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
I had one of these and it was a great car. You are correct about that finger pincher of an ashtray area, I think that was the main fault…..which is a very small thing compared to what could be faults in this era of GM. There’s still plenty of them left around and to me they still look attractive and have plenty of power for today’s freeway conditions. Nice review!
Same here, Jim. It was my Dad’s and I told him when he bought it NOT to give it to my sister when he was done with it, but to sell it to me.
I had this one concurrently with my Grand Prix GTP, and it was fun to compare the two cars. Ultimately, I liked the Pontiac a little better (being a coupe helped), but the Regal GS was a great highway cruiser that held its own with the V8(s) of the day.
Well, I had a buddy of mine who leased a Regal GS in 99, and he said it was “better than a BMW 5-series”. Really?
I laughed at him. Yes, some of us are really proud of our wheels, lol.
Then I drove it. I still laughed. It was a good car–it felt like just like my 97 Grand Prix–which I really liked–maybe a tad softer (he had leased a 97 Grand Prix for a few months, but an accident totalled it–thankfully, he walked away)
I think these were good cars. I preferred the Pontiac Grand Prix and Olds Intrigue. My Grand Prix served me well over 5 years and 83k miles. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have kept it. It was a good car and would have saved me a lot of money over the next 5 years…
Back to the Buick. I think, for the more clever buyer, in the early 2000s, a used Century 3.1 was the best kept secret on the used car market. Typically owned by an older person, these well-maintained, gently used cars depreciated a lot, but were pleasant enough to drive and GM’s 3.1 4-speed auto delivered great fuel economy.
I rented the Century version of this car in 1999 or so. It was pleasant, but the handling could only be described as wallowing. I had an ’89 Thunderbird LX and ’95 Chrysler Concorde at home, both of which had very acceptable ride quality, and were noted by most as good having very good handling as well. With regard to the Century handling, it made me wonder why?
So, I was curious what your review of the Regal would have to say about handling, and I recall these being marketed as a sporty Buick. I guess the why in the Century is answered by Buick still fearing a decent handling car with a less than mushy ride would not be accepted by the many buyers of the prior generation Century. So, something for everyone.
In the end, this was probably wrong. The Chrysler brand was traditionally one of Buick’s primary competitors and its unabashed leap into modern styling, performance and handling remade the the brand in the late 1990s, and Buick was still seen as more fuddy-duddy than it probably was.
For 1998, I would really rather have a…..Chrysler…..
I didn’t find the Regal to be terrible, I believe it was set up firmer than the Century and more than the base Regal as well.
There was a GM factory upgrade available that included front underhood strut braces and bigger anti-sway bars (or just one, I can’t recall?) for a minimal cost, something like $120 at the time. It may have been bits that were included in the police package Impala. I ordered them but ended up selling my car before installing. Supposedly it stiffened the chassis quite a bit and improved the handling.
These always reminded me of the Mazda Millenia.
It’s because the Regal and Century of this generation are eerily similar to Mazda’s own 1992-1997 Efini MS-8, an earlier form of that car’s shape:
Just a note: I still see many of these Regals on the road with whatever power plant. They run and run and they are comfortable.
I had a 94 Regal custom. It was one of the best cars Ive ever had. Super reliable, super fuel efficent (30 mpg highway 26 around town) and super quck…from 0-40 anyway. The 3800 is a gem and does live up to the hype. This is the car that taught me gm could make great cars when they wanted to.
One correction: Oldsmobile was killed in 2004. We can’t blame that one on the financial crisis; it was all GM.
Right, but Olds was still in the picture in Sept 1998, at the time of writing of this piece.
Yeah, I noticed that after publication. However, since Oldsmobile was the first GM brand to be discontinued since LaSalle, and the last car left the line just 5 years before the other divisions were shuttered, I left it alone.
GM would have kept either Pontiac or Buick as long there was going to be a second sales network. As suggested, other factors than sales volume made Buick the survivor.
Until the Olds brand termination was announced, Olds usually outsold Buick. The longstanding Buick dealer body probably swung the decision at that time. By comparison, many Olds dealers were relative newcomers from the Cutlass heyday. For example, my nearest Olds dealer had dropped the Ford franchise. Fortunately for his heirs, he’d also picked up a franchise in the 70s for a little two cylinder car from a company that mostly made motorcycles.
I had a ’99 which I leased in ’99.
It was the GSE version, which must have been some kind of mid-year package. It had every factory option except for heated seats (boo!).
I leased it for three years and had zero issues.
It was just like the picture at the top only it had the chromed wheels.
I have the 1998 Buick Regal GS. Best car i have owned and i have owned many cars in my 64 years. I usually changed cars every 2 years.
I have had my Regal for 5 years. Look’s like new inside and out and has 160000 miles on it.
Bought from original owner who still wants to buy it back…Not gonna happen !!!!