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2018 Buick Regal Review

2018 Buick Regal Review
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Roomy and pleasant to drive, the 2018 Buick Regal is a crossover in car clothing.

Consider the 2018 Buick Regal a reboot. Gone is last year's conventional sedan, replaced with a Euro-style four-door hatchback with clean lines and a wagon with extra ground clearance and the Subaru Outback directly in its sights. It's a two-prong effort with global roots: the Regal Sportback is basically the European-market Opel Insignia and the Regal TourX is a station wagon with fender flares, standard all-wheel drive, and more ground clearance. The sportier Regal GS is based on the Sportback. All models share the same general styling, interior, and underpinnings, but they'll shoot for different buyers.

Thus far we've only driven the Regal Sportback and TourX with their 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4. They're both spacious with crossover levels of utility and the pleasant road manners of a very competent mid-size car. We rate the lineup a 7.0 out of 10.

The Regal’s turbo-4 puts out 260 pound-feet of torque with the front-wheel drive that's standard on the Sportback, but all-wheel-drive versions get 295 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive Regal Sportbacks use a 9-speed automatic transmission, while all-wheel drive versions shift power to the wheels via an 8-speed automatic. The TourX comes standard with AWD and an 8-speed; the Regal GS gets standard AWD and a 9-speed. We promise there won’t be a quiz later.

That all-wheel-drive system features a twin-clutch rear differential to rapidly transfer power to the wheel with the most grip.

The Regal GS features a 3.6-liter V-6 making 310 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque. It has all-wheel drive, as well as adjustable shocks, a five-link rear suspension, sport seats, and more aggressive body work.

Stretching 192.9 inches, the Regal Sportback is about two inches longer than the outgoing sedan.

The Sportback looks mostly like a fastback sedan, but its rear hides a massive tailgate that opens to reveal a hefty 31.5 cubic feet of space with the second row upright. Fold those seats and maximum capacity swells to a crossover-rivaling 60.7 cubes.

The TourX sits less than an inch higher off the ground. It is, however, 3.4 inches longer overall, bringing it to 196.3 inches from bumper-to-bumper. That's hefty—7 inches longer than an Outback and stretched more than a foot longer than a Volvo V60 Cross Country, the two models Buick says it's targeting. It also has a five-link rear suspension, while standard Sportbacks have a four-link.

Predictably, the TourX is roomy inside, offering 73.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume with the second-row seats folded forward. That's a figure that well exceeds the V60 but is on par with the smaller Outback.

All models are five-seaters with an interior that aims to be high-end but winds up more in the mainstream.

The Sportback is offered in 1SV, Preferred I, Preferred II, and Essence trim levels, plus the sportier GS. Pricing drops by $2,000 from last year to around $26,000 to start for the Sportback, while the line-topping GS starts around $40,000. The TourX offers 1SV, Preferred, and Essence models, with pricing starting around $30,000. A 7.0-inch infotainment system is standard, as is active noise cancellation, while an 8.0-inch screen with with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and navigation, is optional. Bose audio is on the options list as well.

All models include a pedestrian safety system pops the rear of the hood upward if it detects a human making contact with the front of the vehicle. It's a byproduct of European safety standards, but one that may be welcome in an increasingly urbanized America.

An option package adds blind-spot monitors, rear park assist, and rear cross-traffic alerts. A separate option package adds even more—automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. It is only available on the high-end models.

The 2018 Buick Regal Sportback hides its hatchback shape in an attractive body similar to many of today's mid-size sedans.

The 2018 Buick Regal is offered as a hatchback or wagon. The hatchback plays off the shape of modern coupe-like sedans and hatches, and if you didn’t know it was a hatchback, you might say it was a sedan. The wagon takes on a more traditional shape. Both are quite attractive inside and out, and we award one point each for interior and exterior design, bringing the total to 7 for styling. 

The Regal Sportback's profile is similar to sedans like the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. The roof is more rounded than you get with the Accord, for instance, but that just leaves a bit more interior head room for the second-row passengers, and a bit more cargo space. A chrome trim strip traces the top of the window-line, and thus follows the roof-line. The sides also feature two character lines, one that bisects the door handles, and another that runs along the bottom of the car and kicks up before the rear wheel.

At the front, the look is sculpted and attractive, with a grille borrowed from the Avenir Concept that appeared at the 2015 Detroit auto show. It has a large Buick crest in the middle with wings sprouting from it. Air inlets sit at the corners and in pricier models they also house fog lights. The rear is simple and clean, with LED taillights and an integrated lip spoiler on the hatch.

