$26,360 - $28,860

Expert Review:Autoblog

2011 Buick Regal – Click above for high-res image gallery

It was cold and rainy last November when we first drove an early prototype of the 2011 Buick Regal in Michigan. The weather was lousy, but our short time with the car intrigued us. There were far fewer complaints about conditions last month when we spent time with the sport sedan on the famed Nürburgring in Germany – its home turf. As it moves closer to arrival, Buick's newest family member once again showed us its moves in the mountains of Southern California.

We spent the better part of a sunny spring day driving both the normally-aspirated and turbocharged models – each with automatic transmissions – in an attempt to see how the imported European challenger runs on clean and dry domestic pavement. How does the four-door sedan perform in this new arena? Is it tough enough to compete in the mid-size segment? Most importantly, is the Buick Regal good enough to accomplish its goal?

Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

The Buick Regal is really an Opel Insignia that was supposed to be a Saturn Aura, but that's immaterial now. Confusing brand nomenclature aside, what does matter is that a German-made mid-size front-wheel drive sport sedan (built on GM's Epsilon II platform) is coming to North America this year, and it's a true contender.

Following in the wake of the Buick Enclave and Buick LaCrosse, two vehicles that have genuinely put the brand back into the ring, this newest addition arrives with a European design that will turn heads with its fresh, modern styling.

This is a very competitive bracket, so Buick has decided to only to launch premium CXL models for now (an entry-level CX trim will arrive next year and we're holding our breaths for a promised high-performance Regal GS model in the future). Standard CXL models are fitted with a normally-aspirated 2.4-liter DOHC inline-four, and thanks to direct injection, the all-aluminum engine is rated at 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The mill is mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission (a Hydra-Matic 6T45), which is the only transmission available with this powerplant. The second model, known as the CXL Turbo, features a turbocharged version of the same engine rated at 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. For now, the turbo's standard gearbox is also a six-speed automatic (an Aisin AF40), but a six-speed manual has been scheduled for introduction later this year. All CLX models are also just front-wheel drive (the upcoming performance-tuned "GS" will likely be fitted with all-wheel drive, but no manual transmission).

Manufactured in Russelsheim, Germany (to be followed by a plant opening in Canada next year), the Regal arrives in North America with only minor modifications. Buick pulled the summer tires off and replaced them with all-season rubber, then made a few suspension tweaks for good measure. The rear sway bar was slightly thinned, the shock settings altered and some of the bushings changed. As expected, the four-door has been stripped of Opel badging both inside and out and wears a traditional Buick waterfall grille. Ready to step into the ring, this handsome contender looks good.

With both the normally-aspirated and turbocharged models at our disposal, it was time to drop into the driver's seat and hit the road.

Like its exterior, the Regal's cabin is also engaging. Once the door opens, your eyes take in a tasteful mix of leather, wood grain (faux), and metal even before you settle into the seat. When your derrière does drop to the leather, the seats are European-firm while still being very comfortable. They are bolstered, but a bit wider than our 190-pound (6-foot 2-inch) frame really needed. We attempted to adjust the headrest (it was lightly pressing into the back of our hair), but moving it upwards only forced it further forward, so we gave up and left it all the way down.

We like the contrasting colors on the dashboard (dark up top, light down low), the brightly-finished door handles and the fit and finish that reminded us of its larger LaCrosse sibling. However, we had a few minor gripes with the cabin. First, the primary round gauges are far too embellished for our simple minds with numbers and hash marks all over the place. Second, there was an annoying glare on the primary instrument dials and it appears that the center console buttons were designed before they were assigned a function, as there doesn't appear to be any calculated logic to the placement.

Nevertheless, with the twist of the Buick's retractable key (a dead ringer for Volkswagen's "switchblade" fob) the normally-aspirated engine spun to life under the hood. Transmission lever pulled into "Drive," we left the hotel and crossed the city towards the mountains.

In urban settings the Regal drives like your average European front-driver sedan (think Audi A4 2.0T FWD, but with a conventional transmission). The suspension tuning is good – the Regal takes the potholes, bumps, and broken pavement with cool indifference – and power from the well-isolated four in front of the firewall is adequate, but not strong. (It earns a very respectable 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, so the trade-off is worth it.)

Once we hit the mountains (nearly the exact route we trekked in a Lotus Evora just weeks ago), the Buick seemed to wake up. We hit the first few corners rather gingerly, but then gained some confidence as we racked up the miles. Pretty soon, we were driving at about 70 percent without drama. Most FWD sedans start to plow at this point, reminding the driver that they are pushing too hard. The Regal didn't seem bothered, so we never backed off.

After a couple of hours of driving, we hopped out to grab the keys of a turbocharged model. In addition to the welcomed horsepower and torque, the turbo variant is fitted with larger brakes and may be ordered with a more aggressive wheel/tire package (the standard wheels are 18-inch alloys wrapped in 235/50R18 tires, while 19-inch alloys fitted with 245/40R19 tires are optional).

Regals with turbocharged powerplants are also offered with Buick's new Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS) that regulates the adaptive suspension, steering effort, transmission map and throttle response. On vehicles so-equipped, the IDCS system replaces the single large "Stability Control" button on the dashboard with three buttons (Sport, Tour and Stability Control). Pressing the Sport button firms up the ride, increases steering effort and makes the transmission and throttle response the way it should be (we assume Tour is fairly softer, but we really couldn't tell). We did notice that when everything was normal the steering effort felt too light. Flustered, we simply left the Sport button engaged. If you really aren't in the mood to play with the buttons, IDCS is intelligent enough to automatically adapt the vehicle's suspension settings within milliseconds when it senses the driver's steering or throttle inputs are more aggressive or during an emergency maneuver.

We never noticed the larger brakes on the turbo model (the standard setup seemed fine), but we could tell that the steering effort was marginally heavier and throttle response was more aggressive thanks to IDCS. Driven back-to-back, we credit the turbo Regal's superior performance to the additional 86 lb-ft of grunt that allowed us to pull out of corners quicker and accelerate to pass slower cars (especially at our 6,000-foot elevation). We simply couldn't push hard enough to notice any additional cornering grip, or more refined suspension tuning, on public streets.

There is no question about it though, the Buick Regal handles like a champ. However, and unfortunately, it may have a bleeding cut under its right eye.

