Nothing lasts forever, especially in the automotive industry. Brands often wander from their original path, sometimes with success (BMW’s turn from builder of sport-first luxury cars to a more diverse range of softer models) but occasionally to their detriment (Lincoln’s almost complete loss of identity). Segments, too, see their leaders come and go, or have their existing order upset by a surprise challenger.
The 2014 Buick Regal falls into the latter category, a mid-size sedan pointed squarely at high class brands hailing from both Japan and Germany. If it sounds strange to you that once-staid Buick should be mentioned in the same sentence as Acura and Audi, then you may not have been paying close enough attention to the premium world over the past several years. Buick is back, and the redesigned Regal has arrived to kick down what few doors may be remaining between the automaker and mainstream acceptance into the top tier of affordable luxury.
A Nip, A Tuck, And A Little Around The Eyes
The 2014 Buick Regal makes its renewed play for the sporty sedan crowd wearing much the same duds as it did the year before. This is a good thing, as the Euro-influenced Regal is a beautiful car that needed little improvement to stay current with changing tastes. All versions of the automobile have seen their headlights restyled, along with the introduction of LED taillights, and of course LED daytime running lights on certain trims. The Regal’s fresh grille treatment stands out most on the high performance GS model, where it is flanked by near-vertical, chrome-covered slits in the front bumper. The GS also sees a spoiler attached to the top of its trunk lid.
The brand’s interior designers were granted more liberties than those massaging its body work, and that’s also something to be celebrated. Whereas the previous Buick Regal’s dashboard was criticized for being too crowded – some 17 knobs, dials, and buttons competed for the attentions of driver and passengers – the new model slims that number down to 7, thanks in large part to the introduction of second-generation IntelliLink technology. This touchscreen interface serves as the focal point of the Regal’s entertainment, navigation, and communications interface, a job it performs quite well. Also new is a fully-digital gauge display that can be installed in most editions of the sedan, although the base Buick’s cluster is nice enough that only those who wish to immerse themselves in a wash of vehicle information will feel the need to upgrade.
Fleeter Of Foot
With the exception of the eco-minded eAssist hybrid model (whose 2.4-liter, four-cylinder / electric drivetrain carries over from the year before), the Regal has narrowed down its under-hood options to a single engine: a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s right – the mighty GS has seen its tail-of-the-tape reduced somewhat compared to the previous year. Not only that, but even the least-expensive 2014 Buick Regal now features GS-levels of brawn.
What gives? The answer, unsurprisingly, is in the details, not the raw numbers. Although it might share its displacement with 2013’s available turbocharged engine, the new four-cylinder mill has been re-engineered to the point where General Motors no longer considers it the same motor. The goal was to improve both the smoothness and the efficiency of the turbo unit, without sacrificing any performance.
Mission accomplished. The Regal is now 17 percent more fuel efficient in the city and 17 percent better on the highway, and whether the engine is matched with the vehicle’s standard six-speed automatic or available six-speed manual transmission (front-wheel drive GS models only), acceleration is lively, with the 2.0-liter motor only rarely caught off-boost. Also making an appearance for 2014 is all-wheel drive across the board, with the Regal GS finally benefiting from this traction-adding feature.
GS Model Ups The Ante
Some of you might be asking why one would opt for the pricier GS edition of the Regal if the base car features a very similar engine setup. Let us return once again to those details I mentioned earlier, starting with the fact that the GS sits lower than the standard version of the sedan and rides on stiffer springs and shock absorbers that offer variable damping. Inside the cabin, the model’s ‘GS’ button sharpens its steering, improves suspension response, and on automatic editions introduces more rapid gear changes. A Sport button is also provided for a milder take on the above set of changes, although for the life of me I can’t imagine who would ever make use of this interim configuration.
That’s not all the 2014 Buick Regal GS has to offer over its more staid sibling. Four-piston Brembo brakes grab the car’s front wheels to ensure authoritative stopping power, and GM’s HiPer strut design ensures the deletion of torque steer from the car’s repertoire (also standard on all-wheel drive models). What’s more, the Regal GS’ manual transmission is now fully in-tune with the dynamics of its turbocharged engine, something that couldn’t be said about the 2013 model’s less-than-graceful shifting character. I thoroughly enjoyed the 6MT car as I booted around the hills of Kentucky on roads only half-again as wide as the Regal GS itself.
Game-Changer, Part II
The 2014 Buick Regal is a mid-size four-door automobile that is engaging to drive, easy on the eyes, and priced to sell below several of its key competitors. Don’t let its boisterous character fool you, however – the updated Regal is still very much a Buick, and I mean that in the best way possible. The sedan is exceptionally quiet whether navigating an urban environment or eating up highway klicks, and its ride is smooth and controlled without ever being harsh. It’s hard to think of a reason why the new Regal – especially the GS – wouldn’t be on the ‘must drive’ list of anyone searching for a stylish, sporty premium sedan that doesn’t require its owner to eat Ramen every day of the week to make its monthly payment.