- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

With its Regal, Buick puts its best foot forward in the midsize arena.

Showing the Buick flag in a segment that includes the Chrysler Sebring, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Camry, as well as General Motors relations such as Chevy Impala, Oldsmobile Intrigue and Pontiac Grand Prix; Regal is a sporty entry capable of conquering sales from domestic and import competitors alike. Buick also offers a more sedate version of the same basic model in its Century.

While these two Buicks share platforms and many mechanicals, they are as different as oil and water. Targeting more traditional Buick buyers, Century takes a rather conservative approach to its mission. Regal, on the other hand, is aimed squarely at younger buyers more inclined to look first at imports.

Regal is offered in two trim levels: LS and GS. LS is equipped with GM's venerable 3.8-liter V-6. A healthy performer, its 200 horsepower and 225 foot-pounds of peak torque pale next to the supercharged version of the same engine with 240 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of peak torque found in the GS.

The LS has its fair share of standard features like traction control, four-wheel disc brakes, air conditioning with manual dual zone climate control, remote keyless entry and power windows/door locks. Another $3,000 gets you the GS with the supercharged 3800 engine, automatic dual zone climate control, driver information center, Gran Touring suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels and an upgraded audio system with CD player. GM's OnStar driver's assistance system with one year's free membership is also standard on the GS.

For 2001, both Regal versions are available as Olympic Editions. A $1,915 option on the GS, the Olympic package has special Olympic four-ring badging, unique paint, power sunroof, upgraded Monsoon eight-speaker audio system and redundant steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. About double the cost on the LS, the Olympic option also includes some GS standard features such as leather seating, 16-inch alloy wheels and the Gran Touring suspension. The Olympic Edition is the inspiration of fashion designer Joseph Abboud. While his designs have been used on other GM vehicles, this is his first collaboration with Buick.

Four adults fit comfortably in the Regal for extended trips, but five can be squeezed in, if necessary, on short hauls. The front seats are surprisingly well contoured. Wide door openings make entering and exiting effortless. The trunk lid opens 90 degrees, revealing a large cargo area. Visibility is excellent in all directions. The gauge cluster is simple and easy to read. The automatic climate control, though, is a bit busy. Neatly put together, Regal's interior earns high marks for fit and finish.

Regal GS exhibits a nimbleness not typically associated with Buick. Its steering is responsive, if a little light, and it tucks into curves without noticeable body roll. Its Gran Touring suspension provides just the right combination of ride comfort and handling.

The supercharged 3.8 V-6 is a powerhouse. Every touch of the accelerator is rewarded with a burst of power. A smooth four-speed automatic transmission is the only transmission available. Even so, the supercharged V-6 is good for 0 to 60 miles per hour in just over 7 seconds.

The Regal can be brought to controlled stops thanks to its standard anti-lock brake system. Despite the performance of the Regal GS, fuel economy is decent, too. The Environmental Protection Agency rates its city mpg at 18 and its highway mpg at 28.

At $26,095, Regal GS is a lot of automobile for the money. Other standard features not already mentioned include six-way power driver's seat, dual front air bags, driver's side-impact air bag, dual power outboard mirrors, traction control and a split-folding rear seat.

My test Regal GS had the $1,915 Olympic package. Adding the $600 delivery charge brought the total as tested to $28,610.

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