The Regal GS uses the Sportback body style but has more aggressive front air inlets at the corners, ground effects along the sides, 19-inch wheels, air dams, and a rear decklid spoiler.

The Regal TourX has the same basic design, but with a long roof. It is also 3.4 inches longer overall and features cladding around the wheels, lower body, and even on the lower portion of the front fascia. It doesn't sit much higher up, though, so it avoids the wagon-on-stilts look seen in the Outback. For better or worse.

Inside, the Regal's design is attractive if light on flourish, with flowing lines on the dash that carry through to the doors and center console. The look is better with contrasting colors. A 7.0- or 8.0-inch touchscreen sits in the center of the dash, and a digital driver information center is available on higher line models.

Surprisingly, the Regal TourX's interior isn't any different, aside from a much larger cargo hold. The lack of earth-toned upholstery seems like an opportunity missed to us.

The GS gets sport seats and a drive-mode selector.

With its well-tuned engine and suspension, the 2018 Buick Regal is reasonably quick and confident on the road.

With its 2.0-liter turbo-4, the 2018 Buick Regal offers spritely acceleration, and the Regal GS promises to be even faster. The Sportback isn't sporty and the TourX isn't exactly an off-roader but they do deliver competent handling, and those two factors are enough for the Regal to earn a 7 for performance in our book.

The Regal's turbocharged 4-cylinder puts out 250 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque with all-wheel drive or 260 lb-ft when it sends the power through the front wheels. With front-drive, it is paired with GM's new 9-speed automatic transmission, but AWD models get an 8-speed automatic. Neither transmission comes with steering wheel shift paddles, but drivers can shift manually through the gearshift.

The available all-wheel-drive system is advanced. It runs with a front bias most of the time, but can send about half of its power to the rear wheels when needed and it has a twin-clutch on the rear axle that can apportion power between the rear wheels. It acts as torque vectoring, but is meant more for traction than performance.

The powertrain is well-suited to the Regal and satisfying to drive. Buick says the 0-60 mph run takes about 6.2 seconds and that feels right to our backsides. Between throttle response and transmission programming, the power is ready and willing, and the transmission always seems to be in the right gear, especially the 9-speed. The Regal has no mode selector; instead it offers just one well-tuned powertrain program.

The chassis and steering are also quite competent. The Regal Sportback has a MacPherson strut front suspension and a four-link independent rear suspension. The TourX and GS have a five-link rear.

Ride and handling characteristics in the Sportback are short of sporty, but bordering on fun. The suspension soaks up bumps nicely with the 18-inch wheels, the steering is direct if without much feel, and the Regal carves the line the driver tells it to.

The Regal TourX isn't much different, although its ride is a touch softer thanks to its taller sidewalls. It's comfortable, quiet, and composed on the highway and just entertaining enough on a twisty road. What it lacks is any real four-wheeling ability, at least compared to the high-riding Outback. The TourX's suspension sits barely half an inch higher off the ground and there are no off-road modes for the traction control as in some rivals.

Comfort & Quality
A cavernous rear hatch area makes the 2018 Buick Regal Sportback the crossover of cars.

The Regal's greatest strength is its interior space. The hatch areas of the Sportback and TourX offer crossover-like cargo space, and the front and rear seats are spacious. While Buick purports to be upscale, the interior environment is barely a cut above mainstream. We rate the Regal a 7 for comfort and quality based mostly on its useful space.

The Sportback has surprising cargo space and the TourX has even more. With the rear seats up, the Sportback boasts 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the rear hatch area, which is double the size of a typical mid-size sedan's trunk. It gets better when you fold the rear seats down and the cargo hold opens up to an amazing 60.7 cubic feet. That's about a foot more than you get in a Mazda CX-5, but taller items won't fit due to the sloping roofline. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split on lower line models and a 40/20/40 split on higher line versions. The three-way split lets two occupants sit in the outboard rear seats while carrying longer items like skis, tents, or mannequins.

The TourX expands that space to 32.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 73.5 cubes with the rear seats down. Its space is shallow but long and it easily swallows a week's worth of luggage for a family of four. A standard roof rack is a nice touch, but the optional, dealer-installed crossbars sit up high and create copious wind roar.

Passengers also will have good space. The rear seat will work for riders 6-foot-2 and shorter as the sloping roofline doesn't dip too aggressively, and the front seat has excellent space all around. Unfortunately, buyers have to move up a few models to get power seats with additional adjustments, so we recommend testing the seating position to see if it works for you before choosing a lower trim level.

Space for small items is just adequate. Buick provides a wireless charging mat for cell phones, which is handy, but otherwise that space is limited to cupholders and a nicely sized center bin. Another open tray would be useful.

