I am not a smart man.
For the last few weeks, I was operating under the notion that our five-man stag party collective would be spending three nights in Lexington, Kentucky, making our way through part of Kentucky’s famed Bourbon Trail — which, by the way, is not an actual A-to-B trail, but rather a series of distilleries scattered around a good part of the state.
Had I been paying any attention whatsoever, I would have known that we were spending two nights inLouisville, Kentucky. That, of course, had no bearing on the trip itself — Louisville is swimming in bourbon, as well, and two nights is 33 percent easier on the ol’ wallet. Thankfully, I wasn’t the one in charge of planning.
I was the one in charge of driving.
GM, upon realizing that our rag-tag band of misfits was smack dab in the center of the new demographic toward which Buick is angling its more affordable offerings, loaned us a 2015 Buick Regal for the trip down and back. The Regal, now in its fifth generation, is a front-wheel-drive (AWD optional) midsize sedan based on the Europe-only Opel Insignia, and its European character shows through, namely in the rear-end design.
This specific Regal carries the unwieldy trim-level name of Premium II Group. In more sensible terminology, it’s the top-trim Regal, packing doodaddery like a premium sound system, navigation, keyless entry, and rear parking sensors. It’s loaded, as were we — loaded with anticipation, that is, for the trip.
(Just a heads up: This car and liquor stayed as far apart as humanly possible at all times during the trip. Take an Uber, call a cab, or use your own two legs. Never, and we mean never, drink and drive. Ever. Seriously. Seriously.)
The Regal is a very good road trip car, an assertion that we’ll break down into smaller, more specific reasons. We’ll start up front. The front passenger and I were both comfortable, with plenty of legroom on both sides of the center console. The Regal’s physical switchgear on both the wheel and the center stack took very little time to memorize, making it nice and easy to change music tracks and follow the navigation system on the fly. Having a multipurpose screen between the gauges meant that my eyes could stay forward the whole time, which was a good thing, because driving through Indiana was fraught with peril.
First, the trucks. I understand why truckers can only pass each other with a speed differential of 0.3 miles per hour (yet another reason autonomous 18-wheelers are a necessity), but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to be the last person in a long line of cars that are stuck waiting for one truck to pass another. Adaptive cruise control (part of the $1,195 Driver Confidence Package #2) worked like a charm here, bringing the car down from higher speeds and matching the ever-growing line of frustrated drivers.
Then, the Indiana Department of Transportation, otherwise known as INDOT, otherwise known as a collective of insane people who think it’s okay to close nearly 100 miles of the right lane with only two crews working on that entire 100-mile stretch. Every so often in the southern half of Indiana, traffic would come to a dead stop. It didn’t matter that the construction didn’t start until two miles down the road; we were stopping anyway. Forward collision warning wasn’t necessary here, but if you’re always concerned about coming around a blind corner and into a wall of stopped traffic, consider this the ultimate peace of mind.
(Lane-departure warning, on the other hand, kicked in entirely too frequently and was summarily cast out to sea for the entire trip.)
Somewhere between stopping for fuel and stopping for construction for what seemed like the twelfth time, I remembered that we had three adult men in the backseat, and that I should probably ask them how this midsizer’s rear-seat comfort was with three abreast. According to my rear-seated compatriots, the space was not too bad; shoulder and hip room were fine, and nobody’s knees were pressed into the front seatbacks. That said, buckling the middle seatbelt was a bit tough with all three people already seated, and all three mentioned that the seats might be a bit stiff. Seeing as the Regal had fewer than 1,000 miles on the odometer prior to the trip, I’m thinking they’ll soften up as they’re used more often.
As a group of men that are all pretty technologically “with it,” nothing delighted us more than having a Wi-Fi hotspot and 4G LTE data coming straight from the car. Road-trip tunes came by way of streaming music stored locally on the bachelor’s home computer, so to call it a data-heavy trip wouldn’t be doing it justice. All we needed to do was connect to the hotspot, and the Regal took care of the rest. Even with five devices connected, we never once had a hiccup in the music. It was pleasantly surprising.
In terms of ride quality, the Regal did a great job chewing up potholes and other pavement inconsistencies and spitting out just a tiny bit of noise and motion. Road noise changed from pavement type to pavement type, and it wasn’t exactly Lexus-quiet on the inside, but a little bit of music and conversation covered that up.
When we arrived in Louisville, we parked the car and … didn’t return to it until it was time to head home. Sure, it would have been nice to peruse the sights and sounds of town from the comfort (air-conditioned comfort, no less) of the Regal, but we wanted to walk, because we wanted to imbibe. Thus, with a Modest Mouse concert and other plans ahead of us, the Regal took up residence in a secure parking garage and waited for us to return.
After two days and nights of triple-digit heat indexes and humidity so thick we could nearly swim straight upward into the air, we turned around and headed home. Again, the benefits of the Regal made the trip seem much faster than it would otherwise — we had data, we had robots manning half the duty of driving, and we had plenty of time to ignore all the things we regretted doing that no one will ever hear about. No one.
The seats are also easy to vacuum out, which is good, because my friends left the equivalent of about five pounds of Rold Gold pretzel crumbs scattered about. The car’s front end is closer to Jackson Pollock than Dark Sapphire Blue right now, speckled and splashed with the gooey remains of winged invertebrates, but a quick wash should clean that up. If only that could have been said for the five of us.
Funnily enough, I didn’t realize it when arranging the loan, but the choice of car couldn’t have been more ideal. You see, the bachelor’s first car was a third-generation Buick Regal, which he received from his father, who passed away before he could see his son walk down the aisle. There will be tears at the wedding because of this, but by having a Regal with us for one last blast of freedom down I-65 and into the heart of bourbon country, it served as a good connection between what’s been and what’s to come.
It was a pretty good car, too.