(Just as I was finishing writing this story, GM announced it would abandon the Oldsmobile brand. Nevertheless, it will take a few years to do so the Intrigue included in this article is still very much in tune and might remain so for the next few years.) Too often, import sedans are being touted by automobile journalists who feel that they are the best in the world. Then come the Japanese cars and lastly, the American sedans. But what the hell is wrong with those American cars? Lately, I have had the opportunity to drive two fine General Motors intermediate sedans and though they were not free of blemishes (nor are the European or Japanese cars), I found they were not only fun to drive but in many ways superior to a lot of imports. These two cars were the 2001 Buick Regal GS and a brand-new 2000 Oldsmobile Intrigue Sterling Edition (the 2001 version is almost exactly the same except for a few minor details). For starters, I think that these two pieces of true American Iron (and some plastic) are much more affordable than many, if not most of their import competitors. I had just stepped down from a more than $55,000 Swedish car that I had liked. Still, I thought this pair of GM cars was well worth the comparison and at a cheaper price! Why is it that driving a Buick or Oldsmobile sound "cheaper" than driving an Audi or a Saab? Snobbish! Did you know that world-renowned watchmaker Bulgaria owns more than a dozen Buicks? And he is Italian! As a multi-millionaire, he could own Ferraris or Porsches! No! The man is a Buick fan! Let's get back to our two cars. These front-wheel powered sedans are built on similar platforms. But the cars differ in many ways. For starters, the Buick Regal has been keeping a more traditional look over the years while the Intrigue has gone a little farther in more modern design without "cloning" other cars, like many imports have. In any case, anyone can identify a Buick or an Olds from far away, which cannot be said for many other brands.
The platform, as I have already written, is similar for both cars and since the Buick was a tighter GS model, I barely felt any difference in roadhandling or comfort on both automobiles. My major complain would be of a choppy operating steering wheel early during cold mornings. When the system heats up, it gets a lot better. The test was done early during winter so it could be different during the warm season though I would not expect major differences. By the way, the cars were equipped with all-season tires that were just adequate in the snow or on ice. Traction control helped a lot here. Braking was also efficient, once again thanks to the ABS system that worked flawlessly (though both the TC and ABS would become inoperative when I used the foot operated parking brake to slide on ice). Under the hood, it's a different story. While the Olds was powered by a technologically advanced twin overhead cam V6, the Buick relied on the tried and true (but very antiquated) pushrod 3800 Series II V-6 engine with the blower on top. The Olds gave us a good 215 horsepower as the Buick pumped out a hefty 240 horses. While both engines were very powerful, the Buick mill delivered a lot more torque and that could be felt at any speed. Backing those V-6's were traditional four-speed automatic trannies. They also performed very well. If the Buick seems to have a great advantage in the engine department, for the interior, I preferred the Oldsmobile. The first reason is that the Olds provided much more rear legroom than the Buick, which is funny when you think that both cars are built, once again, on similar platforms. Then, there is the instrument panel. I preferred that of the Oldsmobile since it seemed better laid out than that of the Buick. But let’s point out that our Regal did not have a bad looking interior either. As far as trunk space, both automobiles offered almost the same amount and a very low sill. What is there left to say? I liked both cars. As far as design and interior is concerned, the Olds wins it easily. But for engine power and car smoothness and silence, the Buick comes on top. In any which way, both sedans were impressive. So why don't journalists praise these American cars more? Probably because many are too snobbish. That's the only reason I can find. Sorry boys!