Sometimes you want to like something a lot more than you do.
When "Drive...He Said" last drove the [then] all-new 2012 Buick Regal Turbo, we gave Buick credit for accepting the mantle from the GM's deep-sixed Saturn division.
For a brand ever popular in Beijing and retirement communities, the Opel Insignia-based front-drive executive sedan was an olive-branch to American car-buyers under age "fifty-five" who "Can't Drive 55."
Regal was unquestionably more solid than any Buick before it. Although, some niggles prevented Regal from "laying down the gauntlet" to competition like the Volvo S60 , Acura TSX, Volkswagen CC and Nissan Maxima.
Three Wishes Granted:
- Cut Cockpit Confusion:
BEFORE: Regal had 38 buttons and 4 dials for controlling center stack infotainment & climate systems.
AFTER: Center stack switch count has dropped to 22. Dials now number 2. Dual soft touch pads control the dual zone climate system. And by soft touch we mean just that. Hard taps get no result.
- Material Alteration:
BEFORE: Certain Regal stalks, gauges and steering wheel switches were from Chevy-land. Zero contrast cabin, except for blinding mirrored gear-shift selector bezel.
AFTER: Steering wheel spokes have more distinctive toggle switches; huge 4.2"-inch LCD screen between new analog gauges, is a comprehensive menu to trip data, vehicle settings and infotainment. Annoyingly, though, some settings can be made through the 8"-inch touch Intelli-link interface, while others can only be made via the gauge cluster display interface.
All Regals get standard leather seating for 2014. Our Turbo Premium II had contrasting saddle tan-colored door and dash soft materials. Imperceptibly dark, even grained wood veneers spanned the dash top and center stack. Now if only the seats had some real hip bolstering.
- Misses: Gear-shift selector bezel is still too reflective. What's with some coarse hard plastics, firewall batting peeking through footwell and front fender, exposed rear sub-shelf speakers and no dead pedal?
- Seeing Eyes:
BEFORE: Stylishly small wing mirrors + wide B-pillars + large headrests = pretty big side blind-spots.
AFTER: Blind spot indicators are finally available on the 2014 Buick Regal. Other driver's assist tech: collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise, forward collision + front/ rear cross traffic warning, and every immovable object's friend: passive rear park assist.
More Than What We Asked For:
- Outside Lines:
Regal Turbo's grille has been widened and smoked. Lower fascia sees chrome embellishments. There's a genuine split rear bumper diffuser. More "Buick Bling": GS twin port-holes plopped atop the hood
Bumped up 39 horsepower/ 41 pound-feet to 259 hp and 295 lb-feet of twist. The 2.0 liter turbo DI'd gas inline-4 comes from the extroverted Regal GS. The bigger lungs are noticeable at higher speeds. The 6-speed autobox front wheels pull the 2014 Regal Turbo to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, shaving a 1/2 second off the old mark.
- Ride Quality: wheel rubber combination is toned down to 235/50-18. Thus the 2014 Buick Regal Turbo pillows over most pavement. Variable electronic damping is no longer [except on GS].
Chassis pitch is slight. Stability control intervenes when putting power down out of a corner. Did we mention that there's a $1500 Haldex AWD option? Hefty steering centers more naturally, though isn't razor sharp. Brake pedal linearity has improved...a lot.
- Fuel Economy: Extended interstate cruising at 70 mph saw 33 miles-per-gallon on the gauge cluster display. Overall the Regal Turbo netted 25 combined mpg, a 20% improvement over old.
- Infotainment: Buick's Intelli-link was already one of the better media/ navigation interfaces out there. Now voice commands are more conversational. Some favorite mobile device entertainment apps are included. The aurally superb Bose hi-fi complements most any Pandora music selection.
At $38,500, our loaded 2014 Buick Regal Turbo Premium II is $3000 costlier than the 2011 model we tested. Sign this sub-50 year old up for improved driveability, comfort and friendlier interfacing. It's a good thing for Volvo that Buick doesn't offer a Regal Touring sport wagon. Yet.
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