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In the 1950s and ’60s, owning a Buick was a status symbol. It signified that you were doing well in the world. The cars were stylish and built with a quality that few could surpass. More recently, Buicks have come to signify something else entirely, namely that you are an old fuddy-duddy who drives 10 mph below the speed limit with a blinker on at all times. But Buick is doing its best to change that perception. With recent releases like the Enclave crossover and LaCrosse sedan, style is back in the brand. And with the release of the 2011 Regal, Buick wants to add some sporty spice to the lineup. A recent drive in General Motors’ newest sport sedan revealed a few things buyers should know when considering the 2011 Buick Regal.
Photos courtesy of Buick.
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#10. It’s a thinly disguised Opel Insignia.
The 2011 Buick Regal isn’t just based on the Opel Insignia. It is the Opel Insignia with a different face. In fact, only 293 parts are different than its European counterpart, and most of those are devoted to making it look like a Buick. The Opel roots are good ones. The Insignia was the 2009 European Car of the Year, and it has garnered a total of 31 awards in Europe. The car is also sold as the Regal in China, where it went on sale last year and has since taken home another eight awards.
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#9. It fits below the LaCrosse in the Buick sedan lineup.
The Regal shares its Epsilon II architecture with its bigger brother, the Buick LaCrosse. It rides a wheelbase that is almost four inches shorter and overall length is down by close to seven inches. While the Regal is just as wide as a LaCrosse, it sits 1.5 inches lower. The size differences, as well as the suspension tuning, allow Buick to market the LaCrosse as a full-size luxury car and the Regal as a midsize sport sedan. In terms of pricing, the Regal runs about $2,500 less than a comparably equipped LaCrosse.
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#8. It’s offered in one model with two engines…to start.
The 2011 Buick Regal comes in only one well-equipped model called CXL. Standard features include leather upholstery, power heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod jack, XM satellite radio, six airbags, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Pricing starts at $26,995 with the base 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Also offered is a 220-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that brings the cost to $29,995. These will be the only two versions available for the 2011 model year, and all will be built at the Opel factory in Russelsheim, Germany.
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#7. More models are due for 2012, including the GS.
A decontented CX model with cloth upholstery is scheduled for the 2012 model year, when production will shift to GM’s plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Buick insiders indicate that the company won’t follow recent protocol by offering a sporty CXS model. Instead, the company has confirmed that a GS, similar to the 2010 show car, will be offered. If it follows form, it will come with a 258-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four with 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The powertrain hasn’t been confirmed, though, so it could be the 320-horsepower 3.2-liter turbocharged V6 from the Opel Insignia OPC.
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#6. It sips gas.
Both of the Regal’s engines are modernized fours from GM’s Ecotec family. Now fitted with direct injection, they are more powerful and more fuel efficient than ever before. The 2.4-liter is EPA rated at 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, while the 2.0-liter turbo comes in not far below that at 18/29. Both are offered with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability, and the turbo gets an optional six-speed manual. That’s right, a manual in a Buick!
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#5. Power is adequate but not particularly strong.
The base engine will be enough for most tastes. It responds well from a stop, getting a car up to speed briskly. Zero to 60 mph comes in at about 8.5 seconds. It lacks passing punch, though, struggling for extra zip at highway speeds. The turbo has similar punch from a stop, without any discernable turbo lag, but is far more responsive in the midrange and at highway speeds. It takes about 7.5 seconds to reach 60 mph, and passing is much easier. The automatic transmission works well with both engines. While the automatic's manual shift capability is nice, it is only accessible through the gearshift. We think a car with the Regal’s sporty aspirations should have steering wheel shift paddles.
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#4. It has honest-to-goodness German engineering.
The Regal’s German roots show through in a car that is sportier than most would expect from a Buick. Models with the turbocharged engine get Buick’s Interactive Driver Control System (IDCS), which varies the steering effort, shock settings, automatic transmission shift points and throttle response. Drivers can choose from three modes: Tour, Normal and Sport. Tour is softest and we noticed some highway float in this mode. The suspension is fairly tight otherwise, with surprisingly little lean in turns and an agile feel. The steering feels most natural without IDCS, and is quick and responsive, befitting a car touted as a sport sedan. Ride quality is generally good in any mode, but the Sport setting combined with the available 19-inch wheels can cause ruts to pound through.
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#3. The interior looks great.
Offered only as a higher line CXL model, the 2011 Buick Regal comes with such niceties as leather upholstery, a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, Bluetooth cell phone link, iPod connectivity, XM satellite radio, and OnStar. The environment is rich and inviting, with soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels, and nice little design details such as accent stitching and chrome-ringed controls. Also available are a navigation/audio system with 10 gigabytes of space for storing songs and a one gigabyte flash drive that allows drivers to rewind up to the last 20 minutes of XM radio stations. The Regal also comes with a multi-function controller on the center console that is used to work the navigation system, radio and Bluetooth phone. It amounts to a mini version of BMW’s iDrive, but without so many functions and a corresponding lesser amount of confusion.
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#2. It has room for a family.
While the Regal has a 3.9-inch shorter wheelbase than its LaCrosse big brother—and 2.8 inches less rear legroom—it still has enough room for a family. Two adults will fit comfortably in back, though taller rear seat passengers will find legroom and headroom to be cramped, the latter due to attractive coupe-like roofline. Three kids should fit just fine in back, but the middle kid will complain about what is, for now, a vestigial center hump (it will become useful if and when an all-wheel-drive version is offered).
Storage is also quite good. The trunk has a generous 14.3 cubic feet of space, about as much as an Acura TL, and that space is aided by standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a center passthrough. The Regal may be smaller than the LaCrosse, but it’s still a useful family car.
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#1. It should change what you think about Buick.
With only four brands left at General Motors, America is going to have to get used to changing its opinion of Buick. Vehicles that would have worked as Euro-inspired Saturns or sporty Pontiacs will now show up with Buick badges. The Regal is one of them. It was originally scheduled to arrive as a Saturn, and its European ride and handling is sportier than any Buick in decades. This car is light on its feet, pleasant to live with, offers frugal fuel economy, and has enough power with the turbocharged engine to be fun. If you haven’t looked at a Buick lately, you’ll be surprised by the Regal.
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