Certain terms stir the souls of technology-minded individuals and Buick has incorporated more of those hot buttons into their new 2015 Regal GS AWD than any other car I’ve ever driven. From always-on Internet hot spots, to assistive driving technologies to entertainment options, the new Buick Regal has it all…and it’s a blast to drive as well.
2015 Buick Regal GS AWD
This sleek, midsize sedan has a definite European design flair, and looks great, even when sitting still. Open the door, and leather luxury beckons you to sit down and relax in the front bucket seats. Once inside, the technology choices are endless.
But before we get into technology, let’s talk about handling. After all, this is an automobile; and its basic purpose is to get you from here to there, which it does oh, so well.
- Driving performance is customizable with standard, GS and Sport configurations. I particularly loved the GS setting, which gives you:
- Added stiffness to the shock absorbers
- Quicker response from the accelerator pedal
- Reduced power steering assistance – this gave a tighter feel when driving highway speeds.
- Cruise control buttons all conveniently located on the left hand spoke of the steering wheel and a RES/SET lever allowed precise 1 MPH increases or decreases for each touch.
- All-Wheel Drive (AWD) performed beautifully in the New England winter. Driving over snowy mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire, across wind swept shores in Maine and trying to intentionally fishtail in a large, snow-covered parking area in Massachusetts; the Regal with its advanced Haldex AWD system really demonstrated great handling characteristics. [See an infographic that explains the difference between 4-wheel drive, AWD, front wheel and rear wheel drive.]
- Power – oh, yeah – power, lots of power. The 2.0L I-4 turbocharged VVT with direct injection engine pumps out 295 HP @3000 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque @ 2500 rpm. That all translates to being up to highway speeds well before the on ramp runs out.
- Being a photographer, I always love a good retractable moonroof, and the Regal has a nice-sized one, complete with “express” open and close buttons. With the subzero temperatures in New England, we didn’t get to enjoy it, but I would imagine it would have been heavenly on a nice spring or fall day.
- Good gas mileage – even with all that power, with the 18 gallon tank, we were getting 25 to 27 mpg and averaging 400-450 miles between fill-ups.
- Lastly, the Experience Buick Protection plan is noteworthy as well, with two years or 24,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance, tire rotations, along with oil and oil filter changes. You also get 4 year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 6 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Let’s talk gadgets
Being a GM car, you expect OnStar and Sirius/XM options, and each new Buick Regal comes with a couple nice trial offers. What I didn’t realize is that you get a free, basic 5-year OnStar package which includes: OnStar Vehicle diagnostics, dealer maintenance notification, and access to RemoteLink Key Fob Services. All the other features for which OnStar is so well-known are available in various packages from $19 to $34 per month.
The biggest feature for me however was the 4G LTE, on all-the-time Wi-Fi hotspot that let you (or preferably your passenger) use all your devices while driving. You can actually connect up to seven phones, tablets and laptops at the same time. I hate to admit it, but the service was far more dependable than my home Internet service from Time Warner. While I pay for 30 Mbps service, 10% of the time, I’m getting less than 5 Mbps download speed on my home connection.
Data packages are available from $5 to $50 per month (200MB to 5GB), or you can buy packages of data for a single day, or to be used over a year (i.e. 10 GB of data can be purchased for $150-$200 and can be used anytime over a twelve month period.)
During our entire seven day, 1,700 mile test drive through the mountains of New England, we never lost connection, and data streamed routinely at 16.5 Mbps download and 8.10 Mbps upload. That’s AWESOME with a capital A-W-E-S-O-M-E.
With the big glove box door opened, it made a suitable, steady shelf for my Yoga Tablet 2 Pro. Web surfing was a breeze with the high speed Internet connection.
Forget those AT&T, Verizon, & Sprint Mi-Fi units that are a hit-and-miss affair outside the big cities. Forget X-Com Global, which only seems to work where it can grab somebody else’s signal. This system rocks – everywhere!
But there’s more – Infotainment:
The brains behind the Infotainment System are controlled by a good-sized touch screen in the center of the dash – convenient for both driver and passenger. Physical buttons/dials below the screen control On/Off, Radio, Media, Play/Back/Forward, Home, Volume and Radio tuning. You can also control most music functions from the right spoke on the steering wheel.
Assuming you’ve signed up for the appropriate OnStar packages, you can control from the touchscreen: Audio, Phone, Navigation, Weather, Pandora, Text, OnStar and Settings. Some of those deserve an explanation.
