Driven: 2011 Buick Regal CXL

Sam Abuelsamid

Interestingly, Buick benefited from GM's bankruptcy and Saturn's demise, as the next-generation Saturn Aura instead became this Buick Regal. The Aura was slated to get the 2.4-liter four as its base engine along with an optional V-6, and at the same time, Federico was tweaking the 2.0-liter Ecotec turbo for the Saab 9-5. A newly lean GM certainly wasn't going to let all that good engineering go to waste.

"For people who ask, 'where's my V-6?' " advises Federico in regard to the turbo four, "It's here." After two hours driving a Regal CXL 2.0T on the autobahn, we'd say that's not much of a stretch. The direct-injected engine mates brilliantly to the six-speed automatic and eagerly raced toward the 6350-rpm redline as we mixed it up with BMWs and Audis at up to 130 mph, yet it was spinning at a relatively calm 3500 rpm at 112 mph. Not for one moment did we wish for six cylinders under the hood.

There's not a lot to wish for here, actually. The Regal's interior is quite nicely designed and finished but still falls slightly short of Volkswagen standards. And you might have a hard time getting past the Buick badge, although the sculpted sheetmetal - also done in Germany, but by a British designer - ought to ameliorate that concern. Buick sales chief Craig Bierley has his work cut out for him, though, because "sporty Buick" has heretofore been an oxymoron.

You might wish for the Regal GS to arrive sooner, but the CXL 2.0T, which starts at $29,495, equipped with the $1250 IDCS (Interactive Drive Control System) gets you close. IDCS provides "sport" and "tour" buttons on the center console; allows you to custom-program steering feel, throttle and gearshift patterns, and other dynamic settings; and includes continuous damping control (CDC), which tightens damper rebound for a tauter ride.

That said, I'd like to be first behind the wheel of a Regal GS - which in addition to the power bump will get all-wheel drive and further brake and suspension upgrades - on the Nordschleife. After riding in the back seat of an OPC sedan that was being pushed to its limits around the 'Ring by Winkelhock, I know that there's an even better Buick on the way.

The Specs

On sale: Now
Price: $26,995/$29,495 (CXL 2.4L/CXL 2.0T)
EngineS: 2.4L I-4, 182 hp, 172 lb-ft; 2.0L turbo I-4, 220 hp, 258 lb-ft
Drive: Front-wheel

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