Buick Regal most anti-Buick ever

Abandon every preconception you have heretofore held of Buick. The 2011 Buick Regal is the most un-Buick vehicle this luxury division of GM has ever introduced.

It doesn’t look, drive or feel like any Buick built to date. That’s because it’s designed, engineered and built in Germany, with just a new grille and equipment necessary to make it conform to Canadian safety standards.

The new Regal is Buick’s attempt to attract younger buyers and bring the brand closer to traditional premium marques such as BMW and Acura.

A Buick to take on BMW? Now that’s bold — but not unexpected.

In GM’s mind, this particular car has already been battling BMW in Europe as the Opel Insignia. It also rides on a shortened version of the larger LaCrosse’s platform.

It certainly it has a lean, attractive European look, with crisp styling, short overhangs and only a minimal amount of chrome.

While this front-wheel drive car is available with a variety of gasoline engines in Europe, from a frugal 1.6-litre four to a ferocious 2.8-litre V-6, the U.S and Canada will only see a naturally-aspirated, direct-injection 2.4-litre four-cylinder producing 182 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. of torque under the hood — for now.

A turbocharged two-litre four-cylinder is scheduled to arrive in the fall. This will not only boost power to 220 h.p. and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, it can also be ordered with a five-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment is a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate but no steering-wheel paddles. No V-6 is available.

The four-cylinder is underpowered compared to the BMW 323i and Acura’s TSX, which both boast of over 200 horses on call. It probably doesn’t help, either, that the Regal, at 1,633 kilograms, is about 100 kg heavier than the BMW.

That’s not to say performance isn’t adequate. Acceleration is brisk and there is no trouble keeping up with traffic. It’s just that one has to downshift a bit more often. The upside is better fuel economy. The Regal bests the BMW and is almost as good as the TSX, with both reporting 6.5 litres per 100 km on the highway but with slightly higher consumption in the city at 10.8 (vs. the TSX at 9.6 litres per 100 km). The engine is quiet on the highway, turning over at 2,000 r.p.m. at 100 km/h.

People who have driven the European version say the North American car’s ride has been marginally softened. To me the suspension is the perfect compromise — well controlled but not overly harsh.

There is a high degree of steering feedback, giving the driver a good connection to the road. As good as the Regal is, I still find the BMW, with its front-engine rear-wheel-drive set up, more engaging as a driver’s car on twisty roads.

People with typical North American physiques will find the Regal’s ample seats more to their liking. Leather seats are standard, as is faux wood and a host of other standard luxury appointments in the cabin. Our tester was equipped with an option group that included a sunroof, park assist, upgraded Harman/Kardon stereo and rear thorax air bags.

The aural and tactile feedback from the materials is satisfying. The dash is modern and attractive. As with any luxury car, there is a number of necessary control buttons and knobs but it is not overwhelming. The interior is a balanced mixture of soft-touch materials, matte surfaces, satin and bright chrome set in a sea of leather and highlighted with faux wood — a comfortable and elegant way to spend time behind the wheel.

Those who appreciate fine details will wish to examine the satin bezel surrounding the speedometer. It reminds me of the markings found on a chronograph — very classy.

The backseat room is reasonable and the rear seat folds 60/40 to access a cavernous 402-litre trunk. Audible back-up sensors aid in estimating obstacles behind the car as the trunk lid is high. A small detail: The springs are powerful and open the trunk lid like a Jack-in-the-box. It may be a good idea to stand back when opening it with the remote.

Apart from the standard front, front side and side curtain airbags the Regal also offers optional side airbags for the rear passengers as well. Drivers who demand a high level of safety will appreciate this enhanced level of protection for their passengers.

The Regal is sure to change the public’s preconceptions about Buick. But all the engineering is for naught if it isn’t competitive. Fortunately, the Regal delivers here as well. With a $31,990 starting price, the Regal beats the 323i’s price by more than $4,500 less and the TSX’s by $2,300 — although standard equipment between the cars will vary.

And as a bonus, there’s a considerable fuel saving — both these competitors use premium gas, while the Regal floats comfortably along on regular.


Type: Midsize near-luxury sedan, front engine, front-wheel-drive

Engine: 2.4 litre direct-injection four cylinder, genearting 182 h.p at 6,700 r.p.m., 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,900 r.p.m.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,831; width, 1,857; height, 1,484; wheelbase, 2,738

Curb weight (kg): 1,633

Price (base/as tested): $31,990/$37,360 (includes freight, PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: 1SE preferred equipment group (includes sunroof, passenger power seat, rear AC power outlet, park assist, rear thorax airbag, Harman/Kardon stereo) $3,625, Metallic paint $195

Tires: 235/50 R18 on alloy wheels

Fuel economy (L/100km): 10.8 city/6.5 highway; regular gas

Warranty: Four-years/80,000 km new vehicle, five-years/100,000 km powertrain and roadside assistance

Photograph by: General Motors, Handout