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2001 Buick Regal GS Road Test

By CharlesOfria

Category: $25,000 - $30,000 Sports Sedan
Who should buy this car: A person looking for a combination of plush comfort and neck snapping acceleration in an affordable American sedan.
Comparable models in this class: Acura TL,  Chrysler 300M,  Infiniti I30, Mazda Millenia, Mitsubishi Diamante, Nissan Maxima, Pontiac Grand Prix GTP,  Toyota Camry V6

Buick built its firstproduction car in 1904, quickly attaining the position of number one producer ofautomobiles in America by 1908.  In the years that followed, this GMdivision molded its image as a company that produced stylish, moderately priced carsthat were plush, comfortable and powerful.  In the early years, theBuick look meant "portholes" on the front fenders and vertical"tooth" grills, but always a substantial looking car that no one had tomake apologies for.  Middle to upper income people sought out theBuick as a dignified, comfortable car that was as luxurious and attractive as aCadillac, but without the "snob" image that sometimes wentalong with owning a Caddy.

During the sixties, Buickenhanced its reputation for style and performance by releasing cars like the Skylark, the Wildcat and the now-classic Riviera. (I consider the 66-67 Riviera to be one of the best looking cars ever made). In that decade, Buick introduced high-performance Grand Sport (GS) versions of theSkylark and Riviera which retained the Buick character and style while including larger, more powerfulengines, stiffer suspensions and special insignia.  The GS badge became sopopular that it has adorned many models since the '60s, including the 2001 Regal GS that is the subject of this article.

This All-American sedan continues the Buick tradition witha superb 240 horsepower supercharged V-6 engine and an interior that is allBuick.  Our test car was equipped with the "Olympic Package", alimited productionmodel created to commemorate Buicks support for athletes competing on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team. This package includes a power moonroof, Grand Touring suspension and an eight-speaker Monsoon audio entertainment system with steering wheel-mounted controls. The Olympic theme is accompanied by design features from notedfashion designer "Joseph Abboud" who adds his logo and name to thisspecial edition Buick.  

TheOlympic Edition is available in three special color combinations:  Gold Metallic,Sterling Silver Metallic and Graphite Metallic, all with Sandrift lower body panels. The interior for all three colors is Taupe (Beige) Leather, an unusual combinationwhen coupled with the Sterling Silver of our test car.  I liked the effectespecially when combined with the sand colored lower body panels.  This isa good looking car.

Sitting behind the wheel, I was immediately struck by the sweeping dash coverthat flows in a wave from the drivers door to the passenger's door.  Theoverstuffed seats are quite plush with long cushions that extend to yourknee-pits,  At first, they seem very comfortable, but on long drives Ifound myself longing for more lumbar support.  Both the driver and passengerseats had 6-way power adjustments with a manual reclining mechanism.  

A small quirk.  My 5- foot tall wife had trouble finding a comfortable driving position in thiscar.  When she adjusted the seat so that she could reach the pedals, shewas  too close to the air-bag equipped steering wheel. She also complained that she had to lifther foot rather than pivoting it when braking. I experienced no suchdiscomfort, but when I examined it, thebrake pedal did seem a bit high in relationship to the acceleratorpedal.

The Regal features dual-zone automatic climate control air conditioning asstandard equipment.  This allows the driver to set the interior temperatureusing a thermostat-like temperature control while the front seat passenger isable to modify the temperature on their side by up to 5 degrees either way. The system worked well and was quiet.

The inside rearview mirror was festooned with buttons to control a number offeatures including: 2 map lights at the lower edge of the mirror, an auto-dimmingfeature for the mirror and the OnStar communicationssystem.  The auto-dimming mirror senses glare from lights coming up frombehind and automatically dims both the inside mirror and the driver side outsidemirror.  The OnStar system is GMs on-demand driver assistance and navigationprogram that allows you to contact help with the touch of a button.  OnStar uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network and cellular technology to link a driver and vehicle to the OnStar Center, where advisors can deliver real-time, personal helpany time day or night.  This service is free for the first year and isavailable for a fee after that. The cost ranges from $199 per year for the basicSafety and Security plan to $399 per year for the Premium Plan.

Thegauges are easy to read with large numbers on the speedometer and tachometer.  The radio buttons on the steering wheel are illuminated at night and tended to be distracting atfirst, especially when turning a corner, but I quickly got used to them. These buttons get quite warn to the touchbecause of the bulbs behind them and would make good hand warmers if they were larger.  There is a rubber padjust belowthe ignition switch on the steering column to keepkeys from making that annoying clicking noise as they slap the column while youdrive.  A thoughtful touch.  

Now, let's talk about my favorite part of this car, that wonderfulsupercharged engine.  The 3800 Series II V6 engine blends old and newtechnology to produce high horsepower, gobs of torque and good gas mileage.  The engineblock and heads are cast iron with a single camshaft in the block driving twovalves per cylinder.  High-tech engines usually have multiple overheadcamshafts and 4 valves per cylinder and produce excellent power for their sizebut that power is usually produced at high RPMs with the engine screaming.  Thisengine produces most of its power at lower revs making it seem like it'snot working very hard to deliver it. The supercharger, which is standard onthe GS,  is an old HotRodder's trick and is responsible for the additional 40 horsepower over theengine in the Regal LS.

Theengine is quiet at cruising speeds and light acceleration, but under full throttle,it has a throaty muffled growl that is accompanied by a howl when the supercharger kicksin.  This is a strong engine with excellent throttle response throughoutits RPM range.  0 to 60 comes up in a quick 7.1 seconds, but the real funcomes from goosing the throttle at just about any speed to produce an immediatesurge forward like an attack dog lunging at its prey. 

