The press kit that comes with the Buick Regal LS includes a booklet that compares the LS with competing brands in its class, such as the Honda Accord EX, Toyota Camry LE V6, Ford Taurus SE, Dodge Intrepid, and Mercury Sable LS. However, I beg to differ with that lineup. Although I was thrilled with the $53,000 Seville, this Buick costs almost half that, about $26,500, (admittedly with fewer accessories), and I would be just as satisfied with the Buick as I would the Cadillac. I would be happier still with the other $25,000 "in the bank."

More remarkable is the claim that the Buick Regal LS gets 20 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway -- pretty optimistic I would say for a 3.8-liter, V6 engine with automatic transmission. My calculations on actual trips showed 24.5 mpg, mostly highway driving. But that's not too shabby, either. In addition, the Regal rides and handles like a much more expensive car, claimed to be the result of its advanced independent sport-suspension system and traction control. I had no trouble negotiating the tight curves around hills in rural southern Ohio.

New for 2000 is the split-folding rear seat that lets you carry long items such as skis, fishing rods, and tent poles. Another nice touch are the three substantial clips in the rear to fasten infant seats which would be perfect for my son's triplets.

The standard engine is naturally aspirated and provides 200 hp at 5,200 rpm, or 225 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The supercharged version for the GS Model boosts output to 240 hp at 5,200 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm with a fuel economy projected at an almost unbelievable 18 mpg city, 27 on the highway.

The interior is comfortable and roomy. A specification not often provided is what I call shoulder room, the distance from the inside left front door to the inside right door. This varies somewhat from one spot to another, but I measured the distance in front of the backrest at shoulder height. The Buick Regal measures about 60 in. compared to my Cavalier at about 55 in. Four or five inches makes the difference between bumping elbows with passengers or not. All factors considered, I would not hesitate to buy this beauty if I needed a new car today.