SAN FRANCISCO: How many of your remember that Buick was known as a doctor's car? That was
way back, when every General Motors division had a different intended market. Buick stood
for reliability (doctors needed a reliable car for all those house calls they used to
make), stability (who's more stable than a doctor) and respectability (ditto) without
being ostentatious. There were those who might even have called Buick dull.
Buick's been through a few
ups and downs since those days but they're riding a high right now (third division in
sales within GM). Buick didn't get to that position by building just doctors' cars. And
the '99 Regal GS definitely isn't a dull car. Not with a supercharged engine under the
Buick's been building
performance cars for a long time, (Remember the GS350 and GS400 of the late '60s and early
'70s, or how 'bout the Grand Nationals of the '80s?) so I suppose it's no surprise to see
a "hot rod mill" in a Buick. What is surprising is that the '99 Regal GS is not
just an engine, it's a complete luxury "touring" car.
I liked the GS even before
I opened the door. It's an understated car. It looks respectable. The Platinum Gray
Metallic paint is like a well-tailored suit - it highlights the GS' shape. General Motors
has certainly come a long way in fit and finish. I'd say the GS meets the highest
standards for paint, panel alignment, and appearance.
Then I got in to the GS.
Sumptuous but business-like. Leather Seats, functional analogue gauges, and all the
controls where they should be. An interior obviously designed by a human; a place you
could spend long hours comfortably. Buick says the Regal is a midsize car. If so, midsize
is getting bigger, at least on the inside.
I've got to mention the
stereo. GM has spun off its audio division into something they call Monsoon. A while ago,
I attended a demonstration of the stereos that are installed in the Regals. I was
impressed. To my ears, the stereo in the GS was the equal of just about any other I've
heard. How about 220 watts of power? But for me the kicker is the clarity at both low and
high volume. Kudos to Monsoon and GM. When something sounds good to my poor abused ears,
you know it's great.
There was more music to my
ears - the engine. I can't believe this engine first came to life way back in the early
'60s as a shaky, leaky, anemic V6. Two hundred and forty smooth, but forceful horsepower
and 280 lb-ft of torque from 3.8-liters is decent. It's no wonder that the 3800 Series II
V6 has won awards. Yes, it's an old-tech, pushrod engine but man, is it ever high-tech in
The supercharger (a
mechanical device used to cram in more air which helps the engine make more power) makes a
sweet, muted gear whine when you stick your foot into the accelerator. And the GS just
takes off. Yet the supercharged 3800 engine is as smooth as silk and capable of 27 mpg on
the highway and 18 in the city (this compares to the base 3800 at 30 and 19). This is what
happens when you combine old time hot-rodding know-how with modern electronics.
The four-speed automatic
transmission was perfectly programmed and matched to the engine. Shifts were precise but
never harsh. The GS was equipped with traction control (traction control is another marvel
of electronics that keep the drive wheels from spinning in low traction situations). I
didn't get a chance to test it in slippery conditions but on hard acceleration, it kept
the front drive wheels from spinning. Traction control may be the next best thing to
I was a little worried that
the GS might be another of the too stiffly suspended GM cars. I should have known better.
Suspension engineers everywhere might want to take a look at the GS. Taut suspension yet
comfortable ride. Big, 16" wheels and tires (P225/60R16) that didn't transmit the
arrival of every pebble to my butt, yet were able to grip the curviest roads. Thank you
Out the door price for the
Buick Regal GS was $26,325. This included two options. A luxury package that consisted of
electronic dual zone climate control (so you don't have to fight over the temperature with
your front seat partner), steering wheel mounted radio controls, and that fantastic radio
for $620; and the 16' chrome aluminum wheels for $650.
I just reread what I've
written. Doesn't sound like it came from a Ford guy to me. But it did. Was I impressed
with the Buick Regal GS? You bet! I enjoyed my week in it and was actually sorry to see it
go. I'm willing to bet that if you took the Buick name off it people might actually think
it came from another country. So don't consider the Regal GS just because it's an American
car, consider it because it's a very good car. By Bruce Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San
Byline: By Bruce
Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: Respectable, Reliable and Supercharged
Topic: '99 Buick Regal GS
Word Count: 835
Photo Caption: '99 Buick Regal GS
Photo Credits: Buick PR
Series #: 1999 - 28