The previous Buick Regal was a poor man’s Audi A4 – a rival relegated to battling the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord. The new, soon to be launched Regal is sharper, more luxurious, and now boasts a sportback body style – meaning the game has moved on and the Regal is now aiming at Audi A5 Sportback territory. The sedan-cum-hatchback shares most of its underpinnings with Europe’s Opel Insignia – one of the last joint developments before GM offloaded the European brand to PSA Group – but under the skin it’s all GM parts we’re familiar with from elsewhere.
With shorter overhangs front and rear, and a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase, the new Regal Sportback will have rear passengers gleefully jumping inside without much protestation. Rear space is now among the best in its class, and the rear bench boasts a standard 60/40 split, with optional 40/20/40 split/ folding functionality.
Sadly, when folded the backs don’t lie flat with the trunk floor, preventing easy insertion of larger items from the rear. Nevertheless, trunk space is claimed at a capacious 61 cubic feet with rear seats flattened – made even more usable by the large aperture afforded by the hatch style tailgate.
Interior material quality is now truly premium, with higher specced models even boasting an 8-inch version of GM’s superb IntelliLink touch screen infotainment setup taking centre stage on the dash. Standard spec is a slightly smaller 7-inch unit. The styling, though paired with quality materials, is a somewhat boring design compared to those of Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the segment.
Compared to the old Regal, the Regal Sportback has gone on a diet. The resultant loss is one nearing the 200lb mark on like for like models, which is bound to do wonders for the ride and handling of the Regal. On standard 18-inch wheels, the ride will still be exemplary, given Opel’s pension for developing magically comfortable rides on large wheels.
Though front wheel drive is standard – and the only option on the base model – any of the higher trimmed models will have the option of all-wheel drive to improve handling in wet-weather scenarios. Just like the range-topping Regal GS, a twin-clutch pack located on the rear axle is responsible for mechanical torque vectoring, apportioning torque individually to each rear wheel. This is the same twin-clutch pack supplied by GKN Driveline as you’ll find in the Ford Focus RS; though don’t expect Buick to be installing and ‘Drift Mode’ buttons anytime soon.
Even though the Regal GS features a naturally aspirated V6, the standard Sportback goes with a downsized turbocharged setup with a 2.0-liter displacement. The power output on all variants is a nice round 250 horsepower, but front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants get different gearboxes and different torque outputs.
The front-drive models get a 9-speed automatic and 260 lb-ft of torque to reduce torque-steer. The AWD models get an extra 35lb-ft taking the total to 295, and one ratio fewer with an 8-speed automatic. The 9-speed is expected to filter through to AWD models later on.
Buick has upped the feature-stakes to rival its premium competition. Active noise cancellation features to reduce cabin noise, and wireless charging keeps occupants smart devices charged, while the built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot ensures you’re never not connected. The IntelliLink infotainment system also boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
As for safety, a combination or radar, camera, and ultrasonic based features reduces the risk of an accident, including lane change alert, blind spot monitor, forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control, and front pedestrian braking. At the time of writing, the Regal Sportback has not yet been crash tested.
There’s finally a stylish alternative to the German big 3 in the segment, now with added Sportback practicality. Throw in a turbocharged motor with convincing outputs, and a torque vectoring AWD system, and the Regal Sportback should be able to drive as well as its German counterparts too.