It's the steering feel. While the system was accurate (we could hit any squirrel that we aimed at on the backcountry road), it was just too light and incommunicative. The tiller on the normally-aspirated model (a non-variable steering rack) felt like a giant rubber band was yanking it back to dead center when we moved it to the left or right. The turbo model (with IDCS) was better. However, it still had an annoyingly numb feedback. It was just boring. (In Buick's defense, we were told that the steering feel is still being refined.)

Other than that minor distracting blemish, the Buick Regal impressed us. Quite a bit, in fact.

Buick has positioned its new mid-size sedan as a direct fighting competitor to the Acura TSX and Volvo S60, which we accept. However, we'd also like to add the Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Maxima and Mazda6 to that list... and we can find more to throw into that expanding bracket. Of the aforementioned cars, our seat-of-the pants impression says that the Buick Regal does come out on top in an imaginary "front-wheel drive sports sedan" contest. Hmm... that sounds like a good idea.

But are buyers solely looking for that? Consumers shopping in this segment are as diverse as the offerings, and trying to predict shopping trends is risky. The Enclave and LaCrosse were an easy sell. Buick simply had to bring a decent product into its showroom and traditional customers would stay (book a well-known fighter and the seats sell). The Regal has a much more difficult job: to lure a new, younger generation. This is a contender that has fought on other shores successfully (both the European and Chinese market savor the Regal), but it will now be competing as a relative unknown in North America. Making matters worse, this is a match being held in Buick showrooms, a venue not familiar to the Gen X and Gen Y crowd.

Our three drives say the 2011 Buick Regal is a good fighter, in a good ring, in a venue that is really turning itself around. While the new four-door isn't going to defeat all of its competitors in every bout, it is capable enough to win a decent share of prize money, which is exactly the type of challenger Buick needs in its showroom.

Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Badge Engineering Is Alive And Well At The New GM

2011 Buick Regal CXL

2011 Buick Regal CXL - Click above for high-res image gallery

Haven't we seen this play called before? Take a well-regarded European model, tweak it for the U.S. market, slap on a badge from a beleaguered North American brand, and hope for a touchdown. Indeed, the Buick Regal conforms to what has become General Motors' version of the spread offense. Never mind that this wasn't a winning strategy for Saturn, which tried selling various derivatives of Opel models from The General's European operations before its demise – GM is back at it with the Regal.

Dredging up a name from the past is a curious move for a brand that wants to reinvent itself to appeal to a younger audience. (Even more curious is that the Regal moniker has dubious value, having been hung on all manner of mediocre and mostly badge-engineered cars over the past four decades.) Yet for all the skepticism inherent in the "new" GM going back to its old playbook, the Regal might actually be the car that makes this offense click.

Continue reading...

Photos copyright ©2010 John Neff / AOL

With a base price of $26,245, the midsize Regal CXL is surely an affordable entry-luxury sedan. It's turned out well enough that we can certainly see it tricking the uninformed into thinking it costs much more. Of course, GM is playing its own tricks, meaning that the price goes up pretty quickly for the more desirable trim levels. For instance, you'll have to add $2,500 to the bill for the turbocharged, 220-horsepower version of the car (the model we're not reviewing here). GM has also promised a cheaper Regal, one with cloth seats, and a sportier model, the Regal GS, for 2012. Pricing for the GS model has yet to be announced, but with a loaded Regal CXL Turbo running some $34,000, the new top-of-the-heap won't come cheap.

The Regal makes a good enough first impression, with several visual cues to tell you it's a near-luxury sedan, like the chrome window trim and attractively simple alloy wheels. Buick's color palate is heavy on metallic earth tones, no doubt chosen to make sure that every Regal on the road at least leaves the factory looking classy. Even parts of the design that seem, shall we say, "inspired" by other brands (like the BMW-esque bustle on the trunk or the wannabe Infiniti front end) tell you you're looking at something better than a Chevrolet.

2011 Buick Regal CXL side view2011 Buick Regal CXL front view2011 Buick Regal CXL rear view

But the Regal's nice looks are fleeting. The longer you live with the car out in the wild, parking it next to other vehicles, the more obvious the incongruities in its design become. There's a noticeable lack of flow between the front and the back, and viewed in profile, the proportions are off as well, with the front looking too heavy and too long. It's almost as if the designers carved up their task, saying, "I'll take everything from the A-pillar forward, you take the C-pillar back, and we'll do the rest later."

Inside, the problems are more basic. The instrument panel, seating and door trim are all stylish, but the materials are uneven in quality and color. The interior of our tester was a brown-over-tan GM calls "Cashmere" (the car we used for photos came with a different and darker color combination), but like so many two-tone interiors, the shades of color varied depending on the type of plastic or the finish of the material. If parts of the Regal interior feel cheap, like the austere back seat, where the nice door panel accents from the front are missed, we can chalk it up to being pretty typical for this category. But we have to call out the corporate GM steering wheel for scorn. It's trimmed with a faux-aluminum plastic piece that flexes when squeezed, giving off a noticeable squeak in the process.

2011 Buick Regal CXL interior2011 Buick Regal CXL front seats2011 Buick Regal CXL gauges2011 Buick Regal CXL door panel

Even so, this kind of stuff would be easy enough to live with were the ergonomics of the Regal's audio and navigation system not so atrocious. Why GM didn't equip it with a version of its stellar touchscreen system we have no idea, but the kludge of buttons, knobs and controllers is a deal breaker for any vehicle pretending to be a premium product.

While the design of the Regal's dashboard "button field" is nicely symmetric, there's neither rhyme nor reason to the layout. Even more random is the rotary controller on the center console behind the gearshift lever, resembling an even more dimwitted iDrive knob. Yet this cheap and seemingly tacked-on piece lacks both the tactile quality of the BMW controller and its functionality. Example? At times, the system requires the driver to press a numbered button to make a selection on the screen, despite the presence of both a second rotary controller and a four-axis joystick on the center stack.

2011 Buick Regal CXL navigation system2011 Buick Regal CXL touch screen controls

At least the Regal is otherwise comfortable. Despite its interior shortcomings, it's a pleasant enough place to spend time behind the wheel. The way the instrument panel wraps into the doors is a bit of form-over-function, though the design doesn't intrude on the driver's knee room quite as badly as the Regal's sister vehicle, the Buick LaCrosse. The seats are clad in decent leather and are supportive enough for the average driver. There's plenty of room in both the front and back for normal-sized people, as well. Visibility is okay, at least by today's diminished standards, though it can be hard to judge just how long the back end is.

