Just when we thought Buick
was committed to unswerving conservatism, along comes a car like the 1998 Buick
Regal. With its roominess, smooth ride quality, and long list of features, the Regal embodies the virtues that go with Buick
's marketing slogan: Premium American Motorcars. But it also goes beyond this, treading remarkably close to Pontiac
's Excitement territory.
This excitement is particularly true of the supercharged Regal GS, which can match Pontiac's nifty Grand Prix GTP stride for stride, sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. That is brisk acceleration for a conservative-looking mid-size family sedan. But we're not complaining. And we do not think you will either.
If you have any lingering doubt that General Motors can build dramatically different cars using the same basic chassis, compare the all new Regal with the all new Buick
Century. These two share the same platform (along with the all new Grand Prix, Oldsmobile
Intrigue, and Chevrolet
Lumina), but aside from dimensions they're about as much alike as milk and champagne.
We wouldn't call the Regal's new exterior treatment exciting (though Buick did depart from tradition by substituting a horizontally barred grille for the familiar chrome waterfall). But it's clean, nicely proportioned and free of excessive bright trim. The GS takes this look a bit further with a body-colored grille.
With this new platform, the Regal is a substantially larger car than its predecessor. The wheelbase is 1.5 inches longer, the front/rear track is 2.5 and 3.3 inches wider, respectively, with corresponding increases in body dimensions: 2.3 inches wider and a surprising 3.3 inches taller. All this adds up to more room inside the car, as well as in the trunk.
The new model is offered in two models: the basic Regal LS and the sportier Regal GS--our test subject. Both are sedans; the coupes have been dropped.
Trim and feature differences notwithstanding, the major distinction between the LS and GS lies beneath the hood. The LS is powered by a normally aspirated version of GM's ubiquitous 3800 Series II V6, rated at 195 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. The GS is motivated by the supercharged edition, with 240 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.
Both engines drive the front wheels through four-speed automatic transmissions, though the GS has a heavier-duty version to handle the extra torque of the supercharged engine. The GS also has 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels with slightly more aggressive tires and firmer suspension tuning. However, the 16-inch wheel/tire package can be added to the LS, as can the handling upgrade, with the Y56 Gran Touring suspension package.
Regal LS starts at $21,495, while the GS retails for $24,240. A GS loaded with chrome wheels, heated seats, fancy Astroroof, premium sound system, dual-zone climate control and other extras can top $26,000.