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Expert Reviews 2 of 6
By Al Haas
April 24, 1998
The redesigned Regal is not supposed to be your father's Buick. It is intended for younger buyers (people in their 40s) who want to mix traditional Buick comfort and quietude with fun and games. Driving fun and that degree of ride comfort are not
the most compatible of automotive attributes. But happily, the Regal's designers were able to broker a nifty compromise between athleticism and Buick's hallmark hedonism. This is particularly true of the higher-performing GS model that I tested. The
top-of-the-line GS substitutes a Gran Touring Suspension for the softer, standard one found in the base LS model. It also employs big 16-inch touring tires instead of the smaller, less tenacious 15-inch all-season radials used on the LS. The tires
and the sportier suspension tuning allow the GS to corner with a measure of control and flatness that puts you at ease, yet they don't seriously degrade ride comfort. Granted, the GS's ride isn't quite as amniotic as the LS's, but it's still very
pleasant. The GS model's performance litany doesn't stop with its increased agility. It's also a good deal faster than the base model. Although the LS is no slouch, equipped as it is with a 195-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6, it is no match for the GS with
its supercharged, 240-horse version of that engine. Indeed, few midsize cars are a match. The GS gets from 0 to 60 in less than seven seconds. That's blindingly fast for a family sedan with a base price of less than $24,000. In fact, that's faster
than a lot of imported sports sedans costing $10,000 to $20,000 more. Such as the $39,470 BMW 528i, for example. The GS's power is courtesy of an engine as remarkable as it is venerable: GM's 3.8-liter V-6. The 3.8 is a simple push-rod design
that's been around since Charlemagne whupped the Moors at Tours. It costs about half as much to build as those complex, multicam, multivalve engines that yuppies love to discuss at cocktail parties. But constant tweaking over the years has transformed
this old, essentially simple V-6 into a surprisingly powerful, smooth and economical engine. The supercharged 3.8 in the GS manages to post excellent EPA mileage ratings of 17 city and 27 highway. The normally aspirated 3.8 in the LS is rated at a
remarkable 19 city and 30 highway. In addition to being a good performer for the money, the GS is an excellent value in standard-equipment terms. It is as heavily equipped as an entry-level luxury car. Its no-extra-cost goodies range from traction
control and antilock disc brakes to dual-zone air conditioning and leather seats. In addition to being more fun to drive than your father's Buick, the Regal is more fun to look at. The car's body, with its fairly aggressive stance and muscular
haunches, is a clear departure from traditional Buick styling. The interior, on the other hand, is not in the departure business. This is not to say that the seats, dash and door panels have been beaten with an oogly stic
k. Indeed, the swoopy dashboard and gathered-fabric door inserts are pleasant, contemporary accoutrements. What I am saying is that there is nothing fresh or inspiring going on in here. More off-putting is the lack of lateral support provided by the
driver's seat. A car as athletic as the GS ought to do a better job of holding you in place during back-road calisthenics. While the lateral support and aesthetics afforded by the GS's interior provide ample opportunity for whining, nothing else does.
This interior works well. The instruments are easy to read, and the controls fall readily to hand. And the car provides front and rear passengers with the kind of elbow room John Wayne found on the high plains. Luggage space is yet another chapter in
the saga of Regal roominess. At 16.7 cubic feet, its trunk is the largest in the midsize-sedan segment. The Regal's mixture of practicality, value, and comfort is certainly a good reason to put this car on a family-sedan shopping
st. So is its unexpected fun quotient.