GM is aggressively marketing the Regal as an honest-to-goodness German-engineered sports sedan, which – at least in the case of the CXL tester – is like calling Coors Light a real German beer. Maybe you can make a case for the turbo Regal models having some pretense to sportiness, but the basic Regal is powered by GM's 2.4-liter direct-injected Ecotec four-cylinder engine, and there's no way its 182 horsepower is going to titillate anyone in Germany. Certainly not with only 172 pound-feet of torque on hand to motivate the Regal's 3,600 pounds. GM's six-speed automatic is the only transmission available on this model, and it does a yeoman's job here, returning a commendable 30 miles per gallon on the highway. But this drivetrain combination is not one that's going to impress anyone with its smoothness, power or sound.

2011 Buick Regal CXL engine

It's this last point – sound – that's perhaps most frustrating, because it's one of the few areas left where near-luxury cars can truly differentiate themselves from their everyday brethren. GM has dropped the ball here in two ways. The first is that the engine sounds so grating, like a leaf-blower on full boil, that you'll be reminded to stop at the hardware store to pick up compost bags. The Regal is not the first GM car to be fitted with a version of the 2.4-liter Ecotec, but it could have been the first that didn't sound like this. If there's anything worse than the sound of the Ecotec, it would be the hiss of the Regal's sunroof. When the shade is closed, there's nary a problem. But with it open, you'd swear the sunroof was cracked even when it isn't due to the amount of wind noise present.

So there are lots of details that seem like they didn't get worked out prior to the Regal's launch. Or maybe there were so many compromises that had to be made to sell essentially the same vehicle in Europe, China and the U.S. that some things were bound to be left off. That said, the Regal does rise above the sum of its flaws once you've got it out on the road. Its handling is good for a mid-size sedan, with a comfortable suspension that picks a good middle ground between firm and floaty, even at high speed. For a front-wheel-drive vehicle, understeer is minimal and the Regal doesn't have problems with torque steer under throttle.

2011 Buick Regal CXL rear 3/4 view

But even when the Regal feels best, zipping past traffic on a freeway commute, it still feels like a pretty average, everyday car. GM's list of Regal competitors is a pretty uninspired group, consisting of the Acura TSX, the front-wheel-drive version of the Audi A4, and the Volkswagen CC. Other models that seem to fit the comparison include the Mazda6 and the Hyundai Sonata. As a whole, these are the sorts of cars that manage to rise a small notch above the common Camrys, Accords and Malibus of the world. They do so by offering just a bit more style or substance. The Regal certainly has both, if only just a bit.

Photos copyright ©2010 John Neff / AOL

2011 Buick Regal – Click above for high-res image gallery

There's an odd bit of historical deja vu at work here. Back in the late '60s and early '70s, General Motors wanted to shift a few sporty-ish four-cylinder models from its Opel division into America, so they turned to their Buick dealers. This didn't work out exactly as planned – merchandising these odd European ducks in an outlet best known for sober doctor's cars meant that the GT, Manta and Kadett never managed to make much of a dent in North America's automotive landscape. This time out, with the Opel Insignia-derived 2011 Buick Regal, GM knows it needs massively better results.

This is a Buick the likes of which we have never seen before.
While attending an early drive event for the new Regal last week, we reminded vice-chairman Bob Lutz about the last time his company attempted to sell Opels in Buick showrooms. He laughed his trademark raspy laugh, and reminded us that Car and Driver so loathed the 1968 Kadett that their review featured it photographed in a junkyard. With characteristic candor, Lutz tells us, "It actually wasn't a very good car." Of course, Maximum Bob knows full well that GM can't afford another lost in space Kadett. Does the Regal have what it takes to mollify these "sins of the father" and put Buick on the right track? Click through to the jump to find out.

Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.

As far as new car previews go, the conditions for our Buick drive weren't exactly auspicious – cold, rainy, slate gray November mornings in Michigan have a way of dulling both spirits and expectations. Thankfully, the rain would relent long enough for us to get our driving in, and as it turned out, GM had lined up a more interesting cocktail of vehicles for us to sample than we expected. Not only did we find a full-dress 2011 Buick Regal, but also a stock Opel Insignia, a pair of "Regalized" Insignias (Opels that had been given the full slate of changes GM will give the car as a Buick in North America), a LaCrosse and – wait for it – a sinister black Insignia OPC (below) – the latter being a car we've admired at European auto shows but never figured we'd have the chance to drive. Suddenly, the morning was looking a bit brighter.

We would start our day with a brief drive of the LaCrosse over damp rural roads. The LaCrosse is a full-size sedan we have driven and enjoyed before on its own merits. It's reasonably good to drive considering its intended market, has a pretty wrapper and gave us hope anew for Buick when we first got our mitts on it. But it isn't sporting – that's not its purpose in life. It competes more with automotive sleeping pills like the Lexus ES350. In marked contrast to the competent but sleepy LaCrosse, with the smaller Regal, Buick officials have promised us a genuine sport sedan – something that Buick hasn't really delivered in our lifetimes. You can understand our skepticism.

The Opel of Our Eye

After our stint in the LaCrosse, we hopped into the bog-standard Insignia, Opel badges and all. Hoo-boy, now here we found a horse of a different color. Shorter than the LaCrosse by about half a foot, it drives smaller still. From parking lot velocities on up, everything immediately felt more connected and engaging – steering effort is higher and something approaching genuine feedback is telegraphed from the summer tires through the quicker rack as speeds build.

What's more, the Epsilon II chassis feels remarkably more pinned down in rolling corners than the LaCrosse, enough so that we actually appreciate the distinctly un-Buick level of bolstering in the seats. There's plenty of power from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the pedals felt nicely firm underfoot, and while we weren't really pushing that hard (wet autumn leaves on the road and a GM chaperone in the passenger seat tends to temper one's exuberance), the six-speed automatic gearbox made consistently smart decisions as well. All-in, it's not just a competent package – as a driver, it's a genuinely enjoyable steer. The Insignia is – dare we say it – sporty.

Lost in Translation?

Of course, GM has also pulled the ol' bait-and-switch on the American public before – plying us with genuine European goods only to clinic out the edge and interest in favor of something more in-line with America's stereotypically softer expectations. Sure enough, before hopping into the Regal-spec test cars, we learned that on the road to becoming a Buick, GM engineers dialed in a bit more compliance into the Insignia's suspension, added more sound deadening, and switched to all-season tires. Oh, dear. Are we doomed to repeat history?

