1989 Buick Regal

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    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

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chicagotribune.com
Call it the oomph factor.

General Motors Corp. adds it to the 1989 Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

The oomph factor didn`t require much in the way of technology orinnovation. All it required was that GM put a new 3.1-liter V-6 engine in the so called GM-10, or W-body, cars for 1989 rather than rely solely on the 2.8- liter V-6 offered in the 1988 cars.

Making that action even easier is the fact the 3.1 is derived from the2.8 and didn`t require massive re-engineering.

The front-wheel-drive GM-10 coupes aren`t bad vehicles; it`s just thatthe 2.8 is better suited for the smaller, compact Chevrolet Corsica andBeretta than for the midsize Regal/Grand Prix/Supreme built on a 107.5-inchwheelbase with a 192.2-inch length.

In fairness to GM, the 2.8 wasn`t totally a dumb move for the 1988 modelyear, when it introduced the W-body. The 2.8 V-6 had been around for a while. Rather than introduce a new car and a new engine at the same time and risk adouble whammy, the automaker settled for a new vehicle and a proven engine.One less risk for an automaker whose market share has been shored up withputty the last few years.

The risks were minimized, but so were the sales. The W-body trio combined failed to outsell the Taurus four-door sedan in the 1988 model year. The 2.8`sperformance was one reason, but the fact that GM tried to counter the success of the four-door Taurus sedan with a trio of two-door coupes has been cited bymany observers for the W`s lackluster sales.

Enter the 3.1-liter V-6 with 140 horsepower compared with the 2.8`s 125h.p.

We test drove the Regal Gran Sport two-door coupe with the 3.1 teamedwith a 4-speed overdrive automatic. The 140 h.p. makes a noticeable differencein power off the line, down the straightaway, up the hill and into the passinglane.

But it`s not utopia for what are supposed to be two-door sport coupes.The 140-h.p. 3.1 V-6 isn`t the 160-h.p. 3.3-liter V-6 offered in the midsizeBuick Century (Autos, Sunday, Oct. 23) and compact Buick Skylark for 1989.

The 3.1 V-6 has more pep than the 2.8, but the W-body Regal still fallsshort in performance. The 3.1 is a good start, but not the answer.

So why not throw the 3.3 in the Regal and its W-body partners?

``Doesn`t fit,`` is the answer engineers give.

Okay, then toss in the 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder Quad Four from Olds, the 150 h.p. engine rumored for the W-body cars for the last year?

``Makes too much noise, and to some ears sounds like a diesel under thehood,`` other sources lament.

The 3.1 V-6 will replace the 2.8 V-6 in the Regal but not until after the first of the year.

If you can`t get a more powerful engine in the Regal for 1989, at leastyou can get antilock brakes as a $925 option. The system stops the car in astraight line regardless of road conditions.

Cosmetics on the Gran Sport, the sports version of the Regal, includefront air dam, aero rocker extensions, blacked out grille and fog lamps.Comfort and convenience items include air conditioning, rear window defogger, cruise control, tilt steering and AM-FM stereo as standard. The exhaust isrumble-tuned for the sound of power.

In addition to antilock brakes, new options for 1989 are a compact discplayer, power sunroof, remote keyless entry, radio controls in the steeringwheel hub and leather wrapped steering wheel.

Regal is offered in Custom version starting at $14,214, Limited at$14,739 and Gran Sport at $15,419. Prices range from $1,765 to $1,957 morethan `88, and Buick says the increases reflect the addition of such items asair conditioning, AM-FM stereo radio, whitewall tire




    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

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