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2019 buick Regal Sportback

Though Buick's full-size LaCrosse sedan usually gets more attention from critics and shoppers alike, the midsize Regal Sportback is a unique and an appealing five-door designed to capture buyers who want added utility and European dynamics without springing for more-expensive luxury makes. It's based on the Insigna GM's formerly captive German brand Opel, and this Teutonic heritage manifests in an above-average ride/handling balance as well as a reasonably appointed interior.

The Regal is available in three variants: Sportback (base), TourX (wagon) and GS.

Overview

It's clear from the first glance that the latest Regal is a different sort of vehicle than the sedate Buicks of yore. With flowing lines and sheet metal wrapped tightly over its rigid structure, the Sportback's exterior is handsome in an understated European fashion, reflecting its German roots.

What makes the Sportback unique in its segment is its five-door layout; no four-door option is even available. The only other body variant is the slightly lifted TourX wagon. The Sportback is plenty practical in its own right, boasting a whopping 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up (60.7 folded—enough to fit a fully assembled bicycle).

In designing the new Regal Sportback, Buick had to be conscious of the fact that Regal is now the company's entry-level car; the Verano has been discontinued. As such, the Regal has been repositioned into a slightly less-premium space.

Fortunately, Buick managed to avoid cutting too many corners in the interior to make up for that price reduction. The base seats are faux-leather-trimmed cloth, with full-leather options available farther up the trim line.

It's also worth noting that the Regal lineup (less the GS) has been optimized with Buick's QuietTuning technology, which includes additional NVH-improving chassis and body treatments, noise-cancelling stereo components and unique, cushioned tires for greater road noise isolation.

Power and handling

Out on the road, the Regal isn't a true sport sedan, but it offers tighter handling than one might expect in addition to a luxuriously smooth ride.

The Sportback is built around a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine producing 250 horsepower and either 260 or 295lb-ft of torque, depending on whether you opt for all-wheel drive. And while all-wheel drive models may get more torque, they're limited to fewer forward gears (eight vs. nine).

The all-wheel drive system offered on the Sportback is a multi-clutch, mechanical torque-vectoring unit route available torque to any corner on-demand.

For a midsize five-door, the Sportback's curb weight is reasonable. It starts at 3,417 pounds for front-drive models and goes up from there.

The front suspension is a McPherson Strut setup, and the rear end is one of two independent configurations depending on the buyer's choice of front- or all-wheel-drive powertrain.

Front-wheel-drive models are rated at 22 MPG city, 32 MPG highway and 26 combined. Opting for all-wheel-drive drops those figures to 21/29/24.

Standard and optional features

The Regal Sportback has similar standard content to most other midsize offerings. The base infotainment system is a seven-inch touchscreen unit compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The Sportback's large rear hatch opening is complimented by a 60/40 split-folding rear bench for extra cargo volume.

Additional standard equipment on the Regal Sportback includes OnStar with a 4G LTE hotspot (which requires a subscription, of course), hill-start assist, seven-speaker audio, automatic stop/start and keyless entry.

Moving up to the Preferred model adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-way lumbar adjustment, an auto-dimming rear mirror and other interior niceties. This is also the first trim where the Bose audio system, power moonroof and remote start are available.

Preferred II adds a heated steering wheel, remote start, SiriusXM radio, 18-inch machined-finish wheels, a 40/20/40 rear bench and opens the door to more available upgrades.

Stepping up to the Essence gets you an almost-loaded car. You'll get a leather interior, heated front seats and standard remote start. This is also the first trim where all-wheel-drive is mandatory.

GS

Regal's performance trim carries over from the previous generation, but has been re-imagined for more dedicated performance.

The GS can be identified in the wild by its decklid spoiler, unique front and rear bumpers and sporty side-skirts.

Brembo brakes are standard up front, and the 19-inch wheels are unique to this trim. Buick is not offering its QuietTuning tires on the GS, opting instead for higher-performance rubber.

The only engine available is a 3.6L, direct-injected and naturally aspirated V6. It's paired to a standard multi-clutch all-wheel-drive system and a nine-speed automatic transmission.

This six is no slouch, either. At 310 horsepower and 282lb-ft of torque, it's not quite as aggressive as the Chevrolet Camaro's version of the same engine.

The multi-link suspension configuration found on all-wheel-drive Sportbacks carries over, however it is bundled with standard adaptive dampers on the GS.

Sport bucket seats with faux harness pass-throughs and aggressive (and adjustable) side bolsters. They also have built-in thigh support extensions and a massaging feature, along with heat and ventilation.

Other interior upgrades include a GS-specific, flat-bottom steering wheel (because no sporty car is complete without extra crotch clearance, we suppose) and metal finish on the pedals. The GS interior is based on a fairly loaded-up Sportback's, so you can expect all the other niceties (digital cluster, eight-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, etc.) and contrast-stitched seating and trim.

The only interior upgrade options for the GS are Buick's Driver Confidence II package (which adds adaptive cruise and some other semi-autonomous aids), a package which bundles wireless charging and LED cornering headlamps, and a navigation/audio upgrade for the infotainment system.

Occupant safety

Every Regal is outfitted with dual front, front side and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems. Several safety technologies are available as part of two extra-cost equipment packages.

The Driver Confidence I Package includes Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Park Assist.

The Driver Confidence II Package adds Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Automatic Braking.

Key competitors

As a sporty near-luxury sedan, the Regal is aimed at competitors like the Acura TSX, the Volvo S60 T5 and the Lincoln MKZ, though Buick is likely hoping the car will also nip at the heels of more prestigious competitors like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series.