In a word: No. It's true that GM has seen fit to reduce the diameter of the rear anti-sway bar by 0.04 inches, fiddled with the shock tuning and swapped out the tires with all-season rubber (18-inch Michelin Pilot MXM4s), but the result is far from a marshmallowy mess. It's appreciably quieter inside (GM has fitted the sound insulation package from the overseas Insignia diesel range to the U.S. car) and although it's absolutely correct to say that the Euro-spec Insignia offers a bit more feedback both aurally and tactilely through one's fingertips, the handling difference is hardly night-and-day. Our Regal-spec tester's ride and handling balance is certainly competitive with GM's targets: the Acura TSX and the (soon to depart) Volvo S60, along with higher-end models from the Volkswagen Passat and Mazda6 ranges. In fact, had we not driven the Euro-spec car to begin with, it's possible that we would've never missed the additional feedback.

Forced Induction = Fun

The front-drive Regal will arrive next spring carrying a normally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder packing 182 horsepower (at 6,700 RPM) and 172 pound-feet of torque (at 4,900 RPM) paired with a six-speed automatic that offers a +/– manual shift gate but no paddles. Soon thereafter, the 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection Ecotec we drove will come on stream, delivering 220 hp (at 5,300 RPM) and a healthy 258 lb-ft. of torque from just 2,000 RPM. If that's not enough, GM officials pledge that a six-speed manual transmission will eventually be offered as well.

During our brief drive, we found that the 2.0T delivers plenty of muscle with minimal torque steer, spooling up quickly and offering good passing power. GM says the combination should be good for a 0-60 mph time in the mid seven-second range (a couple of tenths quicker than a TSX), a claim that strikes us as totally believable – if not a mote pessimistic. The engine makes generally encouraging noises and turbo "whistle" has been almost completely eliminated (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of taste), the latter being a trait more noticeable in the Euro Insignia. The EPA has yet to sign off on official fuel economy numbers, but GM is confident that it will net 30 mpg on the highway out of the standard engine and 29 mpg with the premium-recommended turbo.

Although the turbo model will have an optional "Interactive Drive Control System" that allows the driver to individually tailor suspension firmness, gearshift times, throttle response and steering effort (paired with larger 19-inch Goodyear Eagle RSA tires) to one of three modes ("Normal," "Sport," and "Touring") the standard front Macpherson struts and rear multilink suspension package works so well that we don't see the need to spend more for the added weight and complexity of the adaptive system.

Beauty that Goes Without Saying

You'll notice that we have yet to discuss the way the Regal looks – that's because more than any aspect of the design, the exterior speaks for itself. This sedan's bodywork is taut, tidy and beautiful, with a minimal amount of chrome frosting and unnecessary jewelry that Buick is known for. Ventiports? Nuh-uh. Sweep-spear graphic? Not unless you count that nifty plunging character line that originates in the leading edge of the driver's door. Aside from a new grille, revised lighting units (more for federal compliance than anything else) and new side mirror glass (ditto), this is pretty much unfiltered Insignia, and that's just fine by us. We even like the pattern on the alloy wheels.

The Regal's interior is similarly full of win. It's easy to find a comfortable seating position, visibility is quite good and the dashboard is attractive, modern and generally well laid-out. Optioned-up cars with the touchscreen navigation may find there are a few too many buttons on the dash, but the arrangement is easier to use than the too-crowded controlfest that is the LaCrosse's center stack, and we appreciate the use of satin metallic finishes and solid feeling switchgear. Rear seat room is reasonable (think: VW Passat, not Honda Accord), but at 14.25 cubic feet, the trunk is downright spacious.

Why It Is What It Is

Crisp exterior. Turbo power. Good driving dynamics. Well-resolved cabin. If you're beginning to get the picture that the 2011 Regal is unlike any Buick you've encountered before, you're getting with the program. There are a couple of reasons for this. Executives will tell you that this brand, best known for providing transportation to legions of card-carrying AARP members, cannot afford to sit idly by as its consumer base quite literally dies out. Like every other automaker, GM wants Buick to attract younger buyers, and it sees more dynamic, tech-rich offerings as the way to do that.

Of course, there's another reason why this is a Buick unlike any other: It was going to be a Saturn before GM faltered into bankruptcy and emerged with a decimated portfolio of brands and a new set of marching orders. This explanation makes a good deal more sense as the Regal's styling and overall demeanor fits more comfortably with what we've come to expect from recent Saturns.

As history tells us, despite being good, solid products, ported-over Opels like the Astra and Aura didn't actually help Saturn stay in orbit. Come to think of it, decent Euro-influenced products weren't enough to help Oldsmobile afloat, either (like Saturn, Olds had GM's best product lineup in place when it shuffled off this mortal coil). All of which has us a bit worried for the Trishield's prospects. Good as the new Regal is – and it is very good – we can't help but worry that the brand's substantial baggage will make it hard for GM to convince younger buyers that they'd really rather have a Buick – especially in segments filled with talented models wearing more prestigious badges. Still, GM has to start somewhere, and it's already made some good headway with its Enclave and LaCrosse, so we'll have to give them the benefit of the doubt – for now.

Dollars and Sense?

Pricing will have a lot to do with this Buick's chances for success, but we don't have firm numbers just yet. Officials tell us that we should look for Regal to undercut the competition in the same way that the LaCrosse stickers for less than its chief rival from Lexus. If that's the case, we can expect the 2.0T to be $1,500-$2,000 less than the Acura TSX (which starts at $29,310), and the 2.4 model will be cheaper still, giving it some elbow room under the LaCrosse's $27,085 MSRP.

We're Down with OPC

Oh – and what of the OPC, that indelicate looking all-wheel drive, six-cylinder turbocharged monster? GM flew over an example of its 325-horsepower Audi S4 competitor to show us "the bandwidth of their toolbox" (*ahem*). At a stopover point, Lutz tells us that it's "time to shock the market into a new awareness of what Buick can be", and that something like it would be just the ticket to "sock them in the eye."

Or the kidneys, we suspect. A quick spin reveals that the OPC is a loud and thunderous thing that would be epic fun on roads with fewer frost heaves than those in Michigan, and it'd be a fantastic weekend toy. But even with its adjustable suspension, we're not sure how many buyers outside of areas with glycerin smooth tarmac would want this sort of thing as a daily driver. Still, we love the OPC's menacing bodywork, its spidery alloys, its beautiful straightjacket seats, and we could learn to love its notchy rifle-action six-speed manual shifter, if only it meant we could dip into the 2.8-liter's considerable reserves again and again.

