It’s been snowing and icing all over. Like, a lot. Some cities are handling it better than others, which will likely cause some mayors to have longer tenures than others. A European-engineered sport sedan with all-wheel-drive would be perfect for the nasty precip, making dust of city streets while still a blast when pavement clears. But, forget Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volvo, or even Volkswagen. Check out the Buick Regal, which was engineered (and initially built) by GM’s Opel division in Germany and significantly updated for 2014.
Regal’s German heritage shows up in its solid four-door coup profile. A more detailed grille and LED “light wings” grace the front, 18-inch wheels plant the car, and revised taillamps give the rear a more upscale aura. Except for the grille and ventiports on the hood, Regal looks the part of a sophisticated European.
The best part of driving the Regal in winter is snuggling inside. Heated leather seats that will burn your buns, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and dual zone automatic climate control kick cold to the curb. Controls for audio, climate, and Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system were simplified for 2014. Bose speakers, Bluetooth calling/streaming audio, and restrained use of woodgrain, that reminds me of my old Mercedes, make the cabin a comfy place to shelter.
A year ago, the Regal would have been less of a snowmobile. All-wheel-drive was added to the options list for 2014. The system can send up to 90 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels when the fronts slip; and an electronic locking rear differential shifts power side-to-side as needed. It sometimes takes a little time for the computer to figure out what’s happening and move power around, but it eventually gets to the ground.
Powertrains were also shuffled this year. Turbo and GS models use the same turbocharged 259 horsepower 2.0 L four-cylinder engine, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission (6-speed manual optional on GS). A healthy 295 lb.-ft. of smooth sultry torque slips the car down-road with gusto in reserve. Fuel economy ratings of 19/27 mpg city/hwy. are less than stellar, but you can also get Regal with GM’s eAssist “light hybrid” system that achieves 25/36 mpg city/hwy.
I had a lot of fun in some recent weather. Driven sensibly, the car shifts torque, stays sure-footed, and tromps through nasty with ease. But, step on the gas while turning onto a slick roadway, and the front-drive car essentially becomes a rear-drive car that has a tendency to oversteer when you turn, only to be grabbed by the stability control system. It’s not dangerous, but wakes you up. In fact, you may be tempted to perform the stunt on purpose (but, not on the road, of course).
Beyond the powertrain, engineers re-worked the suspension and steering for a less clunky feel. Rough roads barely bother the stiff body structure. The Regal never handled poorly, but is now on par with segment leaders like the Acura TL, Lexus ES, Lincoln MKZ, Volkswagen CC, and Volvo S60.
Extreme roads have a way of sorting great cars from merely adequate ones. Whether blowing through snow and ice with AWD, or hammering dry highways with the turbo engine and improved dynamics, the Regal displays all of its German roots. It starts at $29,015, but our test car with turbo, AWD, and safety suite came to $40,445.
2014 Buick Regal AWD Specifications
Five-passenger, AWD sedan
Powertrain: 259 hp 2.0-L Turbo-4, 6-spd. auto transmission
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels: 18-inch/18-inch alloy f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
Must-have features: AWD, Style, Turbo
Fuel economy: 19/27 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Oshawa, ON
Base/As-tested price: $29,015/$40,445