Conservative styling hides above-average performance
The styling of some performance sedans, the Pontiac Grand Prix GTP and Bonneville SSEi for example, projects a ready-to-race image that’s not intended to be subtle. Add-on features like rear spoilers, front air dams, fender flares, intake vents, and extra body cladding turn these mere family sedans into quasi- NASCAR racers!
The Buick Regal GS, on the other hand, is an attractive, conservatively-styled sedan that offers nary a hint of its performance potential – even though it has the same 240 horsepower supercharged 3.8 litre V6 engine as the Grand Prix GTP and Bonneville SSEi – not to mention standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, traction control, a fully independent suspension, and variable-assist Magnasteer power steering.
In the Regal’s case, sporty doesn’t mean impractical. The Regal is a roomy four-door, five-passenger mid-sized sedan with a huge trunk, a comfortable ride, and plenty of standard features, including leather upholstery and automatic climate control.
With an MSRP of $32,465, the Regal GS is well-priced, particularly when you consider that many smaller, entry-level luxury cars are priced higher.
What’s new for 2001
The Regal was first introduced in May, 1997, and hasn’t changed a lot since then. There are two Regal models, the Regal LS which has a standard 200 horsepower 3.8 litre V6 engine, and the Regal GS which offers the 240 horsepower supercharged engine, a two-tone exterior colour scheme, and a higher level of standard equipment.
For the 2001 model year, Regal LS models receive a revised exterior appearance with less chrome trim, a couple of new paint colours, and a new dark grey interior colour scheme. Regal GS models add more standard equipment, including automatic dual zone climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, automatic dimming rearview mirror, and dual power heated auto-dimming outside mirrors.
All Regals are now equipped with an internal trunk opening handle to allow trapped occupants to escape from the trunk. And the OnStar driver assistance system, which can summon emergency towing assistance or even route directions, is now an option.
True five-passenger interior
The Regal is slightly smaller than a Chrysler Intrepid and about the same size as a Ford Taurus. Its roomy, five passenger interior features wide, comfortable bucket seats with a centre console and a floor shift lever for the standard four-speed automatic transmission. Front and rear passengers have adequate legroom and headroom, and the rear three passenger bench seat is wide enough to fit three adults comfortably. A 60/40 split seatback and a centre trunk pass-through provide handy cargo-carrying versatility.
Height-adjustable front head restraints are standard, but the rear seats have only small, fixed outboard head restraints.
My Regal GS test car had optional front seat heaters (with two temperature settings), an absolute necessity with leather upholstery. In winter, leather seats can be icy cold, and in summer they can be burning hot – can you tell I’m not a big fan of leather seats?
The overall appearance of the Regal GS is restrained luxury. The centre dash is finished in a glare-free matte-black finish, with subtle wood trim on the doors and lower console. GM is paying more attention to ergonomics because the round instruments, including a tachometer, are large and easy to see, the centre stereo buttons are easy to access as are the heating and ventilation controls, and the large interior door handles are easy to grab. I’m not sure why the dual-zone climate control has a digital setting for the driver’s temperature, and a colour-coded temperature bar for the front passenger’s temperature setting – but it works.
The standard Driver Information Centre offers bright green LCD readouts for average fuel economy, instant fuel economy, driving range, oil life, and engine boost gauge – although I often wonder how often people actually use these features.
A big, traditional pull/push knob for the headlights is situated on the dash to the left of the steering wheel, and one control stalk operates wipers, washers and cruise control.
A deep, covered storage bin just ahead of the shift lever includes a lighter and ashtray, and just behind the shift lever are two cupholders that flip out of the console. An armrest/storage bin with slots for CD’s, cassettes and coins sits between the two front seats. I liked the way all storage compartments and cupholders are covered – open storage bins look unfinished and tend to get cluttered.
The three-person rear seat has a centre folding armrest which has two built-in cupholders and juice box holders. There are also storage pockets on the back of the front seat, and a couple of coat hangers over the rear doors.
There are four three-point seatbelts for outboard passengers, and a rear lap-belt for the centre rear passenger.
