Mention the words Buick Regal and you're bound to get one of three responses. Some folks will give you blank stares. Others may remember a nice-riding but otherwise nondescript sedan with that name (that retired after 2004). And older folks may recall hood ornaments, pillowed velour bench seats and padded landau tops. With the all-new 2011 Buick Regal, the company is looking to change all that and give this nameplate a more modern and memorable persona.
The personality transplant comes by way of Europe Â? the donor being General Motors' Opel division. The 2011 Buick Regal is based on the current Opel Insignia and as such shares that smart sedan's precise, communicative steering and athletic handling. The Regal is a midsize sedan, but it rides on a 107.8-inch wheelbase, which is about 4 inches shorter than what you'll find on the recently introduced Buick LaCrosse. This means the Regal is a bit smaller, with a tighter backseat. Basically, you can consider this to be Buick's entry-level car.
Unfortunately, the 3,600-pound Regal will initially only be available with a 2.4-liter inline-4. Though it sports direct fuel-injection technology and makes respectable power (182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque) and fuel economy (up to 30 mpg highway), this engine will have its work cut out. Later in the year, a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine sporting 220 hp and 258 lb-ft will debut. If our time behind the wheel of a prototype with the turbo-4 is any indicator, this is the go-to choice for its combination of ever-ready thrust and fuel-sipping appetite.
Buick is positioning the 2011 Regal against the likes of the Acura TSX and Lexus IS 250. In the past, cross-shopping a Buick against these two well-known luxury sport sedans might have seemed as odd as adding liverwurst along with pizza and a cheeseburger to lunchtime considerations. But things have certainly turned around recently for Buick. If you can set aside your preconceived notions and take a 2011 Regal for a spin, chances are you won't forget to add this Buick to your sporty midsize sedan consideration list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2011 Buick Regal is a midsize family sport sedan available in a single CXL trim level. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated sideview mirrors, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, full power accessories, OnStar, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a trip computer, a 60/40-split rear seatback, a seven-speaker stereo (with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, iPod/auxiliary audio jacks and steering-wheel-mounted controls) and Bluetooth connectivity.
Options include a sunroof, rear parking sensors, a hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system and a power passenger seat.
Powertrains and Performance:
The standard and only available engine on the 2011 Buick Regal is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic (with manual shift capability) is the lone transmission choice. Later in the model year, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 220 hp will debut, along with a six-speed manual transmission.
The fuel economy estimates come in at 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for the standard 2.4 and 18/29 for the turbocharged variant.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, OnStar, front seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The Regal's cabin has a clean, no-nonsense design aesthetic, though a few splashes of metallic trim brighten things up a bit. The low-mounted climate controls are easy to decipher, though the audio setup has too many flat, look-alike buttons. Using the standard steering-wheel-mounted controls alleviates that latter problem, however.
The front seats have plenty of support for spirited driving. Those riding in back, however, may find the rear seatbacks a bit flat and uncomfortable, though a wide center armrest adds a measure of comfort back there. Trunk capacity is respectable at 14.2 cubic feet.
Those expecting a disconnected feel and a floaty ride are in for a big surprise with the 2011 Buick Regal. Linear, precise steering and a firm, unwavering attitude on a winding road give the Regal plenty of sport sedan credibility.
Though we haven't yet driven a Regal with the standard engine, we sampled a pre-production Regal with the turbocharged engine. With its broad power spread, the turbo-4 provided plenty of gusto around town and when launching up to higher speeds on freeway on-ramps. The six-speed automatic clicked off smooth, timely shifts and unlike some other recent GM autoboxes, this transmission didn't seem obsessed with upshifting early in order to maximize fuel economy.