More doors, more power in the 1991 Buick Regal

January 10, 1991|By Al Haas | Al Haas,Knight-Ridder News Service

The Buick Regal's sales have been climbing dramatically lately. That suggests there is some justice in the world, since this is a very nice family car for not a lot of money. It also suggests that there are some reasons for the recent Buick good fortune.

The reasons are that the Regal is finally available with four doors and more power.

When the Regal and its GM10 siblings, the Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, were introduced in 1988, they were offered only as coupes when the buyer trend toward sedans was already in progress. But General Motors, like other deities, sometimes works in strange ways.

Also, the Regal and the other GM10 machines originally were powered by GM's trusty 2.8-liter V-6. That 130-horsepower corporate workhorse was fine in a relatively light compact such as the Chevy Corsica, but didn't quite cut it in the 3,250-pound, midsize Regal.

But now, those problems have been corrected. The 1991 Regals are available as both coupes and sedans and with more powerful engines, notably a new, 170-horsepower V-6.

The base engine in most models is a 3.1-liter V-6 that develops 140 horsepower. That engine is standard in everything but the performance-minded Regal Gran Sport, which comes only with the new 170-horse engine. That big, 3.8-liter V-6, however, is available as an option in all the other Regals.

The 3.8-liter V-6 is a more powerful version of the "3800" engine that GM has been using for several years in some of its larger Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs. A series of modifications, primarily to its fuel-induction system, has raised its peak horsepower only modestly (from 165 to 170) but has made a dramatic difference in the engine performance in everyday driving.

The Regal's base price of $16,735 included a host of standard amenities, such as a four-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel power disc brakes, a fully independent suspension, air conditioning, a stereo and tilt steering. In short, it had everything you really need for less than $17,000. The manufacturer had to load this test car to its eyeballs with options to get the sticker total over $20,000.

Another pleasant aspect of the Regal is its rich body styling. The car looks distinctive and dignified without appearing stuffy or pretentious.

Fuel economy is a Regal plus. The car has EPA mileage ratings of 19 city and 28 highway, which aren't bad for a roomy, midsize sedan.

Roomy, by the way, is a pretty fair description of the Regal's interior. It will carry five adult passengers comfortably and provides plenty of trunk space for their luggage.

Unfortunately, the interior isn't as tasteful as it is expansive. The classiness of the Regal Limited's body is definitely not reflected within, where plastic masquerades as wood and tackiness is in flower.

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