2014 was Buick’s best year, ever, in all of 111-year history. Let that sink in for a minute. The success can mostly be attributed to a renewed lineup and a younger audience.
The Buick Encore, a small crossover introduced in 2013, experienced a 53 percent sales gain in 2014 and helped to lower the average Buick owner’s age to 59.
The youth appeal is integral to Buick’s on-going success and revival, and it’s undoubtedly why GM is rolling out 4G LTE connectivity in the 2015 Buick Regal. 4G LTE isn’t the only trick up the 2015 Buick Regal’s sleeve though, it also comes with a more powerful, all-wheel-drive powertrain, a more well appointed interior and some pretty cool technology including a wi-fi hot spot capable of connecting seven devices.
But is a hot spot enough to bring the youth masses to the Regal, the model Buick needs us millennial to adopt more than any other?
The Regal is quite popular in China, Buick’s largest market, in North America, however, it is Buick’s worst seller of its five models. The Regal sits between the full-size LaCrosse and the Verano in a market that clearly prefers crossovers.
If I had to guess though, I don’t think it’s crossovers keeping the Regal from selling, it’s more likely the Regal GS sports model’s $40,000 asking price.
$40k puts you in the range of a BMW’s 328i, Acura TLX, Volkswagen CC, or even a Mercedes C-Class. That’s stiff competition. And for those wanting true, raw sportiness a Subaru WRX STi, or Lance Evo are in the same range.
That’s what I would call stiff competition.
Averaging 22 mpg with all-wheel drive, the Regal GS lags the competitors in fuel economy and to be frank it just doesn’t have the same cachet.
At least that is how I rationalized the vehicle before it arrived at my doorstep. Did the Regal GS justify its price tag over the week I spent with it?
Acceleration in the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Regal is surprising for such an unassuming car. You do get a slight lag from a stop but it’s not bad and smooth six-speed automatic is great. It rides a bit high, appealing to the crossover crowd, but the wider stance minimizes roll and steering felt very connected to the road.
The most remarkable aspects of the Regal GS were not its performance, the everyday utility of the vehicle is what shined through. The cabin is what I would call Lexus-quiet at highway and city speeds, and the front seats felt spacious and comfortable. The continuously variable damping suspension responded nicely with a softer ride at cruising speeds and more feedback during aggressive driving.
The narrow center console widens into a neat and spartan center stack, in an industry that likes to put bells and whistles everywhere this is always welcome. The climate control system’s only let down were the touch-sensitive surface controls, cool in theory, awkward to use in practice. A physical button gives you feedback when you aren’t looking, a touchscreen does not. Gloves don’t help.
The touch screen and surrounding buttons are unnecessary for the driver but helpful for the passenger. The driver can use steering wheel controls to scroll through the vehicle information display between the speedometer and tachometer. This 8-inch screen is the command center of the car. The system was very easy to control and navigate.
Voice commands in the Regal are exceptional, finding contacts, navigation commands and addresses were all a breeze.
The wi-fi hot spot feature is available for a monthly fee, depending on provider and streaming amount. It averages about $10 and you don’t have to be an OnStar subscriber to get it.
The $40,000 starting price comes with a lot of features ranging from heated front seats and steering wheel to a 9-speaker Bose system and 19-inch alloy wheels.
While Buick has done a remarkable job re-branding itself and have put together a very compelling Regal. The price tag gives me some pause. I have no doubts that the GS will win over the driver with its great balance between performance and comfort and cutting-edge but still easy-to-use technology, but I’m not sure a lot of drivers looking in the $40k range will put the Regal on their test drive list. They should.