Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Generous Spending

Almost a year and 22,000 miles later, our 2013 Buick Regal GS continues to impress onlookers, who deliver the "THAT'S not a Buick!" look, without fail. And it still brings out the absolute worst in me when I'm cruising alone. Part of it is my enjoyment of outmaneuvering other sporty sedans from Germany. The other part is that the speed comes so easily. And the GS is as composed at 110 as it is at 55, or so I've heard. Wink.

We are harder than most on our cars, racking up miles pretty quickly. Lola*, however, doesn't look much worse for wear. We've scuffed all four rims while overcoming the learning curve of her not-so-great outward visibility. The high trunk and beltline conspire with the lack of any cameras or auto-tilting side mirrors to make reverse-parking of every kind a little difficult. And we've lost two tires along the way, which I don't recommend. They're not cheap. The interior remains flawless, the ribbed-for-his-pleasure, high-bolster seats show no signs of wear and our Weather Tech mats have kept the floors pristine.

*We call her "Lola", after Billy Porter's portrayal of the lead in Broadway's "Kinky Boots". Why? Because she's RED. She's SEXY. And she's got BALLS.

The ownership experience has fallen short of our expectations, thus far. The best aspect of it would be Buick's social media team, which responds quickly and follows through on any issues. They were wonderful during our 2012 Regal Turbo experience, when our clutch blew within the first year. This time around, in the GS, every single oil change has resulted in a low oil warning the following day. And this has never been met with anything close to an apology from our local dealer. In this age of no accountability, the last response we got was, "I wish you hadn't topped it off yourself, you should have just brought it back in". Well, Mr. Not-So-Goodwrench, sorry if I keep the driving of a low-on-oil, $40,000 car to a minimum. Perhaps you should PUT THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF OIL IN THE CAR. Either your specifications are wrong or you're just not filling it properly. And finally, YOU failed at your job (four or five times). Why don't YOU drive to my house and top it off? Why should we be inconvenienced? Aggravating. Without any admission of culpability, he did give us a free coupon for the next oil service. We'll see if they get it right, next time.

The first blown Goodyear Eagle RSA was the result of an encounter with some broken pavement. The second appeared to be a manufacturer's defect–a bubble in the sidewall that traveled into the tread. Not only was it not covered by the Buick warranty, but the service advisor claimed clueless of any knowledge of a warranty from Goodyear (on an original equipment tire). He recommended I contact Goodyear, directly. Not a satisfactory answer, especially in light of the fact that we need the car every day. I can't let it sit without a tire (Regal GS has no spare) while I bicker with Buick and Goodyear. The dealer replaced the tire and I was out just shy of $275.

The biggest pain point has been the cost of basic maintenance. At about 20,000 miles, it became clear we needed a brake job: New pads all around and resurfaced rotors. The dealer estimate was $850. After wiping the coffee off my laptop, I called my local mechanic, who set about getting me an estimate. The front Brembo pads alone cost $350. This is the price we pay for performance. The savings from my private mechanic weren't enough to warrant the inconvenience and time lost in moving the car from the dealer to him. Now it's a month later and these new shoes still squeak and throw so much grit that our rims constantly look dusted in anthracite.

We've had an unresponsive Intellilink robot, buzzy Harman-Kardon speakers and subwoofer (Buick: your declining age demographics means that many new owners prefer LOUD Hip Hop/R&B/Rock over Lawrence Welk in the background. Learn from that.) and squeaking/groaning belts when turning the A/C on. None of which have been remedied during dealer visits. They did, however, manage to repair a blown tail light bulb. Bravo.

At our next service, we will complain about a fault in the auto-close moonroof, which bounces back open, sometimes.

Value has dropped more than expected. The original sticker was just shy of $40,000. We bought it with 300 miles on the OD at a gigantic discount. Currently, both NADA and KBB give us trade-in/retail values around $23,000 and $27,000, respectively.

Snarkasm aside, redemption comes when we get behind the wheel or catch our reflection in a store window. It's aggressive, planted, and determined on the road. It is comfortable on long cruises. Sipping on 93, it would get reasonable fuel economy if we didn't drive like fiends. And it looks. so. good.

But the honeymoon is over. Last night, we were chatting with a friend who bought a Kia Optima Limited at about the same time we took delivery of the Buick. We drove the Optima SX in our 2012 car search, but landed on our first Regal for its better composure and manual transmission. Other than oil changes, our friend's Optima hasn't cost him a dime. And when it does come time for him to service his brakes, he won't have to deal with the cost of designer shoes.

All of the driving goodness Regal GS delivers makes us want to drive it a lot and aggressively. Which means we will burn through more fashionista brakes and costly tires as this journey continues. Would I do it all again? No. Maybe a Regal Turbo automatic. Maybe with service at a different local dealer. But with two kids, one on the brink of college, we don't need to be spending money on performance car parts. Volvo offers free maintenance of wear and tear items in their current lease deal, and I love the S60 T5. Maybe a car like that would be better suited for us. Once I'm comfortable with the value/loan balance mix, I'll be embarking on a new search. And YES, I'll bring you along.