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FIRST DRIVE: 2018 Buick Regal Sportback and GS

Little changes add up to a more refined, luxurious and sophisticated look

Published: April 28, 2018, 2:30 AM
Updated: June 11, 2018, 2:27 AM

Buick Regal GS & Sportback - Buick Regal Sportback

With two new and very distinct vehicle experiences being released under the Regal name badge for 2018, Buick is certain it can continue to outsell the competition in this market for another year.

Buick Regal Sportback

And with the backing of a whopping 1.4 million vehicles sold globally in 2017, it bodes very well for Buick’s two new kids on the block.

Having identified the (current) Buick Regal buyer as 45 (in age), mostly male and university educated, Buick believes the active lifestyle and rugged sophistication of their current Regal buyers will overflow to the 2018 Regal Sportback and the 2018 Regal GS models. Given the increase in cargo space and the fact that each now comes outfitted with a 2.0-litre turbo engine, Buick may be on the right track.

Buick Regal Sportback

The 2018 Buick Regal Sportback provides the driver with attainable luxury – placing this vehicle between the luxury and mainstream markets for 2018. With proven power delivery, a rigid, yet lightweight body and smooth responsive ride and handling, the new 2018 Buick Regal Sportback is refined versatility – but its not a hatchback.

Cargo Space increase, but its not a hatchback

Buick Regal GS & Sportback

The new body style Buick has designed for the Regal Sportback allows for an unexpected increase in cargo-carrying capability, in increments with the use of a 40/20/40 back seat. With that kind of break down you can pass through your longer items – snowboards, skis, golf clubs etc. – through the centre panel and still carry up to three passengers. To make it even easier, power release controls located in the cargo area can easily be accessed to mechanically drop the back seats down, almost doubling your cubic cargo space (from 892 litres to 1719).

Power Delivery

Buick 2.0-litre turbo

With a 2.0-litre turbo engine under the hood putting out 250 horses and producing 260 lb-ft of torque to the vehicle’s two front wheels (FWD version), you get going quickly and have the follow through to take you where you need to go. If you’re looking for a little more pick up and go, the AWD version can deliver 295 lb-ft torque to all four wheels just as well but will set you back a little on fuel economy. The trade-off is a driver that feels confident and in control of a vehicle well equipped to handle all conditions Canadian weather throws its way.

Seamless Connectivity

Buick Regal Sportback Infotainment

Today, drivers want to be connected to their social networks throughout the day, including the time when they are driving, and Buick has listened. With an increase in size over last years touchscreen, you can now see a full eight inches of frameless colour display, allowing you to integrate both built-in and brought-in media into your driving experience. With an embedded voice recorder or a phone pass-through that also allows you to operate the infotainment system while driving, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay will never let you miss a text message or notification while driving. But if you get lost, Navigation is going to cost you extra.

Active Hood

Buick Regal Acti-Hood

Buick’s newest safety feature is that of a rather sensitive issue: it helps reduce pedestrian injuries in the event of impact with the vehicles hood, within certain speed parameters. Sensors detect impact with a pedestrian, when the vehicle registers speeds of 25-50 km/hr, which then sets off a pyrotechnic activator to raise the rear of the hood (the portion closest to the windshield) approximately 10 cm to help absorb the impact. The vehicle’s hood acts as a cushion absorbing the force of impact. It’s a nice touch, but part of me wonders what we are getting into when we start building cars with safety features to absorb pedestrian impact. Shouldn’t we be taught to avoid pedestrians?

Safety

Buick Regal GS

With many safety features, its no wonder Buick ranked highest in vehicle dependability by J.D. Power for 2018. J.D. Power and Associates’ Vehicle Dependability Award for the vehicle with the least amount of problems per 100 cars went to Buick this year, for ranking the lowest on the list, with 116 problems. The active safety features included in their usual Driver Confidence Packages 1 and 2 (for the Sportback) and Package 1 for the GS model include things like adaptive cruise control, forward automatic braking, lane change alert, lane departure warning, rear park assist, and rear cross traffic alert. New for 2018 are the Head-Up display, Lane Keep Assist w Lane Departure Assist and Front Pedestrian Braking.

Buick Regal GS

Buick Regal GS

The 2018 Buick Regal GS provides the driver with attainable luxury, placing the vehicle well in between the luxury and mainstream markets for 2018. With an exclusive V6 engine, Brembo brakes, new 5-link rear suspension and continuous damping control, this is the driver’s Buick. It also has interior upgrades to comfort the driver and help them assume the role of driving a sportier machine. Power adjustable side bolsters in the seat, seat cushion extenders, heat and ventilation with massage, no wonder these seats are AGR (Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V. or Campaign for Healthier Backs) certified.

Performance

Buick Regal GS

With an exclusive powertrain package, the 2018 Buick Regal GS will get you where you need to go, and you will enjoy every minute of the drive. A 9-speed automatic transmission harnesses the 3.0-litre V-6’s 310 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque, while switching between GS and Sport modes. How ever will you choose? There’s an increase of 51 hp over the previous model, and the addition of an active twin clutch, allows power to be distributed individually to the rear wheels, offering efficient performance when the ground doesn’t want to cooperate. I found when switching from GS mode to Sport mode, handling lacked, and things felt loose. GS mode was a great place to be, hugging the road and not missing a beat up and down and around the roads we travelled.

Quiet tuning

Buick Regal GS wheel

Something new to think about here if you are looking for a quieter ride. Buick has partnered with Continental to supply Conti-silent tires across the new Regal lineup. There is reportedly as much as 10dB difference in certain driving situations, thanks to a thick layer of foam directly beneath (above?) the tire tread to help block, reduce and absorb “tire-meets-road” noise. And on top of that, there is active noise cancellation you can activate inside the car, regardless of infotainment use, to help reduce outside noise even further.

Weight Loss

Buick Regal GS seats

Despite being physically longer, and having a slightly wider wheel base, the 2018 Buick Regal GS and Sportback models have managed to lose some weight over the last model. Roughly 92 kg was pared down, with 60 kg lost from the body, 16 kg from the seats, 10 kg of acoustics, 6 kg in vehicular closures and. If only we could all drop weight like these kids did.

Packaging

Buick Regal GS

With a good, better and best choice of packaging available for the new Regal lineup, there really is something for everyone. The 2018 Buick Regal Sportback (not to be mistaken for a hatchback) will arrive at dealerships in two trim levels — Preferred II and Essence. Starting at $37, 345, the Essence package provides you with the AWD version of the Sportback and surrounds you in luxury with leather seats, an 8-way power passenger seat with 2-way lumbar and 2-way headrest adjustments. Stepping up a mere $6,500 from there will get you the Buick Regal GS, starting at $43,845.

In conclusion

Buick Regal GS gauge cluster

Overall, it would seem Buick is tweaking only a few little components in the Regal to create something new for the Buick owner. Whilst remaining very much traditional in their segment, little changes or features seen on both models are treating Buick drivers to a much more refined, luxurious and sophisticated look. The Sportback offers a sleek, sporty, coupe-like design, but in refusing to call itself a hatchback allows it to remain sophisticated and still provide a balance of form and function for the active lifestyle of the Buick owner.

On the GS, updated front and rear fascias, side skirts and a rear spoiler add some flare, while the door sills and interior details (badging, seat branding and door sill plates) make it feel much more spirited and outfitted with the “driver” in mind. With a larger gauge cluster and the head-up display, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the road to find a longer curvier road to your destination. Buick’s sure to make a driver out of you yet.