2014 Buick Regal GS AWD First Drive: A Sedan for All Seasons
Buick's decision to add on-demand all-wheel drive models to the 2014 Regal makes the sleek, sporty sedan even more appealing to people who live in New England and Canada, where driving in icy conditions is a way of life for a significant portion of the year-or all year, if you live far enough north. It also makes the Regal more competitive with cars like the Chrysler 300, Audi A4, Volkswagen CC, and Acura TL, all of which come with an AWD option.
You can get all-wheel drive in all non-hybrid Regal models equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission only. All-wheel drive is not a standalone option. Instead, it is packaged together with a suspension that uses HiPer struts in front and an H-arm rear. (Front-drive Regals use a MacPherson strut front suspension and a 4-link rear.) Choosing AWD costs an extra $2175 over the equivalent front-drive Regal, but in the case of the high-performance GS, adds $2365. There, the tuning is significantly different and the AWD system ties into the GS model's GS and Sport modes.
Seamless Delivery of Power
The system, which uses a Haldex module and an electronic limited-slip differential, can shift power from side to side and from front to back, depending on where power is needed. It monitors more than 200 inputs, including wheel speed, yaw, and steering input, to determine where the torque needs to be distributed to improve traction. On dry roads, the same idea applies, and works to reduce torque steer. At launch on a straight, dry surface, the torque split is about 50/50, but up to 90 percent of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels if the situation calls for it. On the Regal GS, when the car is in GS or Sport mode-either of which can be activated with a push of a button on the dash-the AWD system can shift up to 15 percent more torque to the rear wheels.
We had the opportunity to drive a 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD in Canada. Our drive took us on streets and highways, where it was snowing as we drove, the roads were covered with ice and the temperature was about 9 degrees Fahrenheit-the ideal conditions for testing out the system. Starting from a stop, both on snow and ice, was easy and quick. The all-wheel drive added a feeling of confidence right from the start, and there was no sense of torque steer when accelerating. On highways and small side roads, there was no noticeable loss of traction even though the road surface was slippery. The ride was responsive but comfortable.
After a few hours on public roads, we then visited the ICAR motorsports complex, where we tried out the system in a controlled environment. We took the Regal GS AWD through skidpad, figure-eight and road courses, all of which were covered in ice and snow, and came away impressed by the Regal's safety systems, most notably the all-wheel drive.
We did have some minor complaints with the car: For starters, the bottom seat cushion is too short. In addition, both headroom and legroom are a little lacking in the back seat. Third, the push-button release is at the front of the transmission shifter, but because of where it's located and how it's designed, it's very easy for it to pinch the skin on your fingers. That's fine if it happens once or twice, but if you run a lot of errands in your car in a day and have it pinch the skin every time you go from Park to Drive and back again, it starts to become a bigger issue.
Traction Vs Fuel Economy
All-wheel drive does come at a price, and not just the $2365 extra in the GS AWD we drove. The system reduces fuel economy by about 10 percent: a front-drive Regal with the 2.0-liter turbo and six-speed automatic nets 21 mpg city and 30 on the highway; add AWD to the mix, and those numbers go down to 19 and 27. For those who spend a lot of time in snowy climes, that may be worth the loss in fuel efficiency.
Another factor to consider is the AWD Regal's pricing versus the competition. While the cars we drove cost about $44,000, you can get all-wheel drive in a base Regal for as little as $32,790, a price that is quite reasonable, and below the lowest cost of entry for AWD in the Chrysler 300 ($34,325), Audi A4 ($35,595), Acura TL ($40,475), and Volkswagen CC ($43,760).
If you would like to read about the full line of Regals, check out our First Review of the full 2014 Buick Regal line.
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