2018 Buick Regal Sportback Buying Advice
This is the best car for your if you’re keen to discover sportiness and versatility where you might not expect to find it. Transforming its staid midsize four-door sedan nameplate for model-year 2018, Buick introduces two new Regals, neither of which is a traditional sedan. This report covers the four-door hatchback. We separately reviewed the four-door wagon variant, called the TourX. Both share underskin engineering and most drivetrain and interior components. Only the Sportback, however, is available in a performance-oriented GS model, which is our primary focus here.
Sportback and TourX represent the sixth-generation of the Regal. As with the 2011-2017 fifth-generation, they are designed and assembled in Germany by Opel, the former European division of Buick’s parent General Motors. GM sold Opel to French automotive conglomerate PSA Group in 2017 but PSA continues to supply the Regal.
Buick’s primary market is China, and Regal sales in the U.S. are near the bottom of the midsize-car segment. Still, Regal volume is up more than 26 percent through the first half of 2018. Credit clean styling, impressive passenger and cargo accommodations, and value pricing that likely has some shoppers comparing it against premium-class cars such as the Acura TLX, Audi A5, and Lexus ES.
Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the 2019?
There’s but one reason we’d consider waiting: to see if Buick adds a disable switch for Regal’s engine stop/start function. As with other such systems, it’s designed to save gas by automatically shutting off the engine when the car is stopped (accessories continue to run) and automatically restart it when the driver releases the brake pedal. Some drivers dislike the concept, especially since restarts can be accompanied by a slight driveline shudder.
Most vehicles with the technology have a way to easily disable it, usually with a button on the dashboard or console. The only way to defeat it on the Regal is to laterally slide the automatic transmission’s lever from the Drive position into its manual-shift gate when stopped, then slide it back to Drive when you start moving again. (This is the case on every 2018 Buick; the freshened 2019 Buick Envision crossover, however, does introduce a disable switch.)
If you’re untroubled by this relatively minor issue, there’s no reason to wait for the 2019 Regal Sportback. It should otherwise be a repeat of the ’18, as should the full ’19 Regal lineup. The GS should continue as flagship of a roster that’ll again begin with the Base trim and climb through Preferred, Preferred II, and Essence grades. All but the GS are likely to again come standard with front-wheel drive. Traction-aiding all-wheel drive (AWD) should repeat as standard on the GS and optional on the Preferred II and the Essence (and on the crossover-flavored TourX wagon).
Styling: As with the TourX, it’s no surprise how unapologetically European the Sportback is. The four-door’s smooth lines flow effortlessly rearward, which is where this car shows its party trick. The Sportback looks like a fastback sedan but instead of a conventional trunk its rear roof section and tail is a one-piece hatch. It opens to reveal a cargo bay with an outstanding 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space. Drop the 40/20/40 split rear seat backs, and volume expands to 60.7 cubic feet — more than in some crossover SUVs (though less than the TourX’s 32.7 and 74.5 cubic feet).
Buick traditionally used GS, originally for “Gran Sport,” to identify its raciest cars and today’s Regal GS continues the custom with exclusive visual touches. Highlights specific to the GS grade include unique front and rear fasciae, lower-body side skirts, and a rear spoiler. Brembo-brand brake calipers are painted red and housed within 19-inch wheels on low-profile tires. Inside, the steering wheel has a racecar-inspired flat bottom. The gauge cluster is unique to the GS, and we like it better than the one used on other Regals. The speedometer is a large LCD screen, with analog secondary gauges that are easier to decipher at a glance than those on other models.
The GS’ front seats deserve special mention. They look like the lock-you-in-place racecar-type buckets you’d find in a car such as the Ford Focus RS. In the Regal, though, they receive a certification from Aktion Gesunder Rücken (AGR) e.V., German for “Campaign for Healthier Backs.” This consortium tests seats, beds, shoes, and other consumer products and certification means these items will not put undue stress on a user’s spine.
Whatever methodology goes into AGR certification seems to work because the seats in the Regal GS hit the right balance between comfort and support. They also include heating, ventilation, power adjustable side bolsters, and a massage function for the driver and passenger. Only those of extremely wide girth might find them confining.
Mechanical: Non-GS Regals share their engine with the TourX: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 250 horsepower. Front-wheel-drive versions have 260 pound-feet of torque and a 9-speed automatic transmission. Those with AWD have 295 pound-feet and an 8-speed automatic. Exclusive to the GS is a non-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 with 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission.
Despite having less torque than the AWD four-cylinder model, the V-6 feels noticeably faster in all situations. Power comes on immediately and stays strong throughout the engine’s rev range.
