When the Buick Avista concept debuted about a year ago, the automotive community was stunned and confused as to how such a beautiful car was wearing a Buick badge.
Within the year, Buick delivered the goods and although the Avista never came to be, the concept’s elegant styling found its way into the brand’s lineup. The best example of that is the new Buick Regal Sportback.
The word “modern” wouldn’t be used to describe the last generation of Buick cars, but the new products are certainly worthy of the word and deliver some premium goodies at a low price, too.
The Sportback name refers to the Regal’s swept-back roof and hatchback liftgate, a body style that’s quickly gaining in popularity. The Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, and Kia Stinger all use the same format, combining a sleek look with added practicality. Buyers who want even more space and practicality will still be able to find it within the Buick Regal lineup thanks to a new TourX model (best described as a lifted wagon) that will be hitting the U.S. (not Canada) in 2018.
Sleek Style Hiding Tons of Practicality
The Regal Sportback is capable of surprising people with its clever details. For example, the daytime running lights create a slick LED light signature that looks kind of like an inverse of the Lexus/Nike Swoop, an element clearly borrowed from the Avista Concept. I also like that Buick got rid of the unnecessary vents and portholes on the side.
The rear end is also cleanly designed. There’s no bulky latch to open the cargo area. Instead, press the bottom part of the Buick badge and the trunk pops open. It’s like a secret easter egg that made me happy every time I pressed it.
Lifting that tailgate is an important aspect of this Buick Regal, as it shows off just how much space is found in the car. There is 31.5 cubic feet available, which expands to 60.7 cu-ft when you fold down the rear seats. That’s way more than what’s found in the previously mentioned Sportbacks, and even more than what’s found in the big Buick Envision crossover. Those rear seats can be folded down easily with buttons found in the cargo area, although owners will have to remove the cargo covers to get the full usage of the trunk. We managed to put a full-size bike in the car without needing to remove the front wheel, which is an impressive feat.
Interior Hits and Misses
Besides stunning folks with style and practicality, Buick’s other goal is to provide attainable luxury. The interior is certainly premium, but a far cry from what the top luxury brands are offering. There are some hard plastic bits found around the cabin, and some might be put off by the chrome trim pieces.
It’s decently outfitted though, as our test car had dual-zone climate control, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel. Buick also has a great infotainment system that’s easy to use and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The 8-inch screen is a bit small when you consider how big phones have become. Also looking a bit dated is the gauge cluster, but Buick offers a more fully featured digital dash in its sporty Regal GS model.
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With a decent interior and layout, it’s the sound insulation that will really make this car feel premium. Buick calls it QuietTuning, but its a combination of active noise cancellation, thicker glass, and new wheels with Continental tires that have a noise absorbing foam layer to keep the cabin as quiet as possible. It’s extremely effective.
Just as effective is the powertrain found under the hood. The Regal Sportback comes with two configurations: a front-drive model and an all-wheel-drive setup. We tested the latter, but both setups feature a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that makes 250 horsepower. Front-wheel-drive models make 260 lb-ft of torque, while all-wheel-drive models pack 295 units of twist. Another difference between the two is that front-wheel-drive models use a nine-speed transmission, while all-wheel-drive models have eight gears. It’s an impressive engine, delivering its power and torque smoothly and without much hesitation. We don’t normally associate Buick with exciting and energetic powerplants, but that’s clearly changing. The transmission is also smooth when swapping gears, but I would have liked a sports setting that could hold gears a bit longer. Paddle shifters would have also been a handy option on this car, but they’re also absent.
The all-wheel-drive system is pretty advanced as well. Using a twin-clutch rear-differential, it can route power to the left or right rear wheels as needed. This allows Buick to avoid using a brake vectoring system so the car can find traction without sacrificing performance.
What was irksome was the automatic engine start/stop system. While having the engine shut off during stops is helpful in terms of fuel efficiency, I was annoyed when it was time to get going and the engine hadn’t fired back up again. The delay is very noticeable and there’s no way to turn the system off.
On the Road
We piloted the Sportback around Austin, Texas, and found it to be extremely good at highway cruising. The quiet cabin allowed for easy conversation with passengers and the smooth drivetrain made it easy to keep up with and pass traffic. On curvy roads, I wished the car’s light steering gave more feedback. Additionally, we drove the car without anything in the back seat, which made the rear end a bit floaty, resulting in too much vertical movement. However, when we drove around with a bicycle in the back, things were far better managed. It means that the Buick is going to be a great ride with passengers in tow.
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Buick also stuffs a lot of driver assistance and safety technology in the Regal Sportback, which is to be expected of almost every car these days. Blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, backup camera and adaptive cruise control are all available and all work as advertised. A new wrinkle in the safety game is an active hood pedestrian safety system that is designed to prevent serious injuries to pedestrians in the case of a collision. When the car senses an oncoming accident with a bystander, it will lift the hood about four inches to help reduce the severity of injuries to the pedestrian.
Shopping on the Road
GM still has its OnStar 4G LTE internet connection for emergency services and other benefits like in-car wifi or a new marketplace that will allow you to order coffees, reserve tables at restaurants, order take-out meals and more. It’s only available in the U.S. for now, but other markets are sure to follow if the service proves to be successful.
Boasting attainable luxury is one thing, but achieving it is another. The Regal Sportback starts at $25,915 including destination for front-wheel-drive versions. All-wheel-drive cars start at $32,605 and come with more standard options. A fully loaded Sportback won’t break the bank, staying around the $40,000 mark.
The Verdict: 2018 Buick Regal Sportback Review
With its great looks and satisfying performance, the Buick Regal Sportback is another solid hit from General Motors’ premium brand. It’s also a great take on a unique body-style. While Kia, BMW, and Audi all have similarly shaped cars, the Regal offers amazing practicality to go with, all while swinging in at a much lower pricepoint.
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