If you’re under 30, you probably don’t know what a Buick is. The rest of us are surprised that Buick is still in business.
As it happens, Buick is very important to General Motors because it’s one of the strongest brands in China. In fact, Buick sells more cars in China than they do in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean Buick is giving up on the American market, and the Regal is a perfect example.
The Regal name has been around and is a familiar nameplate for older drivers, but the 2011 is not your father’s Buick. In fact, Roger McCormack, director of product marketing for Buick, said “The 2011 Buick Regal is like nothing you’ve ever experienced from this brand. The Regal is the next chapter in Buick’s transformation and will expand the portfolio to include a modern sport sedan.”
The Regal’s development is rooted in Germany, where the engineering team created the award-winning Opel Insignia – the 2009 European Car of the Year. The Insignia garnered more than 31 prestigious awards and is the best-selling midsize sedan in Europe. Regal will bring all of Insignia’s design, technology and European-inspired performance to the American market. GM has plenty of great cars in Europe and it is nice to see that at least one is making it over here.
The Regal’s sleek body design blends the sweeping silhouette and proportions of a coupe in a progressive package that suggests motion from all angles. Great attention to detail complements that aggressive styling, with tailored applications of Buick’s signature design cues, such as the waterfall grille.
“Regal is all about great proportions,” said John Cafaro, Buick design director. “For example, the fenders are flared to wrap around the tires, an aggressive stance that people aren’t used to seeing in recent Buicks.”
The car’s performance-oriented spirit is also conveyed in sleek, sculpted body-side detail and aggressive headlamps that suggest even more motion. At the rear, an abbreviated deck and tucked-in body panels are the hallmarks of a contemporary sport sedan, with bold tail lights and their intricate lighting elements reinforcing Regal’s attention to detail.
The sweeping design motif carries over to the interior, where the side panels flow uninterrupted into the instrument panel. The instruments have the look of expensive sport timepieces and are lit with ice-blue LED lights. The center stack, housing the climate and entertainment controls, was designed to allow for a lower, driver-centric instrument panel profile. Features such as a thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped steering wheel and firm, highly bolstered and leather-covered seats also support the sport-oriented driving experience.
The interior is perhaps the best part of the Regal. It has the German look and feel of an Audi, not a GM product. When we showed the car to people who had no idea what kind of car they were getting into, nobody could believe that they were sitting in a Buick. They loved the design and the roomy interior.
The Regal has a MacPherson struts in the front and an independent four-link rear suspension. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot MXM4 235/50-18 tires are standard. The suspension tuning has a very German feel as well with good feedback from the quick 2.68 turn lock to lock steering wheel. The car behaves very well in steady state turns and breaks away progressively. Only quick transient maneuvers upset the chassis a little since the shocks are tuned more for comfort rather than canyon carving.
If you want a stiffer suspension, the new turbo model should be your choice. On the positive side, the Regal gets great gas mileage achieving 30 mpg on the freeway which is fantastic for a very roomy car such as this.
The turbo should be your choice because the non-turbo is just too weak for performance driving. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is state-of-the-art with four valves per cylinder, twin cams, aluminum head and block, and a super-high 11.2:1 compression ratio that amazingly runs just fine on regular unleaded fuel. The engine redlines at 7,000 rom but only makes 182 horsepower, which is not much, considering it’s only available with a six-speed automatic transmission and put in a car that weighs 3,600 pounds.
Get on the gas when you want to pass and make sure you have a lot of time. It feels like you are towing a trailer.
For now, all Regal are built in Russelsheim, Germany. Buick says that plans are to move the production to the U.S. Assembling the Regal overseas and importing it cuts down on Buick’s profits. It is too bad because the German made Regal has some of the best fit and finish we have seen in a General Motors car.
The Regal starts out at only $26,995 and the turbo model only adds about $3,000 — a bargain. For that price, Buick hopes to go against such standards in the segment as Audi A4 and Acura TSX. A few years ago if you mentioned that a Buick was competition to an A4, we would laugh. After driving it and comparing prices of the much more expensive A4, it’s not that far away.