2011 Buick Regal
Date Posted: August 26, 2010
By Zack Spencer
General Motors is bringing the European Opel Insignia to North America as a Buick Regal. With a stunning interior, solid handling and an attractive starting price, the Regal offers good value in the entry level luxury market.
The image a car company projects takes years to cultivate an almost as long to change. This is the case with Buick. For decades Buick has been synonymous with affordable luxury for older buyers who want an ultra smooth and quiet car that insulates the driver from the outside world. Buyers of Buicks tend to be older, with an average age of 68. You can start to see the problem. Getting a younger, (mid forties professionals) to consider a vehicle that their fathers might buy is a real trick. So what has Buick done to entice a new generation of Buick consumers? Take the best selling mid-sized car in Europe, the German-made Opel Insignia, keep the same inspired suspension and handling and package it with fabulous looks and killer interior. The 2011 Buick Regal is a whole new direction for this historic brand and one that will get attention.
The design is very cohesive with flowing lines and muscular stance that appeals to the eye from every angle. Yes, the Regal has an air of sophistication but it also looks like it means business. The rear fenders flare out over the handsome 18-inch or 19-inch wheels and the chunky rear end is the most attractive angle, in my opinion. Just like the larger Buick LaCrosse, the Regal has a flowing roofline but the rear trunk deck is low enough and the side pillars small enough that visibility is much better than the LaCrosse. For the 2011 model year the Regal will be built in Germany and delivered here to Canada with only one CXL trim level. The following year production will move to GM's award winning Oshawa Ontario assembly plant and more trim levels will be offered.
As attractive as the outside is, the interior is the standout when it comes to design. The seats are well bolstered and supportive, very in keeping with the cars European roots. The materials used on the dash include matt surfaces surrounding the radio and heating controls, splashes of wood and chrome that would look at home in cars costing much more. For the very first time in a General Motors car there is even an optional centre command dial that lets the driver interact with the radio, navigation and hands free phone. These types of systems can make or break the vehicles functionality and in the time I used it, the controller seemed to work very well. The base CXL comes very well equipped with leather-heated seats, which are power operated on the driver's side. The audio unit comes with a USB connector for your smart phone or iPod and Bluetooth is also included. With a starting price is $31,990 the Regal offers exceptional value considering the very high level of interior design and equipment. There is an optional engine package that includes even more interior equipment for only $3000 more.
Styling and features can only go so far in attracting more youthful buyers; the real test is on the open road. Buick still produces vehicles with the classic, soft luxurious ride and handling but now they have a car that delivers what import