Buick Regal offers all-wheel drive for wintry travel

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

The 2016 Buick Regal is a competent and nimble mid-size sedan with pretty appearance, quiet interior, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and — important for the approaching winter — all-wheel drive for surefooted travel.

The four-door, five-passenger Regal also is relatively affordable, with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $27,990 for a front-wheel drive base model. It comes with standard leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone, automatic climate control, keyless entry and rearview camera.

The all-wheel drive version has a higher starting retail price of $32,340. All-wheel drive Regals come with the 259-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while the base Regal comes with a 182-horsepower non-turbo four-cylinder.

Other good news for shoppers: The turbo engine only requires regular gasoline, not premium. And it gets good marks for holding up over time. Consumer Reports says the Regal has better-than-average reliability. Earlier this year, Buick ranked second only to Lexus in the J.D. Power and Associates annual dependability study that graded how 3-year-old models held up for consumers.

Meanwhile, the federal government gave the 2016 Regal five out of five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side crash tests.

Also worth noting: The 2016 Regals come with two free visits for scheduled maintenance during the first two years or first 24,000 miles.

Regals were popular decades ago, but sales dwindled amid a sea of new sedan offerings like Ford's mid-size Fusion, of which more than 255,000 had been sold this year through October and which is outselling the Regal in the U.S. by a 16:1 ratio.

Part of the problem is Buick's perception as an old brand, though there is nothing stodgy about the Regal.

Its modern styling and up-to-date handling combine with today's most prevalent technology such as standard Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, hands-free texting, changeable displays in the instrument cluster and optional navigation system to create an environment that's like that of today's other sedans.

For 2016, the Regal also has the ability to become a WiFi hotspot for easy connection for tablets and laptops on the go. Data usage rates apply, but this is not a feature that is found on very many other family sedans.

The test-driven Regal AWD GS was easy to drive, with good steering response that was a bit light to the touch but comfortable.

Fitted with optional 20-inch tires, the car transmitted road bumps through to passengers mostly via slight vibrations. There was nothing harsh or jolting.

Power from the 2-liter, double-overhead cam, turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder came on comfortably, not in a sudden, uncontrolled way.

The full 295 foot-pounds of torque is reached by at least 3,000 rpm, which makes the Regal move in sprightly fashion without being overtly sporty. As a result, some passengers didn't realize power came from a turbo engine.

The six-speed automatic transmission managed the power delivery to the wheels without fuss and without noticeable shift points.

Zero-to-60-miles-per-hour performance is a decent 6.5 seconds to 7.4 seconds.

The test-driven car averaged the federal government's 22-miles-per-gallon rating for combined city/highway travel, so the range of a full tank was nearly 400 miles. The cost of filling up the 18-gallon tank with regular gasoline at today's prices was only $37.

The best interior of all the 2016 Regals is in the GS, where sport bucket seats are plush-looking yet supportive.

GS models also come with distinctively different front styling and rear spoiler as well as strong Brembo brakes.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel in the tester was laden with touch controls for radio, phone, cruise and other controls, and the display screen atop the dashboard was sizable at 8 inches.

The 14.2-cubic-foot trunk of the tested car extended well under the rear window shelf, and it was difficult to reach small items that had rolled or slid in that far.

Rear seatbacks split and fold down, not quite flat, to allow the trunk to accommodate long items.

The center console between the front seats was small in size for storage, and rear-seat headroom felt constrained at only 36.8 inches.