So it begins...

Officials tell us that this is just the opening salvo. With everything from miserly 1.6-liter inline-four front-drivers to the scorching force-fed V6 grips-at-all-paws OPC already on sale in Europe (to say nothing of wagon and five-door liftback bodystyles), GM promises that we'll see a broader Regal lineup very soon. Regardless of what ends up in U.S. showrooms, it's safe to say that this is a Buick the likes of which we have never seen before. It's also safe to say there are no junkyard photo shoots in its future. All-in, this new Regal appears to be a very complete car – but whether it's the right car remains to be seen.

Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.

2011 Buick Regal on the Nürburgring – Click above for high-res image gallery

The thought of holding a vehicle launch drive for a new Buick sedan at Germany's Nürburgring race track would have been considered utterly absurd 18 months ago to just about anyone except Jim Federico. Federico is General Motors' vehicle line executive for its global mid-size car platform code-named Epsilon II. In those late pre-bankruptcy days, few outside of Federico's team had any idea what Buick had in its pipeline.

In that intervening period, Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer have all passed into the history books and Saab has been sold off. The car that was intended to have become the second generation Saturn Aura has now been re-purposed in North America as the all-new Buick Regal. We had a brief introduction to the car last fall, but when the time came to really exercise the Regal, Buick invited us to its birthplace in Germany to show off its moves. Is the Regal really a genuine European sports sedan as our title claims? Read on to find out.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. and General Motors

The first Epsilon II vehicle to come to market was the Opel Insignia in mid-2008. The Regal for North America was a comparatively late addition to the Epsilon II lineup, although the Buick version has been part of the plan from day one for the Chinese market, and as such launched just months after the Insignia in late 2008.

The GM Europe engineering team working out of Russellsheim, Germany has primary responsibility for development of the mid-size platform with additional input and support coming from engineering and design teams in the United States and Asia. While developing the Insignia, the intent has always been to take it upmarket from the European-only Vectra it replaced to compete directly with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Federico and his team wanted the Insignia to be taken seriously as a German sports sedan, something the Vectra never really achieved.

Buick already offers an Epsilon II-based model in North America as the LaCrosse. The Regal, however, is being targeted at a very different customer than its larger brother. The LaCrosse is more luxury oriented with Buick seeing the Lexus ES350 and Acura TL as its primary competitors. The Regal will be marketed as a more sporting sedan aimed at the Acura TSX and Volkswagen CC.

Like GM's new global compact (Delta II) platform, this larger architecture was developed to conform with all the different regulatory requirements in Europe, North America and Asia at the same time. In order to do that, the structural engineers spent months going through hundreds of thousands of simulation iterations in order to create a common design. In spite of all the emphasis on commonality, there are still elements that just have to be unique to each market, including the car's head and tail lamps, rear view mirrors and grille.

Federico explained that the development team decided early on to make the regionally unique components plug and play. For example, the different rules in Europe and the U.S. require different headlamp innards. It's possible to remove the lamp module from a German Insignia and simply plug in a U.S.-spec Regal unit. The mounting points and wiring connectors are common on all variants. Similarly, the Regal's signature waterfall grille can be popped out and replaced with an Opel grille. Even under the skin, the bumper bars from the different variants can be swapped out with just a few bolts.

This flexibility has allowed GM to easily produce multiple variants of the Insignia/Regal on the same assembly line. The Opel factory in Russellsheim has been building production Regals for North America for several weeks now and will continue to do so for another year. Before driving the Regal we toured the Russellsheim factory and saw Regal sedans and Insignia sedans, hatchbacks and wagons interspersed on the assembly line.

U.S.-spec Buick Regal being assembled alongside an Opel Insignia OPC Sports Tourer

The first boatload of U.S.-spec Regals arrived at the port of Newark, New Jersey last week and more are on their way in the coming weeks as GM prepares to start selling its new mid-size sedan in late May. The Russelsheim plant is scheduled to build about 26,000 Regals in calender 2010 with another 14,000 in 2011 before the Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant ramps up production and takes over.

Aside from the Buick grille and the inner details of the lamp modules, the Regal is virtually indistinguishable from the Insignia sedan, and that is a very good thing. Design manager Malcolm Ward explained that the team aimed to create a look that was muscular and sculpted while at the same time having very low aerodynamic drag. Depending on the body style, suspension and wheel/tire package, the Insignia's drag coefficient ranges from 0.25-0.30.

Since the Insignia was designed for the German market where triple digit autobahn speeds are not uncommon, low drag is not enough. Managing lift is also critical to maintaining stability at autobahn speeds. The rear deck has been shaped to keep lift to a minimum without having to resort to any extra spoilers, at least on the sedan. The European-only (for now at least!) five-door hatch does have a small lip spoiler thanks to its shorter deck.

The Regal's interior is also common with the Insignia but distinct from the LaCrosse. The LaCrosse gets a broad, flat dashboard with a floating gauge pod and center cluster. The Regal's design has more of a dual cockpit layout with a driver-oriented layout. Thus, the Regal has a cozier feel although its interior volume is comparable to the LaCrosse. The materials have a high quality feel and fit and finish was consistently excellent across all of the cars that we sampled.

One of our biggest complaints about the LaCrosse since day one has been its enormous A-pillars, which cause substantial blind spots. The Regal pillars are considerably slimmer and overall visibility is superior to the LaCrosse in all directions. According to Federico, the engineering team is working on slimmer pillars for the LaCrosse as well and we may see a running change next year.

The Regal has four inches less between its axles so the back seat isn't as commodious as the LaCrosse, but there is still plenty of room for two adults or three kids across the rear bench. The front seats are the same as those in the LaCrosse, which means they are very comfortable. However, the seats in the more sporting Regal are a bit wide and drivers may find them somewhat lacking in lateral support when they hit the twisty stuff.

All Regals will be mid-level CXL models with leather interiors for the duration of the 2011 model run. Next year the more performance-oriented GS and a base trim level will be added. The base models will get a new seat covering that combines a woven fabric center insert and protein-based vinyl covering for the side bolsters.

