2018 Buick Regal: Two new takes on an old favorite
An all-new Buick Regal will debut at Manhattan’s Javits Center, home of the New York Auto Show. However, dedicated show-followers have already had a preview, when Opel unveiled its new Insignia sedan and wagon last month in Geneva.
What does a new Opel have to do with Buick? It’s no secret that the German company has long been a European engineering resource for General Motors, a history that dates to GM’s acquisition of Opel in 1929. That history is winding down. Not only did Geneva serve as a showplace for the Insignia, it also served as the forum for GM’s announcement that the much anticipated sale of its German subsidiary along with its U.K. Vauxhall brand, was a done deal, and that the new owner is PSA (Peugeot Citroen), the French company.
Given that backdrop, it was only natural to wonder about GM’s plan to adapt the Insignia for U.S. duty as the Regal. Would it be business as usual with Russelsheim, where Opel assembles the Insignia? And would the Opel Cascada convertible continue to be a Buick?
The answer, for the foreseeable future, is yes. Though GM will no longer control Opel, Buick will remain a client rather than overlord. The 2018 Regal will go into production September first in Russelsheim, as scheduled, and, according to Buick global VP Duncan Aldred, the Opel ownership transfer “will have no impact on fresh new models that are developing now.” Buick models, that is.
Truly New Twosome
The new Regal will be offered in two body styles, a four-door hatchback sedan and a four-door wagon. Both are new to the Regal line, which at present entails a conventional front-drive sedan. Like the current Regal, both are basically front-drive, and both are midsize.
But hatchback sedans are rare in the U.S., and there hasn’t been a wagon in the Buick garage since the last Roadmaster went out of production in 1996. And of course we don’t say wagon anymore. During a backgrounder preceding the five-door Regal’s New York debut, Mark Reuss, GM’s global product development vice president, used the term crossover, an allusion meant to exploit the popularity of this hot-selling class.
However, that’s a stretch. Despite an extra inch of static ride height versus the sedan, the Regal TourX—that’s the official name—is pretty clearly a wagon, similar in size and concept to the new Volvo V90 Cross Country.
Judging by climbing in and out of the various seats at the static preview, the TourX seems to provide plenty of room in all seating positions, and can swallow over 73 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats folded forward. And like so many new wagons and crossovers, accessing the cargo hold is made easy by a hands-free power liftgate.
In addition to the now expected passive and active safety features we see today—lane departure warning and assist, adaptive cruise and emergency braking—the TourX adds a unique pedestrian protection element called “active hood.” Operating off a front-bumper sensor, the system’s function is similar to an airbag, causing the hood to pop up from the rear when a pedestrian impact is detected, giving the unfortunate individual a slightly softer landing pad.
Sportback is the name given to the new hatchback Regal, a body style that, like the TourX, provides a substantial cargo hold—61 cubic feet—while retaining passenger car proportions. As well as passenger car good looks.
The design gives the new Regal sedan a fast profile, with the rear hatch falling away to the back of the car—no kick up to accommodate a trunk lid. And the net result is a very sleek coupe-like profile, reminiscent of some Audi designs.
The Sportback is considerably bigger than the current Regal sedan. At 192.9 inches overall it’s 2.7 inches longer, on a wheelbase that’s stretched 3.6 inches, to 111.4. How this adds up at the curb remains to be seen, but the new dimensions reduce the car’s front and rear overhangs compared to the current Regal, adding to its slick good looks.
Like the TourX, the Sportback seems agreeably roomy, fore and aft, and both vehicles offer the expected array of connectivity and infotainment features.
The new Regals will reach Buick showrooms this fall in four trim levels—Regal, Preferred, Preferred II, and Essence–and all will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter direct injection 4-cylinder producing 250 horsepower, 295 pound-feet of torque.
In the Sportback, the turbo sends power to the front wheels via a 9-speed automatic transmission, or to all four via an optional torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, with an 8-speed. All-wheel drive is standard for the TourX, which is limited to the 8-speed auto.
In the Sportback, power-to-weight should be a bit better than current Regal, whose 2.0-liter turbo four generates 259 horsepower but weighs about 200 pounds more, trim for trim. The Sportback will max out at about 3,900 pounds. Look for 0-to-60 mph in about 6 seconds. The TourX weighs over 4,200 pounds, which will make it slower.
EPA fuel economy and pricing are yet to come. Current Regal MSRPs range from just under $28,000 to over $37,000. Anticipating a higher price range for the new Regals, particularly the all-wheel drive TourX, is a pretty safe bet.
Is America ready for a hatchback sedan, and a wagon that isn’t a crossover SUV in a soft sedan market? Time will tell. But style is always a factor, and the new Regals have plenty of that, double in spades.
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