The transmission delivers almost imperceptible shiftsat light throttle, but responds quickly with solid downshifts when you stomp thegas.  There is no "Sport" mode on this transmission and theconsole shifter does not lend itself to quick manual shifting.  Overall, the car feels very "together" withan engine that sounds and acts more like a V8than a V6.  One quibble was that the moonroof shade did not have sufficientfriction to keep it in its place during hard acceleration or braking. Fullacceleration caused the shade to slide open about half way while hard brakingwould close it.  No, I didn't use the engine power every time I wanted toopen the shade (only some of the time).

TheGrand Touring Suspension is reasonablycomfortable on good roads and had a good ride despite the stiffersprings and shocks.  On washboard roads, however the car had a tendency tobound up and down causing it to be more difficult to control.  The steeringwas very quick and responsive with 2.39 turns lock to lock and provided good steering controland directional stability.   Wind and road noise are wellcontrolled.  It is hard to tell how fast you're going without looking at thespeedometer.  

Cornering power was limited by the tires.  While the S speed-rated (112MPH max) Goodyear Eagle LStires had reasonably good traction, they liked to break loose during hardcornering withoutmuch warning causing the tail to slip out.  An inexperienced driver takinga cloverleaf too fast may not be able to catch it before suddenly spinningout.  

This is a good CarParts.com for a person who still likes to blast onto thehighway from time to time and it has plenty of gadgets to hold your interest duringbumper-to-bumper commutes.  There is a Driver Information display thatcan show information like: instant and average gas mileage, oil life range,supercharger boost pressure, and distance to empty.  There is also a tirepressure warning system that will tell you if a tire is low on air, but not byhow much.  

The Monsoon eight-speaker 220-watt premium audio system combines a singledisk CD player, AM/FM Stereo radio and cassette tape player in a single panelwith large, easy to decipher controls.  I don't like that the radio displayis shared with the clock so you can only see one at the time.  A car ofthis caliber should have a separateclock.  The same goes for the outside temperature gauge which you can only seeby pressing an "Outside Temp" button on the A/C panel.  

Onemore peeve if I may, this car nearly gave me a coronary.   I parkedthe car at a mall parking lot to have some lunch.  Before I got out of thecar, I opened the console glove compartment and put my camera in it to hide itfrom sight.  After lunch, I got back on the road and, after about 15minutes, I remembered the camera and reached in the glove compartment toretrieve it.  It was gone!!   I was robbed!?!.  The cardidn't appear to be broken into.  Maybe I put itsome where else.  I pulled off the road and started searching, sweatbeading up.  It was not under the seat. Not in the trunk. Incredulously, I looked in the console again.  Empty.  But wait, I reached in and started feeling around.  It wasn't a very large compartmentat all, but... it seems that it extends forward under the cup holders... WAY underthe cup holders.  Far enough to swallow my $600 camera when I stepped onthe brakes sending it completely out of sight.  After another 15 minutes,  My heart sloweddown enough so that I could resume my trip

Aside from the camera incident and the less than great handling, I do likethis car and think that it is a good pick for someone looking for an attractive, roomy sports sedan that iscomfortable, fast and, above all, (this is important to many people) is built inNorth America by an American company.

 

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How would I improve this car?

  • Firmer seats with a lumbar adjustment
  • Add Vehicle Skid Control or Better tires

How does the Regal GS fit yourdriving style? 

Conservative drivers Get the LS without the supercharger, you'll like it better.  The GS has lots of nervous energy and does not like to be held back.  It may even entice you to misbehave. 

Sporty drivers This car is great on highways and straight roads with razor-sharp throttle response and good brakes.  In the twisties, it's reasonably controllable as long as you don't try to explore its limits.

Fast drivers who want a comfortable sedan will love this supercharged engine, but if you like to get out on winding mountain roads, you will need better tires before exploring any handling limits.

Specifications 

Engine Type 3.8L 3800 Series II Supercharged V6 Overhead Valve, Cast Iron Cylinder Head and Block, 2 Valves per Cylinder
Horsepower 240 @ 5,200 RPM
Torque 280 @ 3,600 RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission Four Speed Electronically Controlled Transmission (Heavy Duty on GS)
Tires  P225/60R16   S-speed rated all-season touring tires
Overall Length 196.2"
Wheelbase 109.0
Width 72.7"
Turning Diameter 37.5 ft Curb to Curb
Steering Ratio 13.3 : 1,   2.39 Lock to Lock
Curb Weight 3,543
Fuel Tank 17.5 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 18, hwy 27. 
Acceleration 0 to 60 7.1 Seconds
Base Sticker Price $26,095 plus $600 destination charge
Price As Tested $28,110

2001 Buick Regal GS 4 Door Sports Sedan

Standard Equipment

  • Supercharged 3800 Series II V6 Engine
  • 4-Speed Electronic Automatic Transmission
  • 4-wheel disk brakes with ABS
  • Automatic Dual-Zone Climate Control Air Conditioning
  • Magnetic Variable Effort Power Steering
  • Full Range Traction Control
  • OnStar Communication System
  • 6-way Power Driver's Seat
  • Front Cornering Lamps
  • 16" Aluminum Wheels
  • Air Filtration System
  • Fuel/Engine Information Center
  • Leather Seats

Major Available Options

  • Olympic Package
  • Power Tilt and Slide Sunroof
  • 6-way Power Passenger's Seat
  • Monsoon 8-Speaker System
  • Steering Wheel Mounted Radio Controls
  • 16" Chrome-Plated Aluminum Wheels
  • Heated Driver and Passenger Seats

For more information on the Buick Regal, visit Buick.com

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