The Regal’s huge 16.7 cubic feet trunk is deep and wide, and can be enlarged by folding down the rear seatbacks.
With 240 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 320 ft-lb. of torque at 3600 rpm, the supercharged 3.8 litre V6 engine has the get-up-and-go of a V8 engine. When prodded, the Regal GS will lurch off the line, and if the all-speed traction control isn’t switched on, it’s easy to spin the front tires. There aren’t too many front-wheel-drive cars with this kind of power – if you’re used to putting your foot to the floor and waiting for things to happen, you’ll have to exercise more restraint in the Regal.
Though it’s powerful, and has a supercharger (an engine-driven compressor which forces more air into the pistons), the Regal GS is surprisingly quiet. Superchargers commonly make a mechanical whining sound, but this one can only be heard dimly under hard acceleration. At cruising speeds, the engine is very quiet doing only about 1500 rpm at 100 km/h in fourth gear.
Fuel consumption is not one of this engine’s strong points – official Transport Canada’s figures are 12.9 l/100 km (22 mpg) city/7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg) highway, but a heavy right foot will soon reduce these ideal numbers – and the Regal GS uses Premium grade gasoline.
Towing is not recommended with the supercharged engine. If you do tow, the maximum towing capacity is 454 kg (1000 lb.).
The Regal’s ride is very comfortable, though a bit firmer than the Regal LS model. The suspension consists of front independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, and stabilizer bar, while at the rear is an independent, tri-link setup with coil springs over struts and a stabilizer bar. Handling is stable and predictable, but the Regal’s nose-heavy front-wheel-drive layout is a negative factor when braking into a tight corner. For standard highway and city driving however, the Regal performs effortlessly. Its turning diameter of 11.4 m (37.5 ft.), is about right for this size of car.
I found the Regal GS’ variable-assist rack and pinion steering provided just the right amount of assist when parking or when travelling at speed. Its standard four wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brakes provide the kind of solid braking performance you need with this kind of engine and vehicle curb weight (1610 kg/3545 lb.)
From the driver’s seat, outward visibility is very good, in part because the trunklid is not as high as it is in some other mid-size sedans. Also, the lack of rear head restraints helps visibility when backing up.
Pricing and standard features
For a base price of $28,895, the Regal LS includes the following standard features: 200 horsepower 3.8 litre V6 with block heater, 4-speed automatic transmission, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats and centre console, 6-way power driver’s seat, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with six speakers, split folding rear seatbacks with centre pass-through, dual zone climate control with manual operation, power windows with driver’s express-down feature, power door locks and remote keyless entry, tilt steering wheel, tachometer, cruise control, front fog lights, power heated mirrors, four wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic low-speed traction control, P215/70R-15 inch tires with steel wheels, and a tire inflation monitoring system with warning light.
Regal GS models, for $32,465, add the supercharged engine, leather seating surfaces, driver’s-side side-airbag, automatic dual-zone climate control, driver information centre, all-speed traction control, P225/60R-16 inch tires and alloy wheels.
My test car also included some options including a $1,550 package which included the premium 8-speaker Monsoon stereo system, heated front seats, 6-way power front passenger seat, and the OnStar information service. Other options included $885 power glass sunroof, and $830 chrome-plated alloy wheels.
The total price came to $35,830 plus $895 freight for a grand total of $36,725.
For those who want performance and practicality without the ‘gee-whiz’ styling, the Regal is a sensible choice.
|2001 Buick Regal GS|
|Base price (LS)||$28,895|
|Price as tested (GS)||$32,465|
|Type||four-door, five-passenger full-size sedan|
|Engine||3.8 litre OHV V6, supercharged|
|Horsepower||240 @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque||280 ft-lb @ 3600 rpm|
|Transmission||4 speed automatic|
|Curb weight||1610 kg (3545 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2769 mm (109.0 in.)|
|Length||4984 mm (196.2 in.)|
|Width||1846 mm ( 72.7 in.)|
|Height||1438 mm ( 56.6 in.)|
|Trunk space||473 litres (16.7 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 12.9 l/100 km (22 mpg)|
|Hwy: 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|