in an appearance, both in the tail lights and as optional daytime running lights up front, and the GS edition gains a more aggressive front fascia as well as special rims and its own trunk-mounted spoiler.  Overall, the pleasing shape of the 2014 Buick Regal continues to impress me, and maintains its position as the best-looking sedan in the GM portfolio.

Greater steps have been taken to modernize the Regal’s interior, starting with a revised center stack that introduces the most recent version of the easy-to-use IntelliLink touchscreen interface.  IntelliLink integrates mobile devices in just a few short steps, and it also offers the availability of navigation, satellite radio, and other Internet entertainment features.  The control surfaces found underneath the touchscreen have been cleaned up, too, with 10 fewer buttons to choose from as well as two new glass-panel temperature controls inset into either side.

The improvements continue directly in front of the driver, with a new steering wheel (flat-bottomed in the GS) as well as an available LCD dash display that can be set to either Touring or Sport modes.  Each offers a different presentation of the data most relevant to how the vehicle is being operated, and it’s a definite step up over the attractive, but more traditional mix of analog and LCD gauges found on the entry-level edition of the car.  My one complaint is that navigating the left-side menu (via steering wheel-mounted buttons) that controls what information is presented where isn’t as intuitive as it could be.


A Much Smoother Performer

The 2014 Buick Regal is certainly easy on the eyes, but it’s what happens behind the wheel that makes the biggest mark in the mid-size premium segment.  In this regard, all versions of the new sedan come through with a well-rounded performance.  The base model’s suspension system offers excellent compliance without sacrificing steering feel or handling capability, and the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine pulls hard even with a full load of adult passengers along for the ride.  Also of note is just how quiet the Regal is on the inside at highway speeds, adding calm to its comfort.

The GS model – in both all-wheel and front-wheel drive versions – demonstrates the potential of the Regal’s finely-tuned chassis when pushed to provide more rapid transportation.  The Regal GS offers all of the cushiness of the entry-level edition’s shock dampening when left in Touring mode, but it adds the extra wrinkles of both Sport and GS modes.  The former increases the shift speed of the vehicle’s automatic transmission (if so equipped), while the latter quickens the car’s steering and stiffens its adjustable shock absorbers to work in closer harmony with the car’s high performance springs.  The result is a notable difference in attitude for the sedan, a switch from cruiser to bruiser that adds further joy to tackling twisty roads.  I only wish that the GS button itself still had the same checkered flag motif etched into it as it did in the previous model.  Oh well – at least the dashboard glows slightly brighter once the mode has been engaged, an invitation to shenanigans that I gladly accepted.

I honestly didn’t miss the 11 horsepower missing from the newest Buick Regal GS, as the car’s overall package felt much tighter than in year’s past.  This is especially true for the GS’ available manual transmission.  The older Regal GS offered a shift-it-yourself arrangement whose cogs never seemed to line up properly with the engine’s powerband, which lent the arrangement a certain unfortunate awkwardness. This is no longer a problem for 2014, as the new manual tranny’s tuning is perfectly paired with the revised turbo motor to deliver exactly the right kind of enthusiast experience.


It Just Keeps Getting Better

Everyone likes an underdog, but cars like the 2014 Buick Regal and Regal GS have shown that Buick has surpassed expectations to become a legitimate contender in the affordable premium segment.  Starting at under $30,000 (before destination fees), the base model is quite competitive when facing off against rivals from Acura and Lexus, and even the $36,905 price tag of the Regal GS is an appealing prospect for those seeking a daily driver that can deliver weekend fun in addition to commuter practicality.  The Buick Regal is a multi-dimensional luxury car that has made excellent use of its recent redesign to iron out a few wrinkles and introduce further depth to the intriguing array of Buick-badged automobiles.



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