While European customers have access to a range of gas and diesel engines, North American customers will initially get two four-cylinder engines. When the first Regals arrive at dealerships in May, they will all be powered by the now familiar 2.4-liter direct-injected Ecotec inline four-cylinder with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. This 2.4-liter will be paired with the same 6T45 six-speed automatic found in a number of GM vehicles.

Regals powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected inline four-cylinder will start rolling off the boat in August pumping out 220 horsepower and a very healthy 258 lb-ft that peaks at just 2,000 rpm. The first batch of turbo Regals will all have automatic transmissions, but buyers will also have the option to get a six-speed manual gearbox later this fall, a first for the Regal.

The Regal's naturally aspirated 2.4-liter (left) and turbocharged 2.0-liter (right) four-cylinder engines

For our driving evaluation we had a mix of normally aspirated and turbo Regals, all with automatic transmissions. Despite the fact that we would be driving on the autobahn and Nürburgring, the suspension, brakes and all-season tires on each Regal we drove were the same parts that will be on cars going to American customers. Since the turbo models weren't final production units yet, their molded plastic engine covers were still wearing UK market Vauxhall badges.

Before we hit the autobahn, we spent a couple of hours exercising the Regal at Opel's Dudehofen proving ground. The proving ground staff were polite enough to spray the vehicle dynamics pad with water and we got to run the Regal through some slalom, moose test and brake-and-steer maneuvers.

The slalom was an excellent test of the Regal's hydraulically assisted steering, as well as the basic transient response of the suspension. Unlike the legendary turbo-V6 Regals of the 1980s, these cars can actually change direction with surprising agility and brake hard repeatedly without immediately fading, a trait that would prove handy the next day.

The moose test became famous back in the late-1990s when a Swedish magazine rolled an early Mercedes-Benz A-Class in a simulated obstacle avoidance maneuver. The test involves entering a gate of cones, making a quick change to the adjacent lane as if to avoid an obstacle in the car's path, and then returning to the original lane. We ran the test at progressively higher speeds up to about 45 mph and the Regal was rock solid stable. The stability control was seamless when it did activate, simply keeping the car on the requested course without ever feeling like it was jerking the car around. (A tip of the hat to the author's former colleagues at TRW for their work on the stability control).

The day after our test track session we picked up our fleet of Regals at the Russellsheim factory outside of Frankfurt for an on-road drive. In addition to the automatic transmission cars that we drove at Dudenhofen, Buick brought along a pair of Insignias with the 2.0-liter turbo and six-speed manuals for us to sample.

We set out northwest from the factory on the autobahn toward Cologne and the Eiffel mountains, home of the world's longest and most dangerous racetrack, the Nürburgring. Starting in the early-1980s when brands like BMW were gaining in popularity in the U.S., GM tried to foist off so-called "Euro-sedans" on its customers with nothing more than blacked-out trim, stiffer springs and alloy wheels with Goodyear Eagle tires. Needless to say, none of these cars ever achieved the level of dynamic sophistication that made the real European sedans so special.

By letting us drive the Regal in the birthplace of the sports sedan, Buick sought to demonstrate that Federico and his crew have created the real deal without watering it down for America. Ever since the Insignia replaced the Vectra in 2008, it has been attracting an increasingly upscale buyer and more than doubled its conquest sales to over 20 percent. Of those conquests, two-thirds are coming from premium brands like BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

In and around urban areas like Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, autobahn speeds are generally restricted to anywhere from 60-80 miles per hour. Because German police are often sticklers for enforcing posted limits, we stuck to those limits when required. But once we saw the unrestricted speed sign, we put our right foot down to see what the Regal was really made of.

The Regal is truly worthy of being called a sports sedan.
We had no problem getting up to and sustaining 125 miles per hour in Regals powered by the normally aspirated 2.4-liter engine. We saw an indicated 138 mph in the turbo model before we approached traffic and had to back off. In the days of the Regal GNX, hitting those kinds of speeds was possible in a straight line but not at all recommended for sustained driving. This new breed of Regal has exactly the characteristics we would expect of any German-bred machine out of Munich, Ingolstadt or Stuttgart.

The Regal always felt rock solid stable in a straight-line, but life rarely takes you in a straight line for very long unless you live in the plains states. Curves on a highway that seem inconsequential at 70 mph suddenly generate serious lateral loads at 120 mph. The hydraulic steering of the Regal was perfectly weighted with no slop or steering dead spots that we could find. Feedback was surprisingly good and much better than we've experienced in the TSX. Aerodynamic stability was also excellent and the Regal never felt like it was getting light on its tires.

All of the cars we drove (apart from the two Insignias with manual transmissions) were equipped with U.S.-spec all-season tires and non-metallic brake pads. Federico was insistent that we should experience how good his car was even in pure American form. As it turned out, he had nothing to worry about.

The real fun started once we exited the autobahn to head west towards the Nürburgring. Following a driver change we got some seat time in the manual gearbox Insignia. Despite the grille and badging on the car, the powertrain was identical to what will come to America this fall. It's no secret that we favor shifting for ourselves whenever possible, but the GM-built gearbox in the Insignia has both a notchy action to it and somewhat long throws. It's possible the notchiness may be the result of hard testing on the particular example we drove, so we'll reserve final judgement until we drive a production unit.

Despite our quibbles with the shift action, the turbocharged four-cylinder certainly chips in to compensate. We've loved previous iterations of this engine in cars like the Pontiac Solstice GXP and Chevrolet Cobalt SS. In the Regal, the power is dialed back a bit from 260 hp to 220 hp, but the 258 lb-ft of torque hits its peak at just 2,000 rpm and stays there almost to the 6,350 rpm redline. The flexibility afforded by all that torque means that shifting can be more discretionary.

We hopped into a full U.S.-spec automatic turbo Regal once we arrived at the 'Ring. At 12.7 miles long with 73 official turns, the Nürburgring is considered the toughest and most dangerous track in the world. Learning this track is difficult and takes far more time than we had in our short visit. The day we were there was one of the industry days when the track is closed to the public for manufacturer testing. Fortunately for us, GM was able to arrange 60 minutes of closed track time.

GM also arranged for race drivers Joachim Winkelhock and Manuel Reuter to join us for some lead and follow on the track. Winkelhock and Reuter drove a pair of high performance Insignia OPCs and we followed in groups of three Regals. This allowed those of us with limited 'Ring experience (two previous visits for this writer) to simply follow their line and focus on pushing the car as hard as possible without having to worry about where the next blind corner went.

