The television ads where neighbors, friends and family can't identify a new car as a Buick are true to life.
The attractive styling on a 2014 Buick Regal test car so stumped admirers, many could not believe it was a Buick. The common question was, "What kind of car is that?" — even as they stared at the Buick and Regal badges.
Still others couldn't believe the 2014 Regal only has four-cylinder engines. In fact, a newly improved, direct injected, turbocharged four cylinder is offered on every trim level for 2014 and delivers a commendable 259 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque.
Subtly restyled with new light-emitting diode headlights and infotainment display for 2014, the Regal can come with front- or all-wheel drive. New safety features, such as cross traffic alert when the vehicle is backing up out of a parking space, are added to the equipment offerings. Plus, every Regal includes two years/24,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
Best of all, the 2014 Regal earned top, five out of five stars overall in federal government crash testing.
It's also a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine where predicted reliability is average.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $30,615 for a base, front-wheel drive, 2014 Regal with 259-horsepower, turbo four cylinder and six-speed automatic. The lowest starting price for a 2014 Regal with all-wheel drive is $32,790, or $2,175 more. And the top, Regal GS has a starting retail price of $40,195 for 2014. But it does not include a power moonroof. That's $1,000 extra.
Competitors include other premium, front-wheel drive sedans with four-cylinder engines.
As an example, the 2014 Acura TSX sedan has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $31,620 with 201-horsepower four cylinder and automatic transmission. The TSX, however, is not available with all-wheel drive.
Meantime, the front-wheel drive, 2014 Volvo S60 with 240-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder and automatic transmission has a starting retail price of $34,225. The lowest starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a 2014 S60 with all-wheel drive is $35,725.
The Regal tester, a top-of-the-line GS AWD model with six-speed automatic, looked good in its tasteful Crystal Red Tintcoat paint and 19-inch alloywheels. The car had a rich appearance and was visually interesting even on the sides, where door panels have an attractive sculpting line.
Fit and finish on the test car was excellent, too, with gaps between exterior metal body panels small in size and well aligned.
The car impressed with its quiet passenger compartment and overall handling, no matter which of three drive control modes it was in.
In standard drive control, the ride was the most compliant for daily commutes or leisurely weekend drives. It was definitely not harsh but still felt well-controlled.
The GS mode setting – activated by a button near the top of the dashboard – made the throttle more responsive, stiffened the ride and increased the steering effort needed. This setting worked well to manage body lean of the car as it traveled twisty mountain roads. The increased steering effort fit well, too, with the well-sized and tactilely pleasing steeringwheel.
In between standard and GS drive settings is a sport mode with its own button on the dashboard. But in the test car, it wasn't easy to notice much change in this middle setting, and the test car spent much of its time in standard or GS.
The Regal's 2-liter, direct injected turbocharged four cylinder engine worked so smoothly, some passengers didn't recognize a turbo was under the hood. Power was strong and steady, with just a hint of a lag as maximum torque of 295 foot-pounds hit by 2,500 rpm. The peppy, yet refined performance is good, considering the Regal GS AWD weighs nearly 4,000 pounds. Buick reports this model has a 6.8-second time from 0 to 60 miles per hour.
The 2014 Regal GS FWD with six-speed manual transmission – yes, Buick offers a manual on the Regal – is fastest, with a 6.2-second time.
Fuel economy isn't as high as might be expected in this mid-size sedan. The federal government rates a 2014 Regal GS AWD model with automatic at just 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway. The test car averaged 18 mpg in city driving and not quite 24 mpg on the highway with a lot of spirited driving.
Premium fuel is suggested but not required, and the Regal's 18-gallon fuel tank — which can provide a combined city/highway range of less than 400 miles — can cost nearly $70 to fill with mid-range gasoline at today's prices.
At less than 16 feet long from bumper to bumper, the Regal feels right sized, and the tester was agile and easy to park.
The back seat, with 37.3 inches of legroom and 36.8 inches of headroom, looks smaller than it is. Smaller stature adults at the outboard seat positions back there found decent space for feet and legs if front seats were moved up a bit on their tracks. The middle spot, however, is tight when three adults are back there. And the middle person has to contend with a sizable hump in the floor.
Trunk space in the Regal is 14.2 cubic feet, just a tad more than the 14 cubic feet in the TSX.
The 2014 Regal with automatic transmission is among the General Motors Co. vehicles recalled this month because a cable in the transmission may disengage from the shift lever. If this occurs, the driver may be unable to put the Regal into "park," creating the risk the car could roll away.