Germany supplies 40% of the parts in a Buick Regal, and the cars are assembled in Opel’s Russelsheim, Germany plant. This Regal was originally intended to be a Saturn Aura, but then Saturn was put out to pasture during the bankruptcy and even GM’s control of Opel was uncertain last fall. Thankfully, GM found a way to hang onto Opel after bankruptcy and the complicated restructuring process.
Opel’s engineers did a great job with the Regal. The car has a compliant ride that isn’t too harsh to scare off Lexus defectors, and the 2.4-liter I-4 provides as much power as anyone really needs and is complemented by the six-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai may be getting the bulk of press about I-4-only mid-size sedans these days, but Buick is utilizing a similar strategy by adding a turbo four-cylinder for top-spec cars to replace the typical V-6 upgrade.
I look forward to sampling the turbo car once it becomes available. It’s exciting to see GM offer a sporty mid-size sedan instead of sticking with the typically bland sedans that I associate with the Buick brand.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Producer
The new Buick Regal is not astoundingly awesome, but it’s quite impressive nonetheless. The exterior styling is smart, modern, inoffensive, and looks very European, which makes sense given the car’s Opel roots. The interior is comfortable, attractive, and easy to use. The back-door openings are a bit small, but rear legroom is very good, and the trunk is spacious, too.
I like the steering, which is nicely weighted and feels far sportier than you’d expect to find in any Buick product. I was disappointed, however, that the Regal felt fairly floaty in mid-corner bumps. Acceleration is strong, but the transmission clunked into gear a couple times after I accelerated briskly from a standstill and then let off somewhat abruptly. Still, I, too, am eager to drive the turbocharged Regal. Watch this space.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Like Rusty, I’m impressed, but not blown away by the Regal. The overall impression is one of quiet competence. The exterior is understated and appealing. The steering and handling are very good but not exceptional. I have driven a preproduction version of the Turbo, and can say that the extra power, along with a six-speed manual, ups the fun-factor quite a bit.
My biggest complaint about the Regal — and it’s a relatively small one — is with the interior, or more specifically, with the telematics. The Buick does everything you expect of a $30,000 sedan-it synchs with your phone, plays songs from your iPod, and provides turn-by-turn directions (via Onstar) — but it lacks the cohesive interface we’re coming to expect from premium and even mainstream sedans.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Of all the new vehicles that have come from a reinvigorated General Motors-the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Cruze, Cadillac SRX, and Buick Lacrosse-the Buick Regal is easily the best. Its European origins are readily apparent in both the chassis composure and build quality. Quick steering and athletic agility make it one of GM’s more fun-to-drive cars outside of the Camaro and Corvette and the ride is comfortable over the roughest roads.
The Regal’s biggest weakness is the powertrain. It’s not that the Regal is unbearably slow or unrefined, but simply that the pedestrian 182-hp four-cylinder doesn’t match the potential of the chassis. Additionally, the Regal delivers disappointing fuel economy, rated at 19 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Chevrolet’s Equinox uses the same engine and is nearly 200 pounds heavier, but still manages to return 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I’m joining the chorus of “impressed” with the new Regal. The exterior styling is a bit underwhelming in person, but it not objectionable in any way — a good move in my opinion. The interior, on the other hand, is a knockout. The seats in particular are really nice, with the high-contrast stitching and extra seam on the seat cushion. The door panels are very nice as well, comfortable, nicely padded and the metal door pull adds a needed visual contrast and feel solid and substantial as well. That bold stitching carries over from the seats as well.
All the materials are equally pleasing to the eye and touch, with nice grains on the leathers and plastics and contrasting brushed metal and high-gloss “wood” scattered throughout. Controls are clear and easy to use, and on the whole the interior feels way more Germany than Flint.
The back seat has LOTS of legroom. Headroom gets a bit tight for tall adults perhaps, but for 90% of rear seat passengers that’s probably the right trade-off.
When sitting in the car, only two things jumped out at me as areas for improvement-with so much black in this particular interior, Buick should be doing something more interesting with the instruments (white faces and black markings?), and the blue displays in the center stack and the cluster are woefully and glaringly outdated looking. But those are detailed quibbles about an otherwise outstanding and impressive interior.
That gets me to the singular issue I have with the car: the powertrain. Don’t get me wrong-the 4-cylinder is plenty of engine, as powerful as anyone really requires, and performs admirably, but it sounds like it’s straining to do so. This is what I suspect might be the car’s biggest sales hurdle. American buyers — Buick-types in particular — are going to be put off by a non-V6 in a car this size and at this price point. Even though the specs and test results are convincing, most test-drivers are going to step on the gas, hear that high-rpm whine, the transmission hunt around a bit too much, and come away with the impression that the car’s underpowered even when it’s not. The window sticker’s less-than-stellar mpg numbers are not going to win any converts either. I find it difficult to believe that a 230-hp V6 couldn’t turn in better performance and similar mpg numbers, and make American buyers more comfortable writing a down payment check.
That said, I want to commend GM for sticking with the 4-cylinder — it’s the right thing to do — but I believe the car will not be the success it deserves to be because of it. The Sonata will overcome this because it’s an import and pulls mid-30s for highway mileage with ease. The Buick, though it might surpass the Sonata in many other areas, will likely suffer by comparison.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
2011 Buick Regal CXL
Base price (with destination): $26,995
Price as tested: $29,785
2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Stabilitrak stability control
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist
Tire pressure monitoring system
Heated front seats
Dual-zone climate control
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Steering wheel audio controls
Tilt/telescoping steering column
AM/FM/XM stereo with CD player
7-speaker audio system
Options on this vehicle:
Comfort & convenience package — $2790
Front power seats
120V power outlet
Rear parking assist
Premium 9 speaker audio system
Key options not on vehicle:
Voice-activated navigation system — $1995
19 / 30 / 23 mpg
Size: 2.4L DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 182 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 3600 lb
Wheels/tires: 18-inch aluminum wheels
235/50R18 Michelin Pilot all-season tires