2011 Buick Regal Review

2011 Buick Regal - Turbo makes Regal a sleeper sport sedan.


Vehicle Tested
2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo
Base Price: $28,745
At-Tested Price: $35,185
Built in Ontario, Canada and Germany.

Rear-Seat Air Bags
Interactive Drive Control
19-Inch Wheels
HID Headlamps
Premium Audio System with Navigation

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4
6-Speed Automatic

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

Buick revives a historic nameplate for its all-new midsize sedan. The 2011 Regal is slightly smaller than the brand's LaCrosse and aims directly across the bow of luxury-brand entry level players like the Acura TSX, Audi A4, Lexus IS and Lincoln MKZ.

Regal is available only as a four-door, five-passenger sedan that shares its basic design with the European-market Opel Insignia. Initially it is offered only in a single trim level called CXL. Two engines are available, a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four cylinder or a turbocharged 220-horsepower 2.0-liter four. All models are front wheel drive and come with a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive and a manual transmission are on tap later in the model year.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, tire-pressure monitor, daytime running lights and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. A rear-obstacle detection system and rear-side airbags are optional.

The 2.4-liter CXL starts at $26,245 and the turbocharged CXL at $28,745. Standard equipment includes air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls, OnStar assistance system with one-year service, tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front bucket seats, eight-way power driver seat w/lumbar adjustment, center console, passenger-seat power height adjustment, split-folding rear seat, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital-media player connection and iPod adapter, Bluetooth cell-phone link, intermittent wipers, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, illuminated visor mirrors, rear defogger, automatic headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, fog lights, 235/50VR18 tires and alloy wheels. Included with the turbo model are rear-obstacle-detection system, eight-way power passenger seat with lumbar adjustment and 120-volt power outlet.

Options include sunroof, navigation system, music hard drive, and HID headlamps. The 2011 Regal has a destination charge of $750 and is manufactured in Ontario, Canada and Germany.

Get Up and Go  Interestingly, both engines feel somewhat sleepy when pulling away from a stoplight. Things pickup up once Regal is moving, especially in the turbo model, which has noticeably stronger passing power and little turbo lag. When prodded, the turbocharged engine will push the Regal from 0-60 mph in about eight seconds. Expect and additional 1.5 seconds to reach that mark in the normally-aspirated Regal.

Both engines are surprisingly smooth and refined when cruising and emit a nice growl in hard acceleration.

The six-speed automatic lazily shifts between gears and sometimes hesitates between the one-two shift when going around corners. Downshifts are prompt and have a crisp positive feel. This is most noticeable in the four-cylinder model, but is also evident from time to time with the turbo.

The non-turbo engine is EPA rated at 19 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Turbo models have EPA ratings of 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Buick says the 2.4-liter runs fine on regular-grade gasoline, while premium-grade is recommended for best performance with the turbo mill

Regal's EPA numbers compare favorably with import competitors, but to be fair, neither the base nor the turbo engine have as much power in most cases. Routine Chicagoland commuting with the base engine is likely about 22-24 mpg overall. Throw in a bunch of highway miles and you'll bump that average close to the advertised 30 mpg mark. Turbo numbers are similar unless you really stomp the throttle, which will drop mileage into the high teens.

On the Road  In stark contract to Regal's of yore, the 2011 Regal features a refreshingly taut and composed ride. There's more impact harshness than a traditional Buick buyer might expect but the ride is never hard or tiresome.

Regal feels nimble and well balanced when tackling twisty roads or curvy on-ramps. The firm suspension limits body motions in quick lane changes as well. Steering feel is direct and linear with great feedback. Brakes have good stopping power and boast a responsive-feeling pedal.

The available Interactive Drive Control System has a Sport and Touring mode. It works as advertised. Set in Sport, the Regal feels more alive and in tune with driver input. Set to Touring, there's defiantly more compliance in the suspension.

Regal is a quiet car. There's barely a whisper of wind and tire noise at highway speeds. Both engines accelerate smoothly and are well-muffled at cruise.

Behind the Wheel  Regal sports a modern and function interior that's part luxury car part sport sedan. Satin-metal trim and soft-touch surfaces add an air of ambience without being overstated. Another plus are nicely trimmed leather seats.

Drivers face unobstructed gauges with small markings that are hard to read at a glance. Center stack features conventional controls but the sheer number of buttons can be off putting to the traditionalist. The optional navigation system brings with it a confusing console-mounted dial that only complicates matters further. A touch-screen navi display would be a welcome change.

Front-seat passengers are treated to comfortable, if a bit small, seats that have great head and leg room. The driving position is excellent and outward visibility is good, though the rear deck is tall, making the available rear-view camera much appreciated.

Rear seat room is class competitive, but a far cay from adult comfortable. Knee room is tight if the front seats are pushed more than halfway back and headroom is compromised by the sunroof housing. Three-across seating is compromised by the central floor hump and the overall width of the rear seats.

Cargo room is good and the trunk opening is large. However, there are sickle-shaped hinges that intrude on overall space. At least they are covered to protect items in the cargo area. Interior storage is quite limited, with only a few open and covered bins scattered about.

Bottom Line  The new Regal impresses and is a legitimate entry-level luxury competitor. It represents the new Buick better than any model so far. It's technologically advanced, euro-flavored and restrained--something that can't be said of Buicks past.

Demerits for the hard-to-operate navigation system and smallish back seat. Otherwise there's a lot to like in this new Buick. It compares favorably with the competition on face value and under cuts most by several thousand dollars when matched feature for feature. If you're looking for a comfortable and elegant compact sedan, perhaps it's time to give Buick another look.

Specifications 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo
4-door sedan
Turbocharged DOHC I4
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
2.0 / 122
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
220 @ 5300
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
258 @ 2000
Height, in.
6-Speed Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
18 city / 28 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.
Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
4 years / 50,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 100,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
6 years / 100,000 miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
5 years / 100,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.