2018 Buick Regal Sportback: My First Drive
This ain't your grandma's Buick. At least not anymore.
Buick? Didn't my grandmother drive a Buick? I can recall bits and pieces of her candy red 1960's LaSabre that ferried me around West Palm Beach during our annual family vacations. It was a four-wheeled, land yacht with fins and pointy cone tail lights. It turned heads and garnered the attention of many. The interior was minimal and spacious and with every floaty turn, I slid laterally in the rear bench seat.
Fast forward 47 years into the future and the Buick poised in front of me is entirely different than the vehicle my grandmother owned. It's sleek, modern, and far less braggadocious than the image etched into my childhood memory. It doesn't feel like what I would expect a Buick to be. However, in Buick's evolution, the 114-year-old company has come to create automobiles for discerning customers who want luxury at an attainable price. This is the company's focus with the Regal Sportback.
Before heading to Austin, I had seen one photo of the Regal Sportback prior to this launch and it looked like a regular four-door sedan. I reserved no monumental expectations. With that thought and so much information instantly available at one’s fingertips these days, I thought it would be nice to walk into this launch without knowing a lick about it. So I absolved myself of researching anything about the product and purposely remained ignorant until I could discover it for myself.
Walking up to the Regal Sportback I immediately liked what was in front of me. The outer lines of the car remained minimal but well sculpted. The LED running lights framed the front of the vehicle while directing the viewer's attention toward the grille. The rear end remains understated but the ever-present slant of the trunk and rear windshield gives the Regal Sportback just the right touch aggressive sophistication. It feels more mature and less overt than the Audi A7.
Overall I find the outward appearance of the Regal Sportback to be a mix of understated design mixed with modern elegance. It's prettier than a Mazda 6 but not as obnoxious as a Mercedes.
Buick prides itself on keeping vehicles quiet and aesthetically beautiful. These are core tenets of the brand and with the Regal Sportback, it has continued. As a passenger on two routes during this press drive, I fell asleep briefly due to the quiet cabin and smooth ride. "How does Buick achieve that quiet factor?" you might wonder. It's a combination of noise canceling acoustics from the Bose sound system, the insulated cabin, and internally foam-lined Continental Pro Contact tires which aid in reducing road vibration.
The front seats drop low and back, providing my 6 foot 5 inch frame a comfortable position as a passenger or driver. The back seat remained surprisingly roomy for our Buick chaperones and this would be spacious for an average-sized adult.
Well, that's what I really came here to experience. At its core thumps a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine which puts out a decent 250 horsepower with 282 foot-pounds of torque. Zero-to-60 times with the Sportback don't matter, but it most definitely has some pep when you put your foot down. (If you want to drool over specs go to the end of the article). On-ramps to fast lane are effortless and even in the twisties, throttling is smooth and quick to deliver. Do not expect enthusiast level performance but do expect to be pleasantly surprised. When the Regal Sportback GS comes out at the top of 2018, we can talk performance. That model will come with a naturally aspirated V6 pumping out 310 hp and somewhere in the realm of 295 foot-pounds of torque.
Front Wheel Drive vs. All-Wheel Drive Options
Buick is aiming to break into new markets with the three models: the Sportback, TourX and GS and all models will offer an All Wheel Drive Package. For the first half of the morning, I drove the AWD through the hills of Texas and felt the Sportback held firmly to the ground but until I can test it in an inclement climate I will reserve judgment. I can't believe I'm about to say this but I enjoyed the FWD option more. The Sportback pulled away faster from stops, felt lighter and more responsive. If I lived in a fairly temperate climate, like Los Angeles, I would opt for the FWD. If you see snow and torrents of rain annually, opt for AWD. I'll keep it simple.
I really like the back end of the Sportback and the integrated rear windshield and trunk combo. The trunk space is cavernous as a result and with lay flat seats the Buick Regal Sportback opens up to include 60.7 cubic feet of space. I was actually able to lay down entirely in the back seat and put a full sized bike in the back without removing the wheel. This would make for a perfect sleeper car or surf trip car on those long weekend excursions.
Room For Improvement
The Buick Regal Sportback overall felt polished and fun to drive while wrapping me in enough luxury where I would rather enjoy it on long road trips and daily living. There are a few gripes I came across like the absence of lighted instruments on the steering wheel and the analog fuel gauge and coolant display. I would have much preferred this real estate be taken up by the entire digital display between the speedometer and tachometer. This would afford owners of the car two screens rather than one.
The Buick Regal Sportback will come in a number of trim levels and packages beginning at $24,990. You can head over to Buick to get a full rundown if you're in the market for a new luxury sedan.