2002 Buick Regal LS. Click image to enlarge
In 1997, Buick got serious about winning back customers from the Japanese imports, most notably the Toyota Camry, a car that had lured family sedan buyers away from the domestic nameplate in the early nineties.
The new Regal was thoroughly re-designed and re-engineered, with the exception of the base 3.8-litre engine, a decent and reliable power plant that was worth keeping. Buick’s near-luxury mid-sized sedan shared componentry with its less well-equipped sibling, the Century, as well as the Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Intrigue. The Regal was built at GM’s award-winning Oshawa plant.
Regals came in two versions, LS and GS, both four-door sedans – the slow selling two-door coupe was dropped from the line-up with the re-design. Two engines were available – the 3800 Series II V-6 with 195 horsepower and a powerful 240 horsepower supercharged 3800 V-6 that came standard in the GS.
Standard equipment included traction control (low-speed on the LS and all-speed on the GS), variable-effort steering, fog lamps, oil life monitor, air filtration system and remote keyless entry. Leather bucket seats were standard on the GS and available on the LS. Manual dual zone air conditioning was standard on both models, while automatic climate control was optional on GS. The GS also got a low tire-pressure warning indicator.
2003 Buick Regal interior. Click image to enlarge
The new Regal was larger in most respects than it predecessor, with plenty of room for five adults. The trunk was large with a pass-through to the rear seat; a split-folding rear seat was added in 2000. Front seats were wide and comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, while the dash design included circular gauges in a traditional layout. A large centre console held storage, cupholders and a console-mounted shifter.
The first major upgrade came in 1999 with more power, a tighter base suspension, improved anti-lock brakes and traction control system, electrochromic outside mirrors and a better optional sound system. Power on the base 3.8-litre engine increased to 200 horsepower and 225 lb.-ft. of torque (up from 220).
Steering and suspension changes – a new steering intermediate shaft, strut tower brace, stiffer bushings and a larger rear stabilizer bar – attempted to reel in the Buick’s somewhat floaty road manners and provide better road feel, not a strong suit for the Regal.
2000 Buick Regal GS. Click image to enlarge
Equipped with the supercharged V-6, the Regal was the ultimate street sleeper, but it was never sporty.
In 2000, a driver’s side seat air bag was added, standard on GS and optional on LS. An internal trunk release was added in 2001 and OnStar communications became an optional feature on GS. US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ratings for the Regal show a vehicle with acceptable safety for its time; based on a five star scale, with five stars being best, the Regal received four stars for a frontal crash for the driver and three stars for the passenger. Side impact tests gave the Regal three stars for front and rear passengers and revealed a high risk of pelvic injury for the driver.
Curiously, ABS brakes became optional on the LS in 2003 and the driver’s side seat air bag was no longer standard GS equipment. Also dropped in 2003 were speed-sensitive variable assist steering and heated outside mirrors.
2004 was the last year for the Buick Regal, being replaced for 2005 by a better Buick with a new name – the Buick Allure.
High depreciation coupled with a better than average reliability record make the Buick Regal an excellent buy on the used car market. If a quiet, comfortable ride and plenty of room for the family are important criteria, the Buick Regal is worth a look.
1997: Transport Canada Recall Number 2000002. Units affected: 12032. The windshield wipers may stop working, usually after operation under heavy load conditions such as accumulated snow or ice, because of separation between the drive pin and crescent in the crank arm assembly.
1997: Transport Canada Recall Number 1997210. Units affected: 307. Regal gran sport model. The right front brake pipe may contact the the power steering assembly. This could cause the brake line to wear through, resulting in a loss of brake fluid and an eventual partial brake system loss.
1997, 1998: Transport Canada Recall Number 1998109. Units affected: 11662. These vehicles do not comply with c.m.v.s.s. 108 – lighting system and retroreflective devices. The english owner manuals for the oldsmobile intrigue and the english and french owner manuals for the buick regal and century vehicles do not contain the required information pertaining to the vehicle headlamp aiming device.
1998, 1999: Transport Canada Recall Number 2000003. Units affected: 28495. These vehicles do not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 108 – Lighting Equipment and Retroreflective Devices. The vertical vehicle headlamp aiming device (VHAD) may not be calibrated properly.
1999: Transport Canada Recall Number 1999136. Units affected: 12414. These vehicles with the key in the “ON” position, may exhibit a condition in which the ABS motor shorts to its case and grounds through a flexible brake pipe. This electrical short can cause extreme heating of the flexible brake pipe to the point where it can melt a nearby flexible plastic fuel hose, and could result in an underhood fire.
1999: Transport Canada Recall Number 2004287. Units affected: 13553. Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 108. Some of these vehicles do not meet the overhead sign illumination requirements in the Standard. Less illumination may reduce the ability of the driver to read overhead signs when driving at night.
2000: Transport Canada Recall Number 1999225. Units affected: 5227. Vehicles equipped with 3.1 litre, 3.8 litre and 3.8 litre supercharged engines. These vehicles do not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 1105 – Evaporative Emissions. Vehicles may have an OBD-II (On Board Diagnostics) calibration that causes a false evaporative emission system code to set under certain conditions, resulting in Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) illumination.
2000: Transport Canada Recall Number 2000124. Units affected: 996. Vehicles equipped with rear drum brakes. These vehicles may exhibit a condition in which the bolt head(s) on the rear spindle rod may separate. There may be a noticeable rattle in the rear suspension. If the remaining portion of the bolt breaks, the wheel can shift, causing rear steering of the vehicle.
2000: Transport Canada Recall Number 2000139. Units affected: 7. These vehicles may not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 301 – Fuel System Integrity. The clamp that secures the flexible fuel fill hose to the metal fuel fill tube may be loose and could separate in a crash or rollover.
2000: Transport Canada Recall Number 2000196. Units affected: 16621. These vehicles may not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 209 – Seat Belt Assemblies. Vehicles may have seat belt assemblies that will not withstand the force requirements of the standard. In a crash, if the belt buckle fails, there is an increased risk of injury to the occupant.
Red Book Pricing (avg. retail) October 2004:
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Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
Grant Yoxon is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist and managing editor of Autos