published Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Test Drive: New Regal completes Buick's trifecta

The 2014 Buick Regal now has a standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
The 2014 Buick Regal now has a standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

Model: 2014 Buick Regal

Exterior color: Black Diamond Tricoat

Interior color: Ebony

Engine: 4-cylinder, 2.0-liter, turbocharged

Horsepower: 259

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 30 mpg highway, 24 mpg city

Dealer: Integrity Buick

Price (as tested): $32,610

Buick's mid-size Regal sedan gets a standard 259-horsepower, turbocharged engine for 2014 -- an upgrade that makes it a scorching-hot competitor in the sport sedan world.

Bryan House, general sales manager at Integrity Buick here, says that GM is banking on the Regal becoming an important fighter that can capture market share from the likes of BMW and Infiniti.

Based on our test drive earlier this week -- a mid-day sprint through the Hixson area -- the General is on the right track. The gorgeous Regal now has a true performance powerplant to augment its sleek, modern exterior.

At this price point, $32,610 for our black-on-black test car, the Regal becomes an outstanding value. Look for GM to do saturation advertising on this new showpiece in coming months. Base price ranges for the Regal are trim levels are $31,700 to $37,000, a performance-oriented GS version is also available for those with a need for even edgier performance.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The Regal slots between the the luxury compact Buick Verano and the full-size Buick LaCrosse. Most buyers -- mostly small families and couples, I'd think -- will find the Regal's head and leg room are just right.

All the Buick sedans share the same handsome profile which includes the brand's signature waterfall grille, coupe-like roof and high belt-line (all the better to show off its aggressively flared wheel arches). The Buick sedan template is a unified design that looks good from every angle. There's nothing out of proportion, nothing ostentatious or trendy.

The 18-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels on our test car contrasted brilliantly with the car's Black Diamond Tricoat paint, a $995 option that's well worth the money. GM's tricoat paints add depth and luminescence to a car's exterior. Buick makes generous use of LED lighting on the Regal, with accents on the headlights, tail-lights and side mirrors.

Our tester adds a shot of testosterone with a black-out grille treatment and an all-black interior (with contrasting stitching), accented with splashes of gleaming chrome. Our car included such standard equipment as leather seats, heated outside mirrors, fog lamps, remote keyless entry and a dandy back-up camera system.

The leather-clad seats are especially comfy, with plenty of lateral support -- which will come in handy when you toss the Regal around on a twisting road, which you'll want to do immediately.

A new dash design with fewer buttons and dials is a welcome change. The instrument cluster is simple with a small, but legible, gauges. There are two display screens for the car's infotainment systems, a small screen in the instrument cluster and a larger, 8-inch diagonal screen positioned in the middle of the dash. (You'll want to get Integrity Buick's technology expert John Knight to show you all the bells and whistles.)

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The big news for 2014 is the Regal's standard turbocharged motor, which squeezes 259-horsepower out of a mere 2.0-liter engine displacement. The engine, which has undergone several tuning refinements, gets 39 additional horsepower this year and a boost in fuel economy too (up to 30 mpg highway).

Indeed, on our test drive, the Regal proved both agile and powerful in highway driving. Turbo lag is minuscule, and the Regal gathers and launches almost instantly. Zero-to-60 mph times for the base Regal are in the mid 6-second range -- a lot of performance for a car that barely tops $30,000. There's also a new all-wheel drive option available for added handling and security on slick surfaces.

The six-speed automatic transmission is silky smooth, and works efficiently with the engine to return about 24 mpg in city driving.

Some of the higher trim levels come with Buick's impressive suite of safety features including blind spot alert, lane change alert, forward collision alert and rear cross traffic alert.

BOTTOM LINE

If you still have in mind that Buicks are stodgy, grandma-mobiles; please take a look at the new line-up. The new Regal is both slick and fast -- and a good example of why the customer base for Buick reportedly trends younger every year.

The Regal has the same bloodlines as the highly-entertaining Cadillac ATS, and should prove to be a sporty alternative to the more unimaginative best-sellers in the mid-size car segment.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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