2011 Buick RegalPosted on May 26th, 2010
Mid-sized sport sedan rolls out on three continents
By Nina Russin
General Motors’ restructuring transformed Buick from a premium to a core brand. Product planners are reconfiguring the model line-up to appeal to a broader audience.
The former Buick Regal was an American design for American drivers. The 2011 model, based on the Opel Insignia, was developed in Germany for buyers in North America, Europe and China.
Both available engines are fuel-efficient four-cylinder blocks. Base models come with a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter engine rated at 182 horsepower. The upscale 2-liter turbocharged engine develops 220 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque, for enhanced low-end acceleration.
For the first time in decades, Buick is offering a six-speed manual gearbox on turbo-equipped cars. An interactive drive control system lets the driver adjust the suspension settings for a firmer or softer ride.
By giving the new Regal a distinctly European character, Buick hopes to appeal to younger driving enthusiasts, who will cross shop Asian and European luxury models such as the Acura TL and Volvo S60.
Buick’s ace-in-the-hole is value pricing. Both the base and turbocharged grades start at under $30,000, including destination and delivery.
All cars come with a high level of standard safety features: four-channel antilock braking, stability and traction control, six standard airbags and OnStar, which automatically notifies the police and medical personnel if the airbags deploy.
Test drive in San Diego
This week, I test drove both the naturally aspirated and turbocharged Regals at a media event in San Diego. Our drive route included rural areas east of town, where we could experience the car’s ride and handling on challenging canyon roads.
I started the day in a Regal CXL, equipped with the 2.4-liter Ecotec engine and six-speed automatic transmission. MSRP for test car is $26,465, not including a $750 destination charge.
A convenience package adds ultrasonic rear park assist, a power sunroof, audio upgrade, rear seat side airbags and a 120-volt power outlet ($4785), bringing the price as tested to $31,780.
Product planners included many premium features as standard equipment: power heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant controls, Bluetooth interface and satellite radio. While Buick has become a core GM brand, the manufacturer wants to maintain its upscale image.
Refined power and performance
Engineers have made significant improvements in large four-cylinder engines over the past couple of years, giving them a smoother power curve and reducing vibration. Buyers might mistake the 2.4-liter block in the new Regal for a small six cylinder.
The six-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears, with a minimum of shift shock. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is about eight seconds.
A hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system produces plenty of assist for low-speed maneuvering while maintaining positive on-center response at speed. I was impressed at the steering response on the canyon roads, which were full of pitchy hills and off-camber turns.
Engineers attribute ride-and-handling improvements to increased torsional rigidity. By making extensive use of high-strength steel, engineers made the new Regal 25 percent stiffer than the former model.
Although the Regal is smaller than the Buick LaCrosse, its track is almost the same. The broad track gives the car a muscular exterior.
Standard eighteen-inch aluminum wheels provide large contact patches with the ground. The aluminum rims and aluminum suspension components minimize unsprung weight for better performance.
The new Regal has more road noise than traditional Buick buyers may be used to. I happen to like the change because it makes me feel more attached to the road. I also enjoy the pleasant exhaust note from the Regal’s dual tailpipes.
The MacPherson front and four-link rear suspension produce a compliant, yet firm ride. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
Visibility is pretty good around the car. I applaud the designers for keeping the rear pillars narrow to minimize blind spots in the back corners. The side mirrors are on the small side, making them tricky to adjust. Available ultrasonic park assist produces an audible chime to alert the driver about obstacles to the car’s rear.
Turbocharging packs a punch
The turbocharged two-liter engine develops peak torque at very low engine speeds. Turbochargers, which are turbines driven off the exhaust, enhance air delivery to the engine to give it better power and fuel efficiency. Base price for the turbocharged Regal is $29,495, including destination.
EPA fuel economy is a mile-per-gallon poorer than for the naturally aspirated engine: 18/29 miles-per-gallon city and highway. But buyers should be pleased by the difference in performance. Acceleration in the crucial 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range is significantly better than for the 2.4-liter engine. Commuters who drive in and out of toll booths will be pleasantly surprised.
Engineers gave turbocharged models a variable-effort rack-and-pinion steering system, which produces more assist at low speeds, with firmer feedback on the highway.
Interactive drive control that allows the driver to adjust suspension setting is available only with the turbo. So are nineteen-inch wheels, which add some bulk to the car’s footprint.
Upscale grades get bigger brakes for enhanced stopping power. Buick recommends premium fuel for the turbo, but the car will run on regular.
The bridge between the old and new Buick seems most obvious in its interior. Styling is more contemporary than for former models, but flourishes such as wood veneer trim are traditional Buick. The waterfall center stack is similar in appearance to the center stack in the current LaCrosse, designed by a team in China.
Second-row passengers should have adequate head and legroom, though not as much as in the full-sized LaCrosse. A tall floor tunnel all but eliminates legroom in the center position.
I found both the driver’s and front passenger seats comfortable for drives of two hours, with plenty of lower back support. The new seats represent an enormous improvement over older models.
White on black gauges are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. I had no trouble reading the navigation screen at the top of the center stack in bright sunlight. A digital information screen in the gauge cluster includes average and real-time fuel economy, range, average speed, and trip meters.
Dual overhead reading lamps illuminate the car at night. Designers used similar ambient blue lighting to the LaCrosse, giving the Regal an exotic appearance at night.
Both rows of passengers have access to bottle holders in the doors, and cupholders in the center console and a fold-down armrest. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.
A 120-volt outlet that comes with the least expensive convenience package allows rear passengers to plug in games or a computer. A USB port and 12-volt power point in the center console recharge electronic devices on the go, and enable the driver to plug in a music stick.
A mouse-type device on the center console and redundant steering wheel controls give driver easy access to audio, Bluetooth and cruise control functions.
The waterfall center stack contains a myriad of buttons, including the audio and navigation systems, adjustable ride control, heating and air conditioning. I found the set-up distracting, when I attempted to use the controls while driving.
The Regal has a surprisingly spacious trunk for a mid-sized car. The rear seats fold flat to create a pass-through for longer items.
The 2011 Buick Regal is rolling into dealerships nationwide. Turbocharged models with the six-speed manual transmission will be available later this year.
Likes: An affordably priced mid-sized sedan with a high level of comfort, convenience and safety features. The available two-liter turbocharged engine is fuel efficient, with excellent low-end acceleration. Enhanced torsional rigidity gives the new Regal significantly better handling and performance than former models.
Dislike: Cluttered center stack makes it difficult to differentiate controls.
Model: Regal CXL*
Base price: $26,245
As tested: $31,780
Horsepower: 182 Hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 172 lbs.-ft. @ 4900 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 19/30 mpg city/highway
Comments: Specifications are for cars equipped with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.
5 responses to “2011 Buick Regal”
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Satellite probably doesnt reach to that area… or more expensive to maintain… kinda like roaming in cell phone companies… they use other companies towers… same with GPS Satellites.
Thanks, this article is almost a year old, but very helpful to use as I advised a client who was deciding between the Turbocharged and the regular 2.4 version.
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