2011 Buick Regal Review

2011 Buick Regal - Thank you Bob Lutz.


PLUSES: Attractive styling, good performance from 4 cylinder engine,
MINUSES: Needs a shade more rear seat leg room.
Lutz, the now retired General Motors vice chairman, paid special attention to Buick when he arrived a few years back after stints at rival domestic (Chrysler) and foreign (BMW) automakers and an attempt at retirement.
His assignment was to revive interest in GM vehicles by getting styling off life support.
When he arrived he took a look at what was about to debut at Buick and called a timeout, ordering stylists to return to the drawing boards---this time with eyes open.
Credit Lutz with putting his fingerprints on a host of product that attracts consumer attention once again, with Buick one of the primary beneficiaries, thanks to the Enclave crossover and LaCrosse and Regal sedans.
Still to come is a new compact called Verano that will be built in the U.S. off the compact Chevy Cruze platform, perhaps as early as the 2012 model year, and a small, still unnamed crossover that has no firm model year designation as yet.
And, yes, Verano is a bummer of a moniker, but let's hope the car isn't.
But we digress.
We tested the new for 2011 midsize Regal sedan and if we had a nickel for every person who offered words of praise or some admiring glances, we'd have dough to own General Motors, not just one of its Buicks. An unusually large number of people of all age groups couldn't resist letting us know their feelings about Regal.
The Regal philosophy is simple, focus on premium fits that equate with quality, incorporate soft touch and grained finishes for a luxury image, and offer fashionable, top of the line features.
Regal is offered in one version with two different engines initially, the base CXL with an 2.4 liter Ecotech four cylinder rated at 19 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g.
highway for the mileage minded, or the CXL with a more potent 2 liter, 220 h.p.
turbocharged 4 cylinder rated at 18/29 and available with 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual for those who desire added performance.
The 2 liter turbo version also offers driver selectable suspension designed to change the personality of the car based on the personality of the driver. A driving mode control module continually monitors driving style based on acceleration, steering wheel movement, throttle and vehicle speed to maximize vehicle reaction to all those inputs for optimum ride and handling response.
A higher performance 2012 model GS version will go into production late this year with a higher output version of the 2 liter turbo that develops 255 h.p. for added zest in leaving the light. It initially will come with a 6-speed manual, and add a 6-speed automatic later.

And a higher mileage 2012 model e-Assist version of Regal with the 2.4 liter four will go into production this fall with mileage rated at 26 m.p.g. city/37 m.p.g. highway, versus 19/30 without the e-Assist system, which provides a lithium ion battery power boost when needed to reduce the load on the engine--as well as shutting off the engine at idle and reducing gas flow to the engine when decelerating or coasting to conserve fuel.
And, if you look again, in the interest of better mileage, there are no V-6s offered and none planned. Regal is the only Buick, and the only General Motors vehicle, offering a turbo engine, which is designed to have then power of a V-6, the mileage of a four cylinder.
The 2.4 liter four cylinder has good energy, but the 2 liter, 200 h.p. turbo four plays the performance role. The CXL with 2.4 liter is the mileage master in a lineup and designed to proved exceptional mileage in a midsize family sedan.
However, while it boasts 30 m.p.g. highway and about 550 miles of travel before the need to refuel, the 19 m.p.g. city mileage rating is 1 m.p.g. away from making far more people sit up and take notice of the mileage in a family sedan.
Squeezing 1 m.p.g. more out of city mileage would be a major fete. Here's hoping.
Initially Regal is being built in Germany, but will be added at GM's Oshawa, Ontario plant in Canada to serve the U.S. market starting in 2012.
Ride is smooth, handling very predictable with no surprises. The cabin is not only quiet, it's comfortable, though just a touch more knee room in back would be welcome. Trunk space is excellent.
Nice touches include a "man purse" in the lower dash left of the steering wheel, actually a pop open compartment with lid that both wallet and Blackberry fit into and closed to hide out of sight.
Regal is aimed at getting younger buyers into Buick showrooms, and by young, Buick means anyone now scouting out a Camry or Accord would be a welcome addition to the family.
The 2011 Regal CXL tested starts at $31,780. Standard equipment includes stability and traction control plus side air bag curtains along with power and heated front seats, climate control, keyless entry, pushbutton start, power windows and locks, audio system with CD player and satellite radio service, and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
A $4,785 option package added lumbar support to the power seats, power sunroof, navigation system with CD and DVD players and 9 speakers.
Regal is a very attractive, fashionable package, that should attract even more attention with its higher performance engine. The 2.4 liter will meet the needs of older buyers, the e-Assist version should satisfy the mileage minded, the 2 liter turbo models should satisfy consumers with more of a performance bent asnd demand a little added quickness while the GS will set the benchmark for Regal liveliness.

2011 Buick Regal CXL sedan
Wheelbase: 107.8 inches
Length: 190.2 inches
Engine: 2.4 liter, 182 h.p., four cylinder.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic.
Mileage: 19 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway.
Base price: $31,780.
Price as equipped: Add $4,785 comfort and convenience package with power driver/passenger seats with driver lumbar control, rear park assist, power sunroof, audio system upgrade with navi system, CD/DVD player, and $750 freight.

Jim Mateja

Jim Mateja enjoyed a 42 year career with the Chicago Tribune before retiring in 2007 as the newspaper's automotive columnist. He received numerous awards for his reporting and writing, including the National Automotive Journalism Association's "Moto" award for best regularly published column and automotive feature writing, and a Best in Show award for his test ride of a horse in conjunction with the Tribune's 150th anniversary. He also earned the Detroit Press Club Foundation's Gold Wheel Award for best car reviews, and a Tribune Professional Performance Award for his column and regular reporting. He still writes occasional car reviews for the Tribune, is one of the nation's 50 automotive journalists who serve as members of the North American Car of the Year judging panel, and is a panel member who helps select Best Buys for "Consumers Digest" magazine. Mateja also is the founding President of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.