Surfing the Web in the 2015 Buick RegalMidsize sedan gets 4G LTE hotspot.

Staying connected on the go just got easier with the addition of 4G LTE connectivity on the 2015 Buick Regal, and other select General Motors vehicles from Cadillac (including the new Cadillac ATS Coupe), Chevrolet and GMC. Powered by AT&T and branded as part of GM’s OnStar telematics services, the 4G LTE feature essentially turns a compatible vehicle into a rolling WiFi hotspot for up to seven devices.

We spent a weekend with the new Buick Regal, including some quality time using the 4G LTE hotspot. Connecting is easy once you know how; we found it similar to pairing a phone. From the home menu on the touch screen, we pressed the OnStar icon, then chose “WiFi Settings.”

OnStar 4G LTE settings on the Buick Regal's touch screen.

OnStar 4G LTE settings on the Buick Regal’s touch screen.

While we realize from a marketing standpoint it makes sense for GM to put its WiFi connectivity under the OnStar menu, we’d love to see a single button on the dash or the steering wheel to make connecting even faster. Although, it’s also possible to access the menu using voice commands by pressing the OnStar button located on the rearview mirror and speaking “WiFi Settings.”

Once in the settings menu, the display will show the name of the network and the WiFi password. We simply entered the info into our devices and were ready to go. While the car was moving or running in park, our passengers loved the strong signal and the reliable connection. They were able to browse websites, play online games, catch up on Facebook and watch YouTube videos.

View from the steering wheel while surfing the Web.

View from the steering wheel while surfing the Web.

The only hiccup we encountered was when the car was parked with the engine off. We scored a street spot with a fantastic view of the ocean on a beautiful day in Santa Monica, CA, and pulled out our laptop to get some work done. Even with the electronics on, the car would turn itself off after several minutes and the signal was lost. We had to press the Regal’s start button and re-connect our device quite a few times over the space of a couple of hours. When it worked, however, we had full bars and everything loaded quickly.

While it might not make sense to spring for the 4G LTE feature if you have a smartphone with unlimited data, it’s perfect for people who want to use their WiFi-enabled laptops and tablets. And the Regal’s twin USB ports ensures you’ll keep your device fully charged.

Currently, GM’s 4G LTE is only available on select models. Service is free for the first three months after the vehicle purchase, then owners must pay for access. Plans range from $5 a month for OnStar subscribers ($10 for non-subscribers) for 200 MB of data, to $50 a month for 5GB of data. Also available is a one-time, 12-month flat rate that includes 10 GB of data for $150 for OnStar subscribers, and $200 for non-subscribers. Even better, existing AT&T customers can add the service to their Mobile Share plan for $10/month.

Update: In response to our preference for a dedicated WiFi button, Stuart Fowle, an OnStar spokesperson, tells us the number of buttons on the new Regal was reduced per customer feedback, and that adding a hard WiFi button would have been “tricky.”

With regard to our signal loss, Fowle explains there is a second “accessory mode” on GM vehicles with pushbutton start that keeps the electronics running for about an hour, depending on how loud the radio is and how many lights are on.

“If you just tap the start button (foot off the brake) it goes into a basic mode where only a few components power on and it automatically turns off quickly. If you hold the button down for about 10 seconds, the car goes into an extended accessory mode. All the screens, radio and HVAC fan power on and the car stays powered on until it goes into a battery protect mode that keeps you from killing the battery completely,” Fowle says.

So, the Buick Regal still might not take the place of an office, but with the right tricks, we can at least be productive one hour at a time. And with a better view.

Buick Regal, General Motors, 4G LTE, Wifi, hotspot, AT&T, OnStar

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