The interior quality is little better than what you get in a mainstream car, which isn't impressive given Buick's role as a premium brand within GM. There are some soft-touch materials on the dash and door tops, but the lower areas are hard plastic and Buick hasn't paid attention to the details. The way the leather on the seats is stitched together isn't always exact, and there is some untrimmed flash in out-of-the-way areas like cupholders or door pockets. Surprisingly, the TourX's interior doesn't look any different. We'd like to see unique colors and trim finishers.

One thing Buick does do well is tune its vehicles for quietness. The Regal comes standard with active noise cancellation, extra insulation, and even foam in the tires to damp out road noise.

The 2018 Buick Regal has no crash test data yet and we object to Buick offering its active safety features only on the top models.

The 2018 Buick Regal has not yet been crash tested by either federal or independent testers. It offers an array of today's active safety systems, but they are only available on the top Essence and GS models. Without crash-test ratings, we can't give the Regal a safety score.

Standard safety features include dual front airbags, curtain side airbags that protect the heads and torsos of front and rear passengers, dual front knee airbags, a rearview camera, and an Active Safety Hood that uses pyrotechnics to pop the rear of the hood upward if it detects a human making contact with the vehicle to reduce the possibility of injury for pedestrians.

A pair of packages add more safety equipment, but they are only offered on the Essence and GS models. Driver Confidence Package 1 includes rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alerts, and blind-spot monitors, while Driver Confidence Package 2 adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and active lane control with lane-departure warning.

A better bargain than in the past, though Buick reserves the best goodies for the high-end models.

The 2018 Buick Regal is a better deal than the outgoing model, but buyers will want to step up to the Preferred II model to get features like Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. At that low-$30,000s price, the Regal is a smart buy, and Buick has a few worthwhile options as well. We rate it a 7 for features based on its value and features.

The 2018 Buick Regal Sportback is offered in 1SV, Preferred I, Preferred II, and Essence trim levels. Standard features on the 1SV include cloth upholstery, manually adjustable seats, power accessories, air conditioning, keyless ignition, a rearview camera, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Infotainment features include OnStar 4G LTE connectivity with a wi-fi hotspot, OnStar turn-by-turn directions and emergency assistance, a USB port, a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, and a seven-speaker AM/FM audio system. It also comes with a Teen Driver program that lets parents set parameters for their teen drivers. The Preferred I adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-way power lumbar adjustment, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The Preferred II adds 18-inch wheels, foglights, a 40/20/40-split folding rear seat, a heated steering wheel, an 8.0-inch version of the center touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a 4.2-inch digital driver information center, remote starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, and ambient interior lighting. The Essence adds heated leather seats.

The GS model is sportier. It gets Brembo front brakes, adjustable dampers, a drive-mode selector, 19-inch wheels, a rear decklid spoiler, air dams, ground effects, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and front and rear park assist. Inside, it has heated and cooled sport seat with a massage function and power-adjustable bolsters, and memory for the front seats and outside mirrors.

The TourX is offered in 1SV, Preferred, and Essence trims. The 1SV is like the Sportback 1SV but it has 18-inch wheels. The Preferred is like the Sportback Preferred I but it adds a height-adjustable front passenger seat. And the Essence has all of the equipment of the Sportback Preferred II and Essence.

Notable options include Driver Confidence Package 1, which includes memory for the front seats and mirrors, four-way power lumbar adjustment for the front seats, an auto-dimming and heated driver's side mirror, LED headlights with auto-leveling, cornering lamps, rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alerts, and blind-spot monitors. Driver Confidence Package 2 adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and active lane control with lane-departure warning. A Sights and Sounds Package includes the 8.0-inch touchscreen, navigation, satellite radio, and an eight-speaker Bose audio system.

Fuel Economy
With front-wheel drive, the 2018 Buick Regal manages a thrifty 26 mpg combined.

The 2018 Buick Regal's volume model will be its turbo-4 with front-wheel drive. That also happens to be the most fuel-efficient combination. With 26 mpg in the combined EPA cycle, we rate it a 7 for fuel economy.

The full EPA ratings for the 2018 Buick Regal Sportback with the turbo-4 and front-drive are 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined. Opt for all-wheel drive, and the EPA ratings fall to 21/29/24 mpg. Both are rated on premium fuel.

The 2018 Buick Regal Tour X wagon comes only with AWD. It gets the same 21/29/24 mpg ratings as the Sportback. Beware, though: the turbo-4 is rated to run on premium unleaded.

At the top of the lineup is the Regal GS. It features the Sportback body style with a 3.6-liter V-6. Its ratings are 19/27/22 mpg on regular unleaded.

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