May 20, 2024
The History of the Buick Regal

The History of the Buick Regal

Buick discontinued the Regal in 2020, but it remains a popular car. Before buying a used Buick Regal, learn about the unique history behind this mid-size sedan.

Discover the Origins of This Still-Popular Car

Few modern vehicles have the kind of history associated with the Regal. When drivers buy a used Buick Regal today, they participate in a legacy spanning five decades. This article will briefly recap each stage of the Regal’s evolution.

From the Century to the Regal

Buick originally introduced the Century Regal as a 1973 model. At this early stage of the vehicle’s history, it was still an upmarket model in the century line, but that doesn’t mean it was unexceptional. The Century Regal was one of GM’s earliest personal luxury cars.

Buick designed the Century Regal to pamper drivers. Featuring then-fashionable opera windows, wood-grain trim, and quality cloth upholstery, it was a step above other Century models.

When Buick gave the Regal its own vehicle line in 1978, it made some dramatic changes. For one, it downsized the car to address the fuel economy concerns of the time. What the first true Buick Regal lost in size, it made up for in performance.

Based on GM’s G-body platform, the car came standard with a V-6 engine but still had an optional V-8 or turbo V-6 engine upgrade. The 3.8L turbo put the Buick Regal Sports Coupe on the map as one of the first production cars to offer a turbo engine.

The Grand National Makes Waves

In 1984, the Buick Regal Grand National received a new fuel injection system. This change allowed the 3.8L V-6 engine to put out 200 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Later versions of the Grand National reached 245 hp and 355 lb-ft of torque.

Buick manufactured the Regal Grand National Experimental (GNX) in 1987 in a limited production run. Changes to the engine and tuning upped its hp to 276 and torque to 360 lb-ft, allowing it to reach 60 mph in 5 seconds flat, yet another feat for its time.

The all-black GNX’s aesthetics, coupled with its power under the hood, earned it the nickname “Darth Vader’s Car” at the peak of the Star Wars movies’ popularity. These same factors set it apart from the more common performance cars of its day.

Vintage car enthusiasts will be very lucky if they can find a used Buick Regal GNX from the 1987 model year. Buick only produced 547 of these unique performance vehicles.

Buick Tames the Regal

Compared to the 1987 Buick Regal GNX, which many car enthusiasts cite as the ultimate Regal, the 1988-1996 models are somewhat tame. The 1988 Buick Regal was the first to have front-wheel drive and eliminated the turbo engine.

Even without a high-performance variant, the third-generation Regal retained its popularity. However, GM’s primary audience had changed. This Buick Regal made a fantastic family sedan.

In the final model year of the third-gen Regal, Buick restored some of the car’s earlier high-performance punch. GM added a more powerful available 3.8L V-6 to the lineup for its sportier trim levels. The optional engine produced 200 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque, quite respectable for 1996.

A Five-Year Hiatus Follows a Throwback to the Century

In 1997, the fourth-generation Buick Regal made its debut. This iteration of the car had more to offer than the last. Its body and basic structure hearken back to the original Buick Century Regal manufactured in the 1970s, bringing the vehicle back to its luxury roots.

The fourth-generation Regal also brought back a genuine performance engine option. The Buick Regal GS won the race, featuring a Series II supercharged V-6 engine good for 240 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque.

Upon its original retirement in 2004, the Buick Regal made a respectable effort to win over both the luxury and performance markets, and it accomplished these goals much better than the third-gen models.

Initially, everyone assumed Buick wanted the Regal to go out on a high note. Production of the still-popular car stopped, and the brand took a five-year hiatus. GM didn’t put out another Buick Regal until 2009.

The Buick Regal Makes a Comeback

The fifth-generation Buick Regal had a different feel than its predecessors. Similar to the Opel Insignia, the new Regal had a German attitude. The company began sales in China and didn’t start selling the resurrected Regal in the US until 2011.

Unlike Buick’s other sedans, the newly redesigned Regal stood out from the crowd with features like an available manual transmission and a sporty GS model. This generation didn’t end until 2017.

In 2012, the Buick Regal GS returned another hint of the good ol’ days. This impressive car’s turbo 2.0L engine yielded 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The GS model wasn’t just faster than the regular Regal but also more fun to drive.

The newer Buick Regal GS may have been a different vehicle than the initial performance models, but that didn’t stop true car enthusiasts from noticing hints of the old G-body sedans in its design.

The Most Recent Used Buick Regal Models

Drivers looking for a used Buick Regal today will likely find one from 2018-2020. Base models featuring a 2.0L turbo have plenty to offer. They come in sedan, liftback, and wagon variants. Upgrading to the GS trim gives drivers AWD and a V-6 engine good for 310 hp.

The interior of a modern Buick Regal is a far cry from what drivers found in the early days of the model lineup, which is a good thing. Today’s standards for luxury and comfort are very different.

Newer Regals feature amenities like standard eight-inch color touchscreens with in-vehicle connectivity, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Drivers also get access to technology like radar- and camera-based safety features that would have sounded like science fiction in the 1970s.

The 2020 Buick Regal is the most recent model available. A used Buick Regal from 2017-2020 has more to offer than many new sedans, and given the brand’s fickle past, there’s no way to know whether it will truly be the last.


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