Audio gives you options of playing AM, FM, SiriusXM, CD’s or your own music from USB sticks, Line In or an SD card. You can also connect smartphones and Apple devices through Bluetooth.
USB ports (2), Line In and the SD card slot are all available under the armrest in the center console. MP3 files can be played and Gracenote service builds voice tags for your songs.
There’s also a 110v outlet on the back of the center console, accessible from the back seat. Plug in any device up to 115 watts, which means you can recharge all those devices that need more than USB power.
Navigation is available through an OnStar package which gives you many choices of GPS assistance. You can send directions to your car from a computer with Mapquest.com; you can have an OnStar Advisor download directions for you, you can have directions sent from your RemoteLink mobile app on your smartphone, or you can manually search by inputting an address or Point of Interest (POI) directly from the touchscreen.
Weather works very well in two modes that I discovered. When sitting at a location and pushing the Weather icon, it will give you the forecast for that area for the next several days. If you have a destination plugged in the GPS, it will give you the weather forecast for multiple cities you will be passing through and the weather there as you pass by. Brilliant!
The Pandora button allows you to use your Pandora account (through your cellphone and its data plan) but controlled by the Infotainment center. Now you can “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” any song right from your dash.
Text messages will also show up on the Infotainment touchscreen and after displaying the name of the sender, you can touch a speaker icon to have the text read to you. You can also prerecord responses and send them back with a touch of the Reply button.
Driving Assistance par excellence
If you’re a road warrior and you put on a lot of miles each year, the 2015 Buick Regal GS has a number of options that could literally save your life. If you’ve ever dozed off while driving, two particular features are the best insurance you could ever buy.
We all love cruise control, but sometimes if you aren’t paying attention or especially if you are sleepy, you can creep up on someone’s bumper much faster than you expected. With Adaptive Cruise Control you can set the gap you need to maintain between you and the car in front of you. If you aren’t paying attention, and the car in front of you in your lane starts slowing down, your car will automatically slow down as well, keeping that safe gap that you specified. Pull over to pass, and the cruise control will automatically take you right back to your set speed. If someone pulls their car into your lane, it can also decelerate your vehicle to avoid a collision.
The Forward Collision Alert works similarly, but is meant to warn when approaching a stopped vehicle too quickly. It will detect stopped vehicles up to 197 feet away and sound alarms if you are approaching too fast.
The other assistive technology I think is extremely valuable for drowsy drivers is the Lane Departure Warning. When turned on, the car monitors your position between the dotted and solid white lines of the highway. Start to cross the lines without first turning on your blinkers, and it will send a series of beeps, loud enough to wake you if you start to nod off. It’s also great if you stare at your nav system or the radio too long.
If you are a person who never signals your lane changes, you’ll probably find this annoying, in which case a simple button push on the dash disengages it. But, late at night, if you think there’s a chance of nodding off – turn it back on and it just might save your life or the life of someone else.
The other alert I find very helpful is the Lane Change Alert. Out on your side view mirrors, there is a car and star icon that lights up yellow if there is a person driving in your blind spot. We all know we need to look over our shoulder before changing lanes, but sometimes we just don’t take the time. Now, a quick glimpse at your mirrors will tell you if there’s someone right next to you that you probably can’t see.
The list keeps going on, but Rear Cross Traffic Alerts are also helpful when backing out into traffic, whether on a street or in a parking lot. The rear view camera on the Infotainment Center also provides a great scale to let you know how close you are getting to any object behind you and curves as you turn the wheel to show where you are going to end up. Ingenious.
All the above assistive technology adds $2,200 to the base price, but I think it’s worth every penny.
What’s not to like?
There aren’t many things I can think of that I would change if I had been the Regal’s designer. The only one that comes to mind is the placement of the tachometer and gas gauges. Those are the two I routinely look at most, and they are the ones furthest to the edges of the instrument cluster. In the center are the oil pressure and battery voltage, which I rarely expect to need checking. I’d have rather seen them moved to the edges and the gas gauge and tachometer moved right next to the speedometer.
This could be the best gadget you ever bought or it could be the most elegant ride you ever took, it all depends on how you look at driving. I enjoy performance driving, but I also never leave my gadgets at home, so this was the perfect environment for me. It gets 5+ stars in my book.
Disclosure: Buick allowed me to use the car for the week so I could prepare this review.