1996 Buick Regal Custom 3.8 from North America
I still can't believe GM sells new cars, when there are so many better options out there
So far I have had a check engine light for the purge canister solenoid, and the 90 degree elbow from the lower intake to the tensioner pulley rotting away, spraying coolant everywhere, and causing a 47 mile tow bill. I have owned the car for less than 1,500 miles.
The latter failure is due to G.M. using Dexcool in their vehicles. The Dexcool high silica content is corrosive to plastic, and the coolant runs through this 90 degree elbow, through the tensioner, and on to the heater core. It also runs through the front of the plastic upper intake manifold. Look for signs of small pooling on top of the intake to see if the manifold is about to fail.
I bought the car because it was extremely low miles and extremely clean. The elderly owner passed on unfortunately. I could not find a good low mile Taurus/Sable, and all the Hondas in this price range were very high miles.
This is an initial findings report. As a former G.M. driveability technician, I usually recommend avoiding G.M. vehicles except for the Buicks with the 3.8, despite the cooling system problems, which can easily be solved with a coolant flush. Transmissions can fail with the 2-3 up shift band if not serviced, power steering racks will moan and generally people will have them replaced instead of the fluid swapped, which usually cures this. Ignition switch failures are also common.
The quality of the car is definitely sub-par at best. The panel gaps on the exterior are poorly aligned, paint is cheap, plastics on the pillars do not fit well. The structure is a little unusual, in that there is an internal skeleton to which the uni body is designed. Cheap, thin sheet metal is placed over top of it, not welded to it, like in other cars. Push down on the roof to see what I mean. Door hinges are low quality and do not shut smoothly, and generally squeak and begin to sag over time.
The interior has gigantic gaps, to the point I think something is missing. There are some nice dash materials, but they are marred by a cheap plastic dash bezel and cluster. Seat material is not the best, and the cushions lose their support in about 30 to 45 minutes. The steering wheel is about the poorest design I have seen; thin rimmed in all places but the side where the spokes meet. The fake leather door inserts have very poor gathering and look cheap. Most of the controls work well, but are small and hard to discern without looking at them. The A/C and heater work fantastically, and it's not too hard to find a comfortable seating position in relation to the steering wheel.
Driving is another let down. The 3.8 is lusty, and has enough passing power and the transmission shifts smooth. I am averaging 24-26 a tank. The suspension tuning might be one of the worst I have encountered. It absorbs impacts very well, but has minimal rebound control, sending the Buick bouncing down the highway. My struts do not need to be replaced. The car plows immediately, and the inside rear corner loves to hike up and push the car even more. Turn in and road feel are almost non existent. The brakes provide long stopping distance with a non linear pedal travel. The car does track straight, and it's way over boosted steering is great in the parking lots and around town.
So you may wonder why on earth I bought it? Well for the price it is a tough deal to beat. Even with all its driving and build quality flaws, it is quiet, comfortable, roomy and economical. If you get a good one, these cars tend to last for many miles with minimal repairs to the power train, but you may have a lot of interior and accessory repairs. Parts are very cheap, and I got mine with less than 80,000 miles in like new condition for $3,700. Hard deal to beat. If you just need to get around and do it on the cheap, this car can work very well for you, just don't expect quality and you won't be let down.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 21st June, 2011
22nd Jun 2011, 07:28
You bought a 15 year old car and blame GM for parts that are old? You expect it to be like new. Buy a brand new car then.
22nd Jun 2011, 10:42
I have a 20 year old Plymouth that has hardly any gaps or deficiencies listed here, why should anyone expect less from a 15 year old Buick?
23rd Jun 2011, 07:14
It all depends on how it was maintained by the previous owner. If it was abused, the car manufacturer cannot be blamed for parts that wear out and are not replaced.
11th Jul 2011, 19:05
I want to clarify based on this comment, the car's interior is like new. The gaps were not created by warping over time, they are panel gaps. I am trying to give a fair assessment as to what to expect.
12th Jul 2011, 18:30
I doubt most people are going to have high expectations for a Buick from 1996 as far as fit and finish goes. But after all, what do you expect from a car that costs under $5K?
22nd Mar 2018, 01:56
Thanks for your awesome review sir. Very informative info, and will look into changing fluids!