Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.
I was just as impressed with the Regal as I was with the Park Avenue I reviewed several months prior. Buick definitely had some major design mojo going on in the nineties, not that anyone really cared. The Park Avenue eventually gave way to the staid Lucerne, while the Regal was replaced by the moribund LaCrosse (before being revived as a rebadged Opel Insignia in 2011). If not for its popularity in China, Buick would have been terminated during the 2009 bailout along with Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn & Hummer.
The below review ran on September 29, 1998. Fortunately, there was little or no change in the 1999 models, so everything below should still have applied.
The new supercharged Regal GS is Buick’s latest attempt to draw a younger crowd into its showrooms. After spending a week with it, I find it to be the division’s most potent entry yet into the hotly contested mid-size wars.
Buick applied some impressive design skill to this all-new model using many styling cues from its flagship Park Avenue, with lots of curves and flowing lines. The new look works, even if it is reminiscent of the 1992-96 Toyota Camry.
As before, the Regal is available in luxury LS and sporty GS variations. For the budget conscious, the less expensive Buick Century is essentially a stripped down Regal with limited accessory and powertrain options. Buick has done an excellent job of distinguishing the Regal/Century from its divisional brothers: the Chevy Lumina, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Oldsmobile Intrigue. For the first time, the Regal is only available as a sedan.
Inside is a nice luxury/sporty environment, with the flowing body theme continues as the dashboard bulges around the instrument pod and then wraps into the doors. GS buyers also get a thick leather wrapped steering wheel (with auxiliary radio controls) and console gear shifter. Our tester was well-equipped with leather interior, dual-zone climate control, and automatic exterior lights.
There is little to find fault with on the Regal except the console design was a bit awkward, with the ashtray pinching my finger and my elbow consistently bumping the panel that opens the dual cupholder. Interior room is comfortable for all five passengers, however, and the 16.7 cubic foot trunk is cavernous.
The GS’s supercharged 3.8 liter V6 makes it one of the more powerful mid-size cars available, and is perfectly teamed with the standard 4-speed automatic transmission. Standard traction control helps keep all that power in check. While it doesn’t exactly out-corner an Audi or BMW, it is probably the best-handling Buick in recent memory. Most buyers would probably be happy with the non-supercharged engine, which is still quite powerful and far more fuel efficient.
Although Buicks traditionally evoke images of license plates that say, “Ask me about my grandchildren,” younger buyers will not feel at all self conscious in the Regal GS.
For more information contact 1-800-4A-BUICK
Engine:240-horsepower, 3.8 liter V6
EPA Mileage:17 city/27 highway