Second Gear: Buick Regal - Metro US

Second Gear: Buick Regal

History/Description: The Regal has long been the ‘sporty’ model in Buick’s lineup—and a last-generation model actually put down some pretty respectable numbers in the affordable sporty-sedan marketplace during its lifespan.

Available from 1997 to 2004, the last-gen Regal (now replaced by the new-for-2011 Regal), got a standard 3.8-litre V6 or a supercharged variant thereof, generating 200 or 240 horsepower. The GM ‘3800’ V6 is a simple, relatively efficient and relatively bulletproof engine—meaning it can be expected to perform without issue for years. All Regal models got a four-speed automatic transmission and drove the front wheels. For an affordable car, the last-gen Regal delivered plenty of sauce.

Shoppers should note that the Regal “GS” got the supercharged engine, which will provide grin-inducing acceleration and make quick work of most Camrys and Accords at stop lights—though the up-level engine will consume more fuel and cost more to insure. The Regal LS with the standard engine is a more modest choice for some.

This five-seat sedan boasted features like automatic climate control, heated power seats, a sunroof, power accessories and an available “Monsoon” premium audio system.

What Owners Like: Performance and fuel mileage with either engine are typically highly-rated Regal attributes, as are the vehicle’s looks, comfort levels and overall level of classiness.

What Owners Hate: Some cheap interior trimming and premature wear of some of Regal’s interior surfaces are common gripes. Some owners wish for ‘tighter’ handling to match the engine performance, too.

Common Issues: Though robust, the GM 3800 engine line was known for a short list of issues—including coolant leak in the intake system and bad manifold gaskets. A GM-trained mechanic should be comfortable checking for these issues.

Wiring and sensor-related issues may also cause driveability issues evidenced by sporadic power delivery, a rough idle or uneven acceleration. Note that the majority of these issues are typically sensor related and not mechanical in nature. Have the machine you’re considering scanned for any check-engine lights or trouble codes, which could indicate a problem. If visiting a mechanic’s shop ahead of your purchase, request an inspection for coolant, oil or transmission fluid leaks beneath the car, too.

Ensure proper operation of the remote keyfobs, all power windows, power seat adjustments and the air conditioner, too. While driving, remember that any popping or clunking sounds, especially from the front or rear of the vehicle, typically indicate that a suspension component or two is in need of replacement.

Note that models with excessive aftermarket modifications, especially to the supercharger system, should be avoided by shoppers unfamiliar with engine tuning. Intake and exhaust modifications are typically safe so long as the quality of the parts and installation are sound.

The Verdict: A healthy and well-maintained used Regal should prove an affordable, comfortable, sporty and easy-to-maintain sedan. The available supercharged engine in the Regal GS will also help connect with modern-day muscle-sedan enthusiasts, too.

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