May 22, 2013
Written by by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 07 April 2011 10:54
Buick’s 2011 Regal immediately reminded us of another European-bred General Motors product: the Saturn Astra, an interesting but ultimately disappointing attempt to resuscitate a dying nameplate in 2008 and 2009. Like the Astra, the Regal is a bit mild in the horsepower department. Both compensated by delivering slick handling and European styling.
The Regal is a midsize four-door sedan priced in the mid-$20s. Our test car was a top-of-the-line CXL Turbo whose bottom line came to $33,190.The Regal, like the Astra before it, is an Opel product built in Russelsheim, Germany. Opel, a GM subsidiary, has been sold under its own nameplate (remember the Kadett and the sporty GT from the early 1970s?), as well as under various GM badges, for decades.
The trouble with the Regal is it really doesn’t have a home of its own in the GM lineup. If you go to a Buick dealer looking for a reliable, upscale, sporty four-door sedan that seats five, you’ll have to climb over Buick’s well-regarded LaCrosse to get to the Regal. The base LaCrosse costs exactly $750 more than the base Regal.
The LaCrosse is somewhat bigger, with a 112-inch wheelbase compared with the Regal’s 108. The Regal has a little more front leg room; the LaCrosse, a little more room in the back seat. Luggage capacity is almost identical. In the final analysis, the LaCrosse is longer and wider, with a 102 cubic feet of passenger volume compared with 97 in the Regal. Over at Chevrolet, it’s a pretty big leap from the compact Cruze to the midsize Malibu, but it’s a quick mincing step between the Regal and LaCrosse.
Available only with front-wheel drive, the Regal will appeal to buyers who like the idea of enjoying midsize style, comfort and versatility, with compact-car fuel economy. The base Regal, with a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 182-horsepower engine, can reach 30 mpg, and the turbocharged, 2-liter, 220-horsepower Four does pretty well, too: 18 mpg city, 28 highway. (We averaged a little better than 26.)
By contrast, the LaCrosse can be fitted with a 280-horsepower V-6, though it’s also available with the same mild-mannered engines that power the Regal. Significantly, it’s available with all-wheel drive. The Regal comes in just two flavors: the CXL, with the 182-horsepower engine, and the CXL Turbo.
The CXL Turbo has undeniable near-luxury credibility, with power seats and seat heaters, Ultrasonic rear parking assist, dual-zone climate control, autodimming rear-view mirror, leather upholstery and XM satellite radio, to name a few. The Regal is a new model, so reliability data aren’t available. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated it a Top Safety Pick.
We found the Regal an unexpectedly fun car to drive, with ample power and a good balance between cornering capability and riding comfort. But if it came down to a choice between the Regal and its classy stablemate, the LaCrosse, we’d likely leave the showroom with the one the sales manager was most anxious to move.
Engine: 2-liter turbocharged inline Four, 220 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19 x 8.5-inch alloy (optional)
Tires: P245/40R19 all-season (optional)
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 14.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium (recommended)
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