What you see is what you get. There is no riddle to figuring out what this European inspired vehicle is to American culture or what it is stimulated to do for early adapters of the domestic brand. Sporty, trendy, modern and pretty fun to drive were my initial thoughts. Awestruck was my initial reaction when I first laid eyes upon it at the LA Auto Show. It’s Buick’s interpretation of the Opel Insignia – the 2009 “European Car of the Year.”
Buick has been transforming itself from both a product design and corporate image perspective. This brand may still be seen as a vehicle for seniors by a vast majority of the public, yet the vast majority hasn’t driven or experienced the company’s new lineup. If a hip, likeable crossover from the luxury category is on your horizon then pay attention the to the Enclave. If you’re tired of clichés such as “my neighbor just brought a Lexus” or “her dad drives an Acura” then take a look at the Buick LaCrosse. Brilliant and intelligent, 360 degree full circle, LaCrosse is a luxury vehicle that under promises and over delivers. Now Buick is targeting Volvo’s S60 and Acura’s TSX with their mid-size Regal sports sedan, which brings a competitive edge with continuous, high quality ratings and a great 5 Year/100K mile powertrain limited warranty and 4 Year/50K mile bumper to bumper warranty.
To dispel any anticipated divergent views from myself and fellow media colleagues, Buick brought us to the urban beach resort, Tower 23 Hotel, in the surfing haven of San Diego. The luxury, lifestyle hotel and its playfully entertaining features hinted as to where I should set my expectation levels for the German built Regal. Yes, it’s manufactured in Russelsheim, Germany– not Detroit! Factors that embody a European flair are standard 18″ wheels tucked in Michelin Pilots; standard 6-speed automatic transmission with Driver Shift Control (DSC); StabiliTrak stability control system, and a multi-function controller on the center console to operate audio, Bluetooth, etc. The only contradictory feature to the Regal being a euro sports car is its front-wheel drive layout. Yet, when driving either of the Ecotec 4-cylinder engines around the curvaceous Southern California roads I couldn’t feel the difference of the vehicle pulling itself opposed to pushing from the rear.
Two direct injection engines are available for the premium CXL Regal starting with the $26,995 base model and its 182 horsepower 2.4-liter (also found in the LaCrosse), and the $29,495 2.0- liter turbocharged with 220 horsepower (not available until late-summer 2010). Optional 19-inch rims with Goodyear Eagle tires are available for the Turbo. The Turbo also comes with the Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS), which Buick says “offers enhanced vehicle stability and greater driving safety, while also adapting the driving characteristics of the car to the driver’s preferences.” Three modes (Normal, Tour, Sport) can adjust the suspension, steering input, throttle response, transmission behavior, and stability systems to the driver’s personal needs. I toggled with IDCS a bit but didn’t experience the Regal long enough to acknowledge the changes. Customer satisfaction comes in the form of 30 mpg on the highway with the 2.4 liter and 29 mpg highway with the turbo!
We all know that styling is subjective and beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. But one thing is certain, you cannot say that Buick doesn’t have taste in this day and age. And the Regal is full of seasoning. A “waterfall” grille sits within a chiseled and protruding front fascia while a series of angular lines meet with striking bends to form the vehicle’s profile. The rear windshield flows almost immediately into the short and layered trunk deck perpetrating the appearance of a coupe. Its interior is just as elegantly complementary to the exterior. A clever multi-function steering wheel complements the sci-fi center stack (think lots of dials and controls) while sporty leather seats and multi-pieced door trim shows off the imagination of Buick’s designers.
Available navigation and harman-kardon sound system with an internal 1GB flash drive makes for a more treasured road experience while GM’s OnStar is actually “man’s best friend.” If you have never used OnStar then you have some catching up to do. XM, Bluetooth, an auxiliary jack and USB port are cool technologies, but certainly not revolutionary.
A key point to keep in mind is that the 2011 Regal is 25% stiffer than its predecessor, which allows for greater suspension performance. Buick was able to achieve this by way of high-strength and lightweight steels. Also, it offers a better structure for safety, which has led to a 5 star rating in both Europe and China. With brake assist, rear door locks (child security), airbag sensing system, airbags for every part of the body and OnStar’s crash response feature you would think the Regal was part of some emergency rescue squad.
Overall the Buick Regal is an enjoyable, good looking 4-door sports car that will charm many. In addition, wait until the vivacious GS model storms into town. Welcome to a Buick brand that is changing perceptions.