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New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,690
Price As Tested                                    $ 26,325
Engine Type               3.8 Liter supercharged V6 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 231 cid/3785 cc
Horsepower                                   240 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               280 @ 3600 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    109"/72.7"/196.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3595 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    17 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                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/27/20
0-60 MPH                                        6.9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     15.5 seconds @ 91.0 mph
Top speed                                           108 mph
     * Sequential port fuel injection

The 1998 Buick Regal uses a General Motors manufacturing strategy that dates back to before The Great Depression. While it shares most mechanical and chassis components with other GM cars in its class, each of them have their own "personalities." In addition, the Regal shares even more parts, including the body, with its Buick stablemate, the Century. The Regal is available in LS or, as in our test car, GS trim.

OUTSIDE - Since its target market is the "40-something" crowd, Regal styling is reserved but with an elegant air. In GS trim, it also has the styling flair of an imported sport sedan. To make the cabin large enough for full-sized adults, both the hood and trunk, along with the front and rear overhangs, have been shortened. Also, the platform length, track, and wheelbase have been stretched, and the trunk lid was redesigned using four-link hinges that don't intrude into cargo space. A smooth, quiet ride is foremost in its mission, so it uses an elaborate system of anti-vibration mounts to isolate engine noise from the passenger compartment. Our test car featured optional 16-inch chrome alloy wheels and P225/60R16 Touring blackwall tires.

INSIDE - The ultra-plush interior is covered in a leather-vinyl mix, and the driver's seat is powered six-ways. The padding is soft, yet comfortable, and easily accommodates five large adults. As with most contemporary GM cars, the dashboard is designed for ease of operation, with large, easy-to-see switches, knobs and buttons, as well as the handy retained-power accessory that allows the windows to be raised after the engine is turned off. Both Regal models come with such standard features as dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, rear window defogger, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors (also heated), remote keyless entry, tilt steering, AM/FM cassette/CD player, and variable-speed intermittent wipers. Our GS came with optional heated seats, electrochromic rearview mirror, power passenger seat, climate control, and steering wheel controls for the sound system.

ON THE ROAD - The standard Regal powerplant, available in LS models only, is a 3.8 liter V6 that produces an adequate 195 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. It accomplishes this without high-tech overhead camshafts or multiple valves per cylinder, but sequential port fuel injection and a computerized engine management system are the latest in technology, and it runs on regular gas. The Regal GS model, however, uses the same engine with the addition of an Eaton supercharger installed to increase horsepower to 240, with a 40 lb-ft rise in torque. With this engine, acceleration is brisk, with more passing power than most drivers will ever need but high test fuel is required. A smooth electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is full range traction control to assist the driver in maintaining complete control in slippery situations.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Buick claims the Regal body is now 40 percent more resistant to body twist and 10 percent stiffer in bending strength. Also, a stout cross-car beam behind the dashboard keeps the steering column and instrument panel firm and free from rattles and shakes. This extra stiffness is noticeable behind the wheel, and although the Regal's smooth ride is promoted as one of its main claims to fame, its excellent handling characteristics were a pleasant surprise. GS models come standard with slightly firmer Gran Touring suspension calibrations and wider, "stickier" tires, and we were pleased with its capabilities on twisty roads and in emergency avoidance maneuvers. Its standard rack-and-pinion steering system uses a magnetic variable assist system, which gives a firm feel at highways speeds, yet is easy to turn while parking. Strong, fade-resistant four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are also standard.

SAFETY - Dual reduced-power front airbags, side-impact beams, traction control and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Prestige Package: $915; California emissions; $170; chrome wheels: $650; heated seats: $225; CD and cell-phone prep: $125; destination: $550.