Even with U.S.-spec tires and brakes, the Regal proved to be utterly capable of being flogged on the 'Ring, at least for two laps. The chassis is very nicely balanced, and just as we saw at the proving ground the day before, the stability control kicked in seamlessly. Steering feedback and brake modulation were also excellent and understeer minimal. We took a lap in both the turbo and normally aspirated cars and the 2.4-liter was definitely running out of steam with the 1,000 feet of elevation change. We achieved 115 mph with the 2.4-liter and 124 mph with the turbo on the main straight leading up to the final turns.

While the pavement on the track is smooth these days, there are still plenty of bumps, some of which can send a race car completely airborne. The Regal, however, has the same excellent body control that we've experienced in the LaCrosse. The 18-inch tires on the 2.4-liter model, however, definitely felt more squirmy than the 19-inch tires on the turbocharged model. The brakes remained relatively fade free over the course of two laps, and while there was that familiar smell of hot brake linings, there was no smoke pouring from the wheel wells.

The same could not be said after our taxi ride on the 'Ring. Once we finished our laps with the Regal, we climbed into the OPC cars three at a time with Reuter and Winkelhock for a serious hot lap. Although the Insignia OPC has never recorded an official lap time on the Nordschleife, GM officials hint that the 325-hp all-wheel-drive sedan can run it under nine minutes. With four adults on board, Winkelhock was drifting the Opel through corners as he chased down Reuter. Smoke was pouring out of the wheel wells after we climbed out back in the pits. For those visiting the Nürburgring who don't have the nerve to drive it themselves, there is a fleet of BMW M5 "taxis" that offer similar rides with pro drivers.

Our 60 minutes of 'Ring time was up all too soon and we had to head back out on public roads. As we made our way back to Wiesbaden, the Regals again proved that Federico and his team had not transformed last year's European car of the year into an old-school Buick. They have instead continued the transformation of Buick into a brand that can compete toe-to-toe with the likes of Audi, Acura and even BMW. For the first time in its history, the Regal is truly worthy of being called a sports sedan.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. and General Motors

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer

All-new small sedan is Buick's best-driving car.


Buick revives the Regal name for 2011 in a mid-size sedan born and built in Germany. (As the lineup expands and the manufacturing plant is readied it will be built in North America.) Shorter than the LaCrosse, this latest Regal is an all-new car to Buick. It's based on the same structure as the Opel Insignia that won major awards in Europe last year. 

The 2011 Buick Regal is initially offered only in mid-line CXL trim with leather upholstery. The new Regal is powered by a 182-hp four-cylinder with six-speed automatic, or a 220-hp turbocharged, direct-injected 2-liter with a six-speed manual transmission. The turbocharged engine delivers a huge boost in torque for more relaxed yet more powerful propulsion. Fully independent suspension has been tuned for ride comfort but this Buick won't shy away from the winding road alternative, and the steering and brakes are up to it. 

Best thought of as a four-passenger car that could carry a child seat rear-center, the Regal's interior is mix of sporty and luxury much like an Acura TSX. The degree to which you favor the efficient sporty look or warmer luxury feel may well dictate which cabin color scheme you choose. 

The Regal CXL comes nicely equipped and amenities, be they standard or optional, include Bluetooth, navigation with real-time traffic, and heated front seats. We did not see memory seats on the option list yet there should be enough to keep anyone comfortable and connected. 

We found the Regal very quiet, with a very smooth ride, a welcome respite on miserable commutes and a good partner for cross-country drives. It may be the quietest car in its class. Mix in a solid thud to the doors, tactile clicks to the controls and a structure safe and secure, and the Regal is a well-rounded package. 

The Regal competes with the Acura TSX, Audi A4, Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat, Volvo S60, Lexus ES. Much of the direct competition has more power, less weight or both. The Audi and Acura are sportier, the Mazda and Volkswagen larger, and the Lexus ES driver could get a well-equipped Regal turbo for the requisite luxury in a better driving car. 


The 2011 Buick Regal CXL comes with a 182-hp 2.4-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Several trim levels are available. 

The Regal CXL RL1 ($26,245) has leather upholstery, dual-temp climate control, heated front seats, power driver seat, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, tilt/telescope steering wheel with redundant controls, AM/FM/XM/CD/USB audio, Bluetooth, split-fold rear seat, trip computer, keyless entry, and OnStar w/turn-by-turn navigation (6 months service included at purchase, by subscription thereafter). 

CXL RL2 ($27,245) adds a moonroof to RL1. RL3 ($27,090) adds to RL1 a comfort/convenience package consisting of rear park assist, 120-volt AC outlet, and power passenger seat. RL4 ($28,090) is an RL1 plus moonroof and the comfort/convenience package. RL5 ($29,035) is an RL3 plus moonroof, nine-speaker harman/kardon audio system, and rear side airbags. The RL6 ($31,030) is an RL5 plus navigation. 

The turbocharged CXL ($28,745) comes with a 220-hp 2-liter engine, six-speed automatic or manual transmission (the latter year end), and larger brakes. Expect packaging similar to the regular CXL but with additional upgrades available, including Interactive Drive Control System (adjustable dampers) and 19-inch wheels ($1,250), and HID headlamps and LED daytime running lamps. 

The Regal line will expand in 2012 with a less-expensive CX model, likely with cloth upholstery, and a high-performance GS model with different bodywork, front seats, power, suspension, tires, wheels and all-wheel drive. 

Safety features include six airbags standard with rear-seat side-impact airbags optional. Electronic stability control is optional. 


The Regal is a world car designed for use in varied international markets and shares all its body panels with German-sister-division's award-winning Opel Insignia. It's characteristic of contemporary sedans with a sloping roofline that's visually extended by the edge of the rear lamp housings and a brief trunk lid with a subtle built-in lip spoiler. 

Shiny bits on the sides are limited to the window surround trim and a front fender-mounted turn indicator. There are no rub rails or chrome strips along the side, and a simple character line sweeps down and aft behind the front wheel and carries through the rear door. The lower edge is void of trim but it does get the textured paint protection to minimize stone chips. All the wheels have plenty of spokes yet nothing cross-laced your car wash will abhor. 

Regal gets the majority of its Buick-ness at the ends, both slathered with abundant chrome trim. The lengthy nose carries a prominent waterfall grille framed by lamp clusters. On the turbo, the daytime running lights are right-angle segments that look like arrows pointing out and up toward the rear-view mirrors. 

