2011 Buick Regal Review

2011 Buick Regal - Regal takes run at 'old fogy' image.


I had a friend who owned a 1978 Buick Regal. Back then there was no stigma attached to Buicks (especially when you were 18) and while it had (predictably) been his dad's car, I distinctly remember a soft, cushy ride with heavy roll in turns as the signature characteristics. Sure, Steve drove a bit too fast for that suspension, but as a pizza delivery guy, I guess he gets a pass.

Enter the 2011 Regal, a car that has nothing other than the name in common with any previous generation Regal. Looking back at Steve's Regal, that was what a Buick was supposed to be: lush, soft suspension and heavy on American style. The new incarnation is a taut, German-inspired sedan that delivers American consumers a decidedly European flair, whether they like it or not.

So far I think the new Buick models are pretty convincing attempts at changing the "older-buyer" stigma, not too far behind Cadillac's successful branding change that appeals to youthful buyers.

The 2011 Regal is a purely European-influenced companion to its bigger brother LaCrosse. Regal is similar to General Motors' European Opel Insignia; in fact, the car is built at the same factory in Russelsheim, Germany. GM says Regal production will move to GM's factory in Canada in the near future and that may give the Regal some more American-centric attributes.

I wouldn't go so far as to try to sell you the Regal as a top-line sport sedan, but I will tell you that on looks alone, this Regal might be able to sell you on that premise. The Regal's chiseled body styling blends a sleek silhouette with the proportions of a coupe. I was impressed with the exterior attention to detail, such as the waterfall grille, chrome trim and the finish of the exterior panels.

The overall package of exterior styling on the Regal is best defined in my book as athletic. While I was not particularly fond of the integration of the multibar grille, it does not detract from the overall aggressiveness in the styling cues. I did appreciate the 18-inch standard painted alloy rims, which further enhance that athletic stance.

Given the onslaught of fuel-sipping standards invading the auto industry, this Regal is not going to be offered as a V-6, at least not in 2011. Starting at $26,245, the 2011 Regal's base engine is one of two primary power plants: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder version and the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. I tested a Regal CXL with the conventional four-cylinder.

I found engine performance to be a mixed bag. While I recognize my driving style requires a bit more adrenaline-induced takeoffs, the 182 ponies delivered by the four-cylinder engine make Regal's performance peppy enough for most drivers, though the 0-to-60 mph acceleration in just more than eight seconds will not win many off-the-line merges on the main thoroughfares.

Power is delivered to Regal's front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that performed consistently. The turbo engine option offers a six-speed manual transmission. Why someone might like to go through the manual motions with this power plant is beyond me, but a turbo configuration gives you the choice.

Inside the cabin of the Regal there is a lot to like. My tester added a RL6 equipment package ($4,785) that included eight-way power seat adjustments for front-seat passengers and four-way power adjustments for lumbar. This equaled driver convenience and presented outstanding flexibility for seating positions. I had a couple passengers complain about the lumbar support, but I found it to be satisfactory.

Sightlines were outstanding and power mirrors were quick to respond to changes. My tester had nice leather appointments and a 60/40-split rear-seat option. Like most cars these days, plastics are prevalent, but Regal's interior had a quality appearance with a more classy, low-gloss finish to the surfaces.

While that RL6 package added some niceties like ultrasonic rear parking assist, power sunroof, rear-seat mounted airbags and an upgraded audio system with navigation and nine speakers, there was less agreement on the convenience in using some of the electronic controls. There were some notable deficiencies in the audio/navigation operation that required me to sacrifice convenience for operation of two systems at one time. I found it awkward to lose the preset stations for audio when the navigation system was engaged, and XM radio stations seemed to take up to three seconds to change.

As far as ride goes, the Regal's suspension is independent, front and rear, and calibrated to offer edgy response while maintaining comfort. I liked the nimble steering characteristics and tight, compact body roll. Regal was developed in Germany and that is certainly evident.

With the RL6 option package and a $750 destination charge, my Regal tester landed at $31,780. At that price, there are a lot of sedan options on the market and plenty of very good models to compete with in the entry-level luxury segment. While Regal is clearly not a luxury car, it features many characteristics that help the ongoing brand adjustment Buick is undergoing.


ENGINE: 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder

TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic

DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive

FUEL ECONOMY: 19 city/30 highway

BASE PRICE: $26,245

AS TESTED: $31,780

WEBSITE: www.buick.com

John Stein

John Stein grew up in an extended family that valued the art of going fast. Spending plenty of weekends at U.S. 30 Drag Strip and Sante Fe Speedway, he fondly remembers the screaming machines and the flying mud that made those long-gone racing havens such special memories. With plenty of late nights spent ‘tinkering’ with cars throughout high school, he never anticipated his interest cars and his love for writing might find a common ground. After graduating from Eastern Illinois University in 1988, John started writing for the weekly Southtown Economist. So, when the Economist went to a daily in 1994, and needed an auto editor, John took the proverbial steering wheel. Featured weekly in the Sun-Times and its 17 suburban publications, as well as ELITE Magazine, John balances being the Automotive Editor for Sun-Time Media with being a husband and dad in Plainfield, Illinois.