The base engine, a 2.4-liter four making 182 hp, is mated to a six-speed automatic. The gearbox gets a gold star, but the 2.4-liter gets only a passing grade. For your average driver making an average commute over average roads, it will be just fine, but it runs out of breath at higher speeds and doesn't sound great when you push it.
A much better choice is coming in August: a turbocharged version of GM's 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder making 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This engine is not just better than the 2.4-liter; it's a LOT better. It's worth the wait and the $2500 premium, and it suffers only a one-mpg penalty compared with the base engine. Although the 2.0-liter turbo hasn't yet been rated by the EPA, Federico expects it to get 19 city, 29 highway, versus the 2.4-liter's 20/30 rating.
The 2.0-liter turbo four works exceptionally well across its rev range and mates brilliantly with the six-speed automatic. There is a manual shift gate for the gearbox, but no paddles. On the freeway, there's plenty of torque for most situations if you just leave it in Drive; I had no problem accelerating between 80 and 130 mph on the Autobahn, and the engine sounded like it would be happy to maintain triple-digit speeds all day. For those of us who kvetched for years that GM couldn't -- or simply wouldn't -- make a decent four-cylinder engine, the turbo Ecotec is especially satisfying. Dipping into the throttle over and over again as our entourage raced back toward Wiesbaden as the sun set over vast fields of blooming rapeseed, I couldn't quite get over the fact that I was driving a Buick that was running in the fast-moving flow of BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes-Benzes, and yet I didn't feel the least bit deprived. The engine gladly races toward its 6500-rpm redline whenever it's summoned, but it settles into a relatively modest 3500-rpm thrum at 110 mph. The brakes had good pedal feel and suffered no fade over repeated hard Autobahn use.
As for the Nurburgring drive, I drew the short straw and was delegated to a 2.4-liter car rather than a turbo model. That was the bad news. The good news was, I played follow-the-leader with Joachim Winkelhock, a former winner at Le Mans and a two-time winner of the Nurburgring 24-hour race. Following his racing line as closely as I could, I had a blast in the Buick and was amazed by the Regal's body control, brake pedal modulation, and overall composure, even if I had to cane the 2.4-liter without mercy to keep up with the pro leading the way. Meaty 18-inch tires provided good grip, and yet the Regal's on-road ride was supple, even with the optional 19-inch rubber.