New Car/Review

1998 BUICK REGAL LS

by Matt/Bob Hagin

buick

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 22,370
Price As Tested                                    $ 23,090
Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                  231 cid/3800cc
Horsepower                                   195 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    109"/72.7"/196.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3474 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 86 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/30/23
0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 85.5 mph
Top speed                                           105 mph
     * Sequential port fuel injection

(Although the Regal has been around a quarter of a century, the Buick name has been attached to middle-of-the-road cars for 95 years, says Bob Hagin. Son Matt says the Regal is still middle-of-the-road as Buick shoots for the upscale Baby Boomers.)

MATT - The distinction between the various General Motors lines has become blurred over the years, Dad, but Buick is making a stab at attracting and keeping buyers that fall into the below-40-something age group with this Regal sedan. It's hoping that not-too young families will reject SUVs and minivans in favor of the more "traditional" American sedan that can carry Mom and Dad in the front leather-covered bucket seats and three offspring in back. It's a tough field to crack, especially since a couple of its GM corporate siblings are after the same market with what is more-or-less the same car.

BOB - Buick has a pretty good chance of picking up some of those approaching-middle-age new car buyers who want to stay with American wheels but want performance too. The Regal LS that we reviewed is a neat package and being a new design only last year, it's not dated like the previous model was. When that one was dropped in favor of this new design, the old veteran was 12 years old. That's pretty long-in- the-tooth in the competitive market the Regal finds itself in. The new version still isn't on the cutting edge of modern car design but it's forward enough to stay fresh for a long time. Its performance is pretty good in LS trim in spite of the fact that its 3.8 liter V6 engine is pretty antiquated with a cast-iron block and cylinder heads, two valves per cylinder and pushrods and rockers to keep those mechanisms going.

MATT - Sometimes the old ways aren't so bad, Dad. This engine has been around for several decades and the bugs have been worked out. It puts out 195 horses and 220 pounds/feet of torque and while this isn't enough to qualify it as a genuine road-rocket, it's good enough for 0-to-60 in a bit over eight seconds, which should get it through a highway on-ramp without giving the driver and passengers white knuckles during the merge. If a Regal buyer wants more pizzazz, there's always the GS model as an alternative. It's pretty much the same car, but with a supercharger bolted on top of the engine. The blower boosts the horsepower to 240 which makes the car a real "sleeper" at stop lights. The GS is among the quickest in its class and that includes some very fast imports from Europe as well as from Japan.

BOB - Neither one of them handle badly in spite of the fact that they were originally designed for boulevard cruising rather than whipping through high-speed turns on country roads. Our test car carried the "Gran Touring" package and 16-inch P225/R16 Goodyear tires mounted on alloy wheels. Traction control is standard on all Regal models and so is an anti-skid braking system and four-wheel disc brakes. It has the typical perfect GM tilt steering wheel and despite its weight of 3500 pounds, it's still good for 30 MPG on the highway and 19 around town.

MATT - The suspension is pretty conventional on both the LS and the GS Regals. The front end is controlled by MacPherson struts and the rear is located by a three-link independent system. It provides a pleasant ride but even though it has the Gran Touring package, which is a no-charge extra, its suspension could use a little tweaking and tightening up - even at the expense of a silky-smooth ride.

BOB - Not for me, Matt, I like the magic carpet ride myself. Buick has a recent history in the production of hot Regal models. The V6 rear-wheel-drive Regal Sport Coupe of '78 was turbocharged and on the GNX version of 1987, the turbo was intercooled, which made it a very hot car. Only 547 of them were made, which makes it very collectible. The original Regal models which first appeared in '73 were, in fact, a line extension of the Buick Century, and that name goes back into the mid-'30s. I had a couple of those early Buick Centurys and they were fast even then.

MATT - I'm not surprised, Dad. I don't think we've written up any car that you haven't had an early version of in one form or another.

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