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1996 Buick Regal Gran Sport Sedan

by CAREY RUSS

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

Production of the 1996 Buick Regal sedan will be extended through the end of the 1996 calendar year. The 1997 Regal will be introduced in the early part of 1997. Even though it is nearing the end of production, the 1996 Regal is far from being an election-year lame duck. Especially in Gran Sport trim, it is a comfortable, quick, economical car that packs a lot of value into its midsized chassis.

1996 Regal sedans are available in Custom, Limited, and Gran Sport models. All are well-equipped and offer good value. The Custom is a good, basic, midsized family car that uses the upgraded 3100 V6 engine. The Limited package includes the 3800 Series II V6 and comfort and trim features. Top of the Regal line is the Gran Sport, which also uses the 3800 Series II V6 and has its own suspension and trim enhancements.

My recent '96 Gran Sport test car was equipped with a full array of comfort and performance features for a suggested list price not far over that of the average new car today. It had all of the popular comfort and convenience items and plenty of interior and trunk room. The 3800 Series II V6 under the hood gave acceleration times comparable to some popular sports coupes. Fully-independent suspension and 4-wheel antilock disc brakes made for a comfortable ride with good handling and braking characteristics. It may not have been the newest design on the block, but there is much to be said for continuous refinement and proven components. The 1996 Buick Regal Gran Sport is a businessman's express on a good budget.

APPEARANCE: The basic styling of the Buick Regal has been around for a while, but it has aged gracefully. It strikes a balance between the currently-popular rounded look and the crisp angles of the 1980s. A long, sloping hood has a character bulge in the center that ends in the squared oval body-colored Buick grille. Front and rear styling is crisp; the sides have a rounded shape. The Gran Sport features bumper fascias and lower body cladding that are of a contrasting color to the rest of the body. The wheel arches are slightly squared off. The passenger cabin has plenty of glass area and thin window pillars. The quarter windows behind the passenger doors may not be the height of current fashion, but they make for great visibility.

COMFORT: The Regal is a Buick, and Buicks have a tilt toward luxury. The Regal is no exception. Interior materials are appropriate for the car, and imitation wood is tastefully absent. Seats are leather-covered. The front buckets are soft, comfortable, and provide more lateral support than is immediately apparent. The driver's seat is electrically adjustable. The rear seat has room for three average-sized people. They are treated to both door and front seat back pockets. Instrument panel design is basic and informative, with a minimum of steering column-mounted stalks. The dual-zone climate control system works well, with sliding controls in the center of the instrument panel and on the front passenger's door. The "Concert Sound II" sound system provides high-fidelity sound and features auxiliary controls mounted on the tilt-adjustable steering wheel. Interior storage spaces abound in front, with door pockets, open and covered console storage, and an overhead pocket integrated with the dome lights. Power-operated mirrors, windows, and door locks with remote keyless entry are standard equipment, as is delayed, "theater" lighting. The only area in which the 1996 Buick Regal shows its age is the trunk, which, although good-sized, has a high liftover and no passthrough.

SAFETY: The 1996 Buick Regal has dual air bags, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, the PASS-Key II theft-deterrent system, height-adjustable front shoulder straps,

ROADABILITY: The Regal Grand Sport balances comfort with performance. The ride is softer than the sports-sedan norm, but well- damped. Bumps in the road are taken care of by the fully independent suspension and then forgotten. The Goodyear Eagle GA tires stick well in cornering. There is some body roll, but the Gran Sport is easily maneuverable and fun to drive.

PERFORMANCE: The 3800 Series II V6 found under the Regal Gran Sport's hood is a very appropriate engine for the car. It is an unusual design with an interesting history. Its ancestors date back more than 30 years, but it is smooth, refined, torquey, and fuel-efficient. The pushrod- operated 2 valve per cylinder design may not be rocket science, but it sure works. The 205 horsepower made by the unsupercharged version in the Regal is as much as was made by the supercharged version not long ago, and it returned a commendable 25 mpg in daily use. The 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission is a perfect match for the engine and shifts quickly and seamlessly.

CONCLUSIONS: The 1996 Buick Regal Gran Sport sedan shows the benefits of refinement. Proven technology can be appropriate technology.

SPECIFICATIONS
1996 Buick Regal Gran Sport Sedan
Base Price               $ 21,655
Price As Tested          $ 22,845
Engine Type              V6, pushrod ohv, 12 valves
Engine Size              3.8 liters, 231 cu. in.
Horsepower               205 @ 5200
Torque (lb-ft)           230 @ 4000
Transmission             4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length       107.5 in. / 194.1 in.
Curb Weight              3,355 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    16.4
Fuel Capacity            17.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular
Tires                    P225/60 R16 Goodyear Eagle GA
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear   independent MacPherson strut /
                         independent tri-link
Drivetrain               front engine, front-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      19/30/25
0 to 60 mph                        8.0 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)                    16.0 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)           0.33

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