New Car/Review

Buick

Buick Regal GS (2001)

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,095
     Price As Tested                                    $ 29,135
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 231 cid/3791 cc
     Horsepower                                   240 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               280 @ 3600 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  109.0"/72.7"/196.2"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3576 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                          P225/60R16 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 96 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/28/22          
     0-60 MPH                                        7.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          15.5 seconds @ 91.0 mph
     Top-speed                                           105 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

One of the most interesting technical innovations in the auto industry these days is the adoption of supercharging on various mainstream vehicles.

But Buick has been supercharging some of its cars for years, and the latest Regal GS is one of them. This week we test this understated pavement-burner.

OUTSIDE - The current model Regal received a new body in 1998. It became longer, wider and offered a longer wheel base than the model it replaced. Resistance to body twist was improved by 40 percent, and lengthwise bending is 10 percent better. It shares its sheetmetal with the lower-priced Buick Century, with only the fascias, cladding, grille, badging and lamps visually differentiating the two. The GS model's lack of chrome gives it a more powerful, muscular look than the Century. New this year is a special Olympic Edition Regal that adds special paint treatments and unique, commemorative badging.

INSIDE - Regal's interior is made of high-quality material that does its best to not appear "plastic-like." Using fine-grain textures that rival the best European and Asian imports, Regal's rich interior gives a warm, inviting feel. Soft, comfortable front bucket seats are wide and accommodating, but could use some extra side support. Most will find a comfortable driving position, however. The rear seat is comfortable enough for two across, but three full-size adults become a tight fit. New this year is a trunk entrapment handle to allow escape from the trunk for someone inadvertently locked inside, while new wheelhouse liners give the car a quieter ride. OnStar, GM's 24-hour driver assistance and navigation system, is standard on GS models and comes with one year of free service. Standard GS equipment includes tilt steering, cruise control, power driver's seat, keyless entry, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors (also heated) and an AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo system.

ON THE ROAD - Regal LS comes standard with General Motors' versatile 3.8-liter V6 engine that has been in use for decades. It produces 200 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque. This power is ample for most, but a new degree of excitement is added when Buick takes the same engine and bolts an Eaton-brand supercharger on top. This pressurized induction system boosts the horsepower to 240 and the torque to 280 pound-feet. By forcing additional fuel/air mixture into the cylinders, a supercharger boosts power immediately from idle, giving rocket-like acceleration and excellent top speed. This is a definite advantage over a turbocharged unit that requires time to "spool up." Mated to this is GM's excellent electronically-controlled, four-speed automatic transmission. It gives smooth and practically imperceptible shifts under most conditions, and when mated to the GS model's full-range traction control system, Regal becomes very adept at negotiating icy, snow-covered roads.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Regal rides on a unibody chassis with MacPherson strut front suspension that utilizes coil springs, tube shocks and an anti-roll bar. Sharing its underpinnings with other GM sedans, Regal's rear suspension consists of a Tri-link setup with transverse and lower trailing arms and an anti-roll bar. The ride is typical of a large American sedan, with some float over large, undulating pavement irregularities. Overall, however, it strikes a good balance between overall control and ride compliance acceptable to Buick's mature client base. Its steering system uses rack-and-pinion hardware, with magnetic variable-assist that makes it easier to turn the wheel at low speeds, but gives more road feel at highway speeds. Braking is done by four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, driver's side airbag, ABS and traction control are standard.

OPTIONS - GS Prestige Package (steering wheel audio controls, self-dimming mirrors, eight-speaker stereo, power passenger seat), $870; power sunroof, $695; chrome wheels, $650; heated seats, $225.

 

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