2018 Buick Regal Quick Drive: Three Versions, Three Experiences
Buick has now shown us the triumvirate that makes up the new Regal midsize car family. The premium brand started with the Sportback, a hatchback styled to look like a coupe, and the TourX, which livened up the offerings with a wagon. And now, the global debut of the GS, the performance hatchback.
With everything now out in the open, we got our first chance to drive all three, albeit briefly, at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds. The time was short, but it was enough to show the new Regal’s range.
Driving The 2018 Buick Regal Sportback
We started with the Regal Sportback that is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that generates 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque with front-wheel drive and 295 lb-ft with all-wheel drive. It is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission with the front-wheel-drive model and an eight-speed with the all-wheel-drive model.
The acceleration is perfectly adequate but not titillating, and the engine sounds, well, like a direct-injection four-cylinder. The transmission is smooth, clicking through the gears seamlessly. Normal is the only drive mode.
It goes on sale in November with a starting price of $25,915, which is $2,000 less than the outgoing model. The lower starting price is to retain Verano buyers with the discontinuation of the lower-priced sedan.
Driving The 2018 Buick Regal Tourx
Not surprisingly, the TourX wagon drives much like the Sportback, given that it has the same 2.0-liter engine. But the all-wheel-drive wagon is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission—at least for now. GM continues to roll the nine-speed out across its range of front-drive vehicles, and the TourX could get it for the 2019 model year. The TourX also goes on sale in the fourth quarter with a starting price of $29,995. North American sales are limited to the U.S. only.
The wagon rides about an inch higher and is a larger vehicle with 73.5 cubic feet of cargo space. It means you instinctively feel like you shouldn’t toss it around as much. It might have slightly less handling even though it shares the same McPherson front and four-link rear suspension. But it drives so similarly to the hatch that it is easy to forget you are driving a wagon.
Driving The 2018 Buick Regal GS
We saved the GS for last, and it was truly the icing on the cake. The 3.6-liter V-6 generates 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque. You can feel it in the acceleration and, equally important, in the sound that six cylinders make, helped by a sport-tuned dual exhaust system. Shifting up and downshifting were smooth with the nine-speed.
It has a five-link rear suspension, but the real differentiator is the Continuous Damping Control. On the uneven surfaces of the handling course, especially over railway tracks, the vehicle sopped up the road. The Sportback and TourX keep sway and jiggle to an acceptable level, but CDC in the GS prompts you take the course faster knowing no one is going to bounce their head off the ceiling. The damping system is on the Buick LaCrosse with 20-inch wheels and will be on the Avenir trim of the new Enclave coming this fall.
The GS also adds a sport and a GS drive mode. Sport changes the steering response, gearshifts, and can send more torque to the rear wheels. GS tightens the dampers and the steering even more for a more dynamic ride best felt on a curvy road.
On the GS, 19-inch wheels are standard, compared with 17- and 18-inch wheels on the other models. There are also Brembo brakes, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and unique performance seats that are heated and cooled and massage.
The GS starts at $39,990 and goes on sale early next year. Buick will provide a more extensive test drive later this year.