A large chrome spear is anchored with big Buick crest on the trunk, and the sweep of the lamps mirrors that of Regal's big-brother LaCrosse. On turbo models a single chrome tailpipe comes out either side; on standard cars conventional under-bumper exhaust pipes are used. 

Regal makes a clean profile. It is six inches shorter than the LaCrosse and is longer than all but one of the cars Buick mentions as potential competitors. The wheelbase, the distance between front and rear wheels that's a better indicator of room and ride quality is in the middle of those aforementioned competitors. 


With leather standard even the base CXL makes a welcoming interior, easily labeled entry-luxury or entry-premium. It's comfortable and quiet, and its character changes based on color. 

An ebony cabin is mostly black, with light stitching is the seats and trim, a light headliner, some trim matte-finish silver and other chrome, with dash, door and console sweeps done in piano-black trim. On the alternative light-cabin trim the upper and lower doors, lower side pillars and the dashboard are chocolate, the mid-doors, seats and carpeting a light tan or cream color, and the trim sweeps are woodgrain. While the latter is the warmer of the two and gives a more luxurious impression, others will find it busy and prefer the sportier, more monochromatic look of the ebony interior. 

On the majority both front seats will be powered, and unlike some competition, the power passenger seat offers the same range and adjustments the driver gets. Long-term support is good but lack of lateral support and cushion deflection shows these seats clearly biased to comfort rather than the athletic-for-a-Buick performance. Taller drivers note the headrests further forward than they preferred, a more common complaint as safety regulations continue to tighten. 

Rear seats are quite comfortable for occupants to around 5'10 and best limited to two passengers; we found no center headrest. That sloping roofline, even with a section carved out of the headliner, limits rear headroom, a problem the smaller VW Passat and larger Mazda6 don't have. Leg and toe space is good, the Regal bigger than all but those same two cars. We'll call the center fold-down section an elbow rest because it's wide and short, and note rear passengers do have AC vents and reading lights. 

A contemporary control layout places the tip computer/message center between watch-dial-like speedometer and tachometer, and below numbered fuel and coolant gauges; like everything else these are illuminated in icy blue. If you have navigation the screen is top center for good line-of-sight use and as intuitive as any other GM system. But this one has a multifunction controller right behind the shifter so you needn't lean forward to work a touch-screen. 

Myriad white-on-black buttons cluster on the center panel for audio, car, and navigation details with left/right temperature climate control below. Behind the ashtray a large piece of chrome frames the shifter and it, like the chrome lips on the gauges and rotary dash controls, readily catches sun glare. The matte-finish sweep around the shifter floats above the console, suggesting it will easily catch and trap detritus or cords for small electronics. Some storage is available under the asymmetric center armrest, and the oddly contoured door pockets hold quite a bit. 

The steering wheel is the most sporting ever found in a Buick and the redundant controls handy on the road. Given the sporty implications we were surprised to not find shift buttons on it but lever does have a manual gate. Vision, both inside to instruments, controls and nav screen day and night, and outside is quite good by modern safety-car standards. 

The trunk is quite useful, with moderate lift-to-load and lift-to-unload dimensions, flat side walls, securing points and 14.2 cubic feet of volume because it's fairly long. The split rear seat folds down and there's a lockable pass-through in the armrest, but it's a long reach through the trunk to lock it. 

Driving Impression

The Regal is firmly sprung for a Buick yet quiet by any standard. The wrong road surface will admit a little noise from the rear tires and picky back-seat drivers might notice a bit of wind noise from behind at speed, but the new Buick Regal has to be among the quietest cars in its class; even with the engine at maximum it's barely above background noise and doesn't give any audible hint it's working hard. 

The Regal rides very well, with minimal intrusion from road imperfections. It has a very solid feel, and one of substance in keeping with its weight. Driving it hard or fully loaded at speed will belie that while bred on the autobahn it has been tuned for comfort and the rear suspension damping is quite soft. The turbo's optional adjustable shock damping will mitigate that and tightens down the whole chassis, but it comes with 19-inch wheels and we prefer the tires on the standard 18-inch wheels. 

The Regal is an excellent touring car for extended ventures or simply long commutes where the soothing could be beneficial, but it is not a sports sedan. The turbo makes it a sporty sedan, but we'll have to wait for the Regal GS for a sports sedan. 

A direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder provides 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque so it needs to be revved to get the most out of it, and a 3600-pound Regal with a pair of people in it can use every one of those ponies. It's quite satisfactory around town or on the open road, but passing a truck on a two-lane or climbing a mountain grade you'll be pushing it. 

The turbo adds about 40 horsepower but far more important close to 90 pound-feet of torque and at much lower revs. This makes the Regal more relaxed, downshifts happen less often, and it feels much more powerful than the 1-second quicker to 60 mph implies. Since the manual gate in the automatic will hold a gear selected at heavy throttle, you can use the readily use the turbo's wave of torque and never see more than 3000 rpm showing by shifting up early manually. 

With the available six-speed manual gearbox, clutch effort is easy. 

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 19/30 mpg City/Highway. The Mazda6 gets 21/30 mpg, the Audi A4 is rated 23/30 mpg, the TSX 21/30 mpg, and the VW Passat 22/31 mpg. Expect the Regal turbo to rate 18/29 mpg; we would consider the slight economy penalty and $2,500 price differential a small price to pay for the useful passing power. 

Regal uses hydraulic steering and it provides good feedback, feel and directional stability. Again, it hasn't the feel of a leading sports sedan but is competitive and more than satisfactory for the car's mission. 

Brakes are up to the task, and both the gas and brake pedals are calibrated such that they require some foot travel before you get into heavy braking or kick-down acceleration rather than the instant bite of a sports sedan. 


The Regal brings a stylish alternative to the entry-premium midsize sedan segment. It musters visual appeal, soothing quiet and smoothness, quickly deciphered features, comfort and economy conducive to long drives and a better than average warranty. We find the turbo model deserves strong consideration for the modest cost premium. correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report after his test drives of the Regal CXL models near San Diego. 

Model Lineup

Buick Regal CXL ($26,245); CXL turbo ($28,745). 

Assembled In

Russelsheim, Germany; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. 

Options As Tested

RL6 equipment ($4785) includes navigation system, moonroof, nine-speaker sound system, power passenger seat, rear park assist, 120-VAC outlet, rear-seat side airbags. 

Model Tested

Buick Regal CXL ($26,245). 

*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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