Breaking in the Buick Regal GS

I took the new Buick Regal GS for a two day break in ride from May 2nd to May 3rd. We bought the car the previous week and there were several reasons for choosing the Regal. According to my wife, who's Chinese, it wasn't important which car to buy. As a foreigner coming from Scandinavia, the first thing I look for is safety, i.e. NCAP testing results.

My first choice of car was the Buick Lacrosse, but due to availability problems because of popularity I settled for the Regal GS. The Regal GS is in same price range as the corresponding Lacrosse 2.4 RMB 260.000,- before taxes, insurance, plates etc.

The fun part of buying cars here in China is that you can't really see the car you want to buy. The car dealers have a very limited range of cars in inventory and that's it. Again, as a foreigner it's extremely strange to buy something you have not seen nor test driven.

We did have some problems with the dealer 4S delivery; the car was dirty and not "spit shined" nor checked before delivery. GM has taken this problem to heart and are working on solving this problem for future buyers.

Some facts
Buick Regal GS
Engine: 2.4 L  / 182 hp / 172 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6 speed automatic
Top speed: a little above 200
Fuel economy: 9.7 l/100 km (our 1200 km ride)
Wheels: 18" / 245 front and back
In Europe this car is known as the Opel Insignia!

My driving experience: 24 years and more than 1 mill. kilometers on the tarmac. I used to drive very fast cars and also had fun participating in a few canon ball races in Europe with my friend and his Novitec Rosso custom Ferrari. Not that young anymore my reflexes are not what they used to be, though I still enjoy putting the pedal to the metal once in a while :-)

Now for the more serious part

The drive was designed both as a family trip and break-in ride. In Europe most people like to take their new car for a very long ride within the first weeks of purchase. We do know that this is important to avoid breaking in the car with "city driving".

The final destination was the city of Changshan purposely chosen because it presents the opportunity for many driving conditions; narrow roads, mountain roads, gravel and slippery road conditions.

On the highway - having my picture taken

The drive from Shanghai to Changshan went pretty smooth. We had a few stops on the way and general fuel economy was below 10 l/100 km. On the highway we tried to stay as legal as possible (100 - 140 most of the time - legal speed limit plus 20), though I did have my picture taken going 142 km/h on a 120 km/h stretch.

The most noticeable thing about driving the Buick Regal GS is the handling. When I needed to overtake on the highway, there was more than sufficient power when putting the pedal to the metal. It took me very little time to figure out how to enable all the horses in one go. One of the main differences between the stick shift and automatic is figuring out how to set all horses loose.

The 18" / 245 wheels had incredible grip on the highway and the car responds immediately. I tried to push the car hard when overtaking and it just sticks to the road like it was glued to the surface. One of the features I like is that you can monitor the tire pressure while driving. There was a noticeable change   in tire pressure especially because we had 35 degrees centigrade those two days.

Another really good feature is the ability to adjust the front seats. I have a  slipped disc in my lower back, but I could readjust the seat accordingly. I adjusted the seat several times during the drive, which is very simple, as my back got "tired" in a new location.

Driving at night

We arrived in Changshan in the evening and conditions were pretty good. Darkness had started to set in and I noticed another great feature of the car. When turning the light on the car changes. This is most definitely a safety feature that will save lives. When turning, as an example right, the light on the right hand side of the car increases and "sneaks" around the corner. This enables the driver to see more clearly on the sidewalk/bicycle lane.

Traction control system

I got up early in the morning to test the different safety features of the car. Most Chinese never test their cars in order to really know it. I have a tendency to always test everything and then some.

I drove to an area with lots of funny road conditions. My first pick was a gravel road to test the traction control system. Boy was I surprised! Flooring it without traction control only sent the wheels spinning, which was to be expected. After enabling the traction control the car changed completely. I didn't have a lot of wheel spin and the car could still accelerate surprisingly well. You can hear the system kicking in, but in my opinion, that shouldn't be held against the car.

Coming from Scandinavia I can imagine how nice this would be driving in snow and - 30 degrees celsius in winter.

ABS

What can I say? It works like a charm, less noisy than many other cars. But very good car control when slamming the brakes on gravel as well as a wet road.

Reversing

I had a little fun in the mountains, where the roads were too narrow for two large sedans. I met another 4 x 4 and he had problems going in reverse, which he had to according to the rules. My wife told me that the driver said he didn't know how to go in reverse except for parking.

Well, what to do? Simple, I put the car in reverse and went faster in reverse than the Chinese driving forward in front of me. The  close to 1 km reverse drive went pretty quick and the other driver was amazed and I had a lot of fun. My wife was a little scared as I didn't use the mirrors like they're taught here in China, I just turned my body and looked between the front seats while reversing.

Navigation system / GPS

The navigation system is true and extremely precise, though many of the new roads were missing. On the way home I tried to navigate Shanghai and most of the main roads were missing, so we had a lot of fun "driving in the fields". One of the things I like about the nav-system is that it's extremely fast in recalculating the route. I'm a foreigner, so I won't go in reverse on the highway or other main roads. I prefer to stay safe and drive the extra mile. The nav-system is also extremely good at warning you about the distance to the next exit as well as notifying you about staying right or left preparing for a turn. My brother in law (Chinese) missed an exit, but I got it only because of the GPS.

Pros

  • Has the "power" when needed.
  • Extremely good road grip.
  • Side impact airbags.
  • Lots of leg space for passengers.
  • Driver seat memory.
  • Extremely good front seat adjustments (I have problems in the lumbar area).
  • Large navigation/information screen.
  • Very good sound system; surround, MP3, DVD player etc.

Cons

  • Windows do not close automatically when locking the car, you might forget to close a window when leaving the car!
  • Mirrors do not "fold" in automatically.
  • Car doors do not lock automatically when the remote is out of reach. I experienced that when locking the car, sometimes the horn would not signal that the car was locked. I couldn't identify what specific combination of circumstances caused this.
  • Navigation system not in real dual language. All maps have street names in Mandarin, which could pose a problem for the expat driver. As an expat locating streets depend on cross streets and if you can't read mandarin you're in trouble.
  • Only automatic, should not be seen as criticism, I'm just an avid stick shift driver/racer.
  • Setting the "cruise control" is pretty tricky.
  • Rear window a little small when going in reverse.

Final word

Would I recommend this car to others?

Yes, this car has all you need; lots of space for your entire family, large trunk for luggage or baby strollers, lots of safety features and of course enough "horses under the hood" if needed. The handling of the car is a little above what I expected, which is pretty nice.

The price in China is significantly higher than in the US (once on the road), mostly due to all the taxes added to the price in the shop. On top of that you'd also have to add RMB 40.000,- or more to obtain a plate for Shanghai :-)

The only problem with a car like this is that "city driving" will be expensive in gasoline and the engine is basically running on sleep mode. Taking the car for a weekly "stretch and run" ride might be a good idea to clean out the engine.

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