TOFINO, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Based on the Opel Insignia for the majority of the last decade, the outgoing Regal is a premium four-door sedan that’s more athletic to drive than the larger LaCrosse (reviewed here). Now all new for this year, we were invited to Tofino, British Columbia to sample the latest 2018 Buick Regal Sportback, along with the genuinely sporty Regal GS.
Moving to the Sportback design over the traditional sedan is a bold move for Buick, and our American friends also get a Regal Tour-X station wagon adding to the lineup. The Regal Sportback has a swooped and subjectively attractive coupe-like roofline that gives the car a sharper profile and additional cargo room. The Regal Sportback offers more overall cargo space than the BMW 4-series Gran Coupé as well as the Audi A5 Sportback. LED headlights and taillights add to the Regal’s good looks, along with sexy wheel designs.
The Regal Sportback gets a 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine under the hood, an entity that is now known in the GM family. It pushes 250 horsepower at 5,500RPM (5,400 on the AWD model) and 260 lb-ft. of torque between 2,000 and 5,200RPM (3,000-4,000 on AWD). Front-drive models get a nine-speed automatic, and Regals equipped with all-wheel-drive get an eight-speed box. Both are great gearboxes, though we expect more than half of the take rate in Canada to be the all-wheel-drive example.
A highlight within the Regal lineup is the Regal GS, which does away with the turbocharged four in favour of a new high-revving 3.6L V6. Output here is 310 horsepower at a generous 6,800RPM and 282 lb-ft. of torque at 5,200RPM. The Regal GS only gets all-wheel-drive with an active twin-clutch, along with a five-link rear suspension. Other highlights on this model include performance Brembo brakes, a sport-tuned exhaust system, and obviously front and rear ends that are unique to the GS.
As a result of all of this, the Regal GS drives exceptionally well. The adaptive dampers (Continuous Damping Control) can adjust up to 500 times per second, and the Interactive Drive Control has Sport and GS modes to alter throttle mapping, transmission shift points, and response for the most engaging driving experience the car can deliver. And that it does – the Regal GS is the sharpest feeling Buick we have ever experienced. The V6 has excellent response, and feels noticeably better than the outgoing model. Pushing it through the twisty and hilly roads to Tofino, we were thoroughly enjoying the excellent damping and athletic body control.
The last Regal GS had a 2.0L turbo-four, and it felt pretty good for its time. It did experience torque steer though, which the new one does not. Ride quality is impeccably good, and on the twisty drive from Nanaimo to Tofino, my drive partner and I were constantly remarking just how effortless driving this car is. The flat-bottom steering wheel feels great to hold, and actual steering response is remarkable. The Regal does drive smaller than its size would suggest, but the one challenge that we saw with the GS is the lack of paddle shifters, which is now expected in any performance oriented car.
Back to the regular Regal Sportback, it’s a great rival to top-trim models of the Honda Accord (reviewed here) and Toyota Camry. The likes of the Acura TLX (reviewed here) and Volvo S60 also come to mind, but it really is an in-betweener. The interior has upscale materials and minimal plastics, centered around a 7” infotainment system. An 8” example is optional, and both feature connectivity such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a OnStar 4G-LTE WiFi hotspot.
Additional connectivity includes the new myBuick app, which offers diagnostic information from the engine, transmission, and brakes. This system can send you a monthly Diagnostic Report e-mail letting you know of the health of your vehicle. Active safety on board includes two Driver Confidence packages add front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with departure warning, forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control and forward automatic braking. Every Regal includes hill start assist, a rear-view camera, 10 airbags and stability control.
Interior space is also plentiful in the Regal, though headroom is a little bit compromised due to the Sportback’s low roofline. At 6’1, I was quite comfortable for our drive totaling roughly six hours on the road, and even able to sit directly behind myself. Rear legroom is tight for taller drivers, but nothing out of the ordinary for this segment. Those seeking more rear legroom will want to consider the LaCrosse or Impala within the Buick lineup. Despite the car’s sleek profile, there is ample shoulder space and the cabin feels bright and spacious. The rear seats can be folded down in a 40/20/40 split, and Buick claims 892L of storage space with the rear seats in place, and up to 1,719L with the seats folded.
Buick rates the Regal with the 2.0T at 10.7L/100km city and 7.4L/100km highway in front-drive, and 11.0L/100km and 8.0L/100km respectively for the all-wheel-drive model. The GS sits at 12.4L/100km city and 8.7L/100km highway. Over our extended drive, we saw 9.0L/100km flat in hilly mountain driving on the 2.0T model, and 9.5L/100km on the GS – perfectly reasonable and well within expectations.
Pricing for the 2018 Buick Regal Sportback starts at $31,845 for the Preferred II front-drive trim, and $37,345 for the Essence with all-wheel-drive. The high-performance Regal GS starts at $43,845 and is only available with all-wheel-drive. On each of these trims, additional packages such as the Driver Confidence Group I and II, Experience Buick Package, and Sights and Sounds Package can be added for additional convenience. This pricing is competitive and actually comes in slightly lower than rivals such as the Infiniti Q50 (reviewed here).
The 2018 Buick Regal is a noteworthy successor to the outgoing model, and a vehicle commendable for its driving dynamics. The larger LaCrosse is an excellent sedan for the masses, but the Regal is a more athletic and slightly crisper sport sedan. Those who opt for one will not be disappointed in the slightest, and the introduction of the new Regal marks another notch in the General’s belt – one for a job well done.