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(white faces and black markings?), and the blue displays in the center stack and the cluster are woefully and glaringly outdated looking.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