Like the other AWD Regal models, the GS uses GM’s new Twin Clutch system that can direct up to 100 percent of available power between the front or rear wheels. It can also apportion torque between the individual rear wheels. It does a fine job enhancing wet- and dry-road grip and in the GS is enhanced with more aggressive tires and suspension tuning. Driver-selectable Sport and GS modes alter suspension, steering, and transmission programming to suit performance driving.
On the road, this handsome midsize hatch more than holds its own against the likes of the Acura TLX and Nissan Maxima but falls just shy of the honed moves of an A5 or BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Granted, those German-brand cars are far more expensive, so the fact the Regal GS is even close is an accomplishment.
It’s not quite as hushed on the road as the TourX, but the GS is surprisingly quiet. The exhaust produces a refined, but sporty growl under acceleration and fades away at cruising speeds. Wind and road noise are non-issues.
Features: Non-GS versions of the Regal Sportback mirror the feature set of their TourX-grade counterparts, so see our TourX report for details. One note is that the Sportback offers a Preferred II version that’s unavailable on the TourX, though its only notable standard amenity is a heated steering wheel.
As for the Regal GS, standout features include the aforementioned sport bucket seats, which also include two-position memory for driver and passenger.
Performance suspension and brakes are standard, as are blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, lane-departure warning, and front- and rear-obstacle detection. See below for details on other features – including safety tech such as autonomous emergency braking – that are standard and optional across the Regal Sportback line.
Regal Spotback’s primary targets are costlier German-brand premium cars but its pricing is more in line with entry-luxury products, such as the Acura TLX and Lexus IS, and even some mainstream midsize sedans. Base prices here include Buick’s $925 destination fee.
The 2018 Regal Sportback Base grade starts at a very reasonable $25,915, though most buyers are likely to start at the Preferred trim, which is priced from $28,595. Preferred-grade options include the $1,245 Driver Confidence I Package, which adds 18-inch wheels, auto-leveling LED headlights and cornering lamps, rear-obstacle detection, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning. The $1,720 Sights and Sounds Package adds an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with imbedded GPS navigation, HD Radio receiver, Bose-brand audio system, and remote engine start.
Moving to the Preferred II bumps the starting price to $30,695 with front-wheel drive and to $32,695 with AWD. This grade has a similar Driver Confidence I package, but it substitutes wireless smartphone charging for 18-inch wheels (these are standard). It costs $1,080. It also has a Sights and Sounds Package that includes the same features as the Preferred but costs only $945.
The Essence starts at $32,695 with front-wheel drive and at $34,795 with AWD. It shares the features and pricing of the Preferred II’s Sights and Sounds Package. Its version of the Driver Confidence I Package costs $1,580. In addition to the previously listed features, the Essence gains a power front-passenger seat with memory positioning for both occupants and an auto-dimming driver-side exterior mirror. This package is required to add the $1,090 Driver Confidence II Package, which includes assistance features such as adaptive radar cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic steering correction to keep you in your lane, and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
Base price for the range-topping GS is $39,995. Driver Confidence II is available for $1,690 on this model. In addition to the aforementioned driver aids, it includes a head-up instrument display. A $485 Appearance Package nets wireless smartphone charging and auto-leveling LED headlights. Sights and Sounds is available for $945 here, too.
A loaded GS is our top pick. Its pricing is in line with a fully equipped Nissan Maxima (a very good sedan in its own right but it’s front-drive only), but the Regal’s performance is in the same ballpark as AWD versions of the TLX and A5, both of which cost thousands more. Factor in often-generous incentives, and the price gap becomes even greater.
Don’t overlook the entry-level Regal Sportback either. It’s a very interesting alternative to some more mainstream midsize sedans, such as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, or Toyota Camry.
EPA ratings are not a Regal strong point. With the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, models with front-wheel drive rate 22/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined. Those with AWD rate 21/29/24 mpg. With a V-6 and standard AWD, the 2018 GS rates 19/27/22 mpg. Our GS test car returned 24.9 mpg in an even mix of city and highway driving.
Buick recommends but does not require premium-grade 91-octane gasoline for the turbo four-cylinder. It says regular-grade 87-octane is fine for the GS’s V-6.
Not much in the near- and mid-term. Expect the Sportback and TourX to receive a mid-lifecycle freshening consisting of revised exterior and interior styling for either model-year 2020 or 2021. The next-generation Regal, if it doesn’t become a Chinese-market exclusive, likely won’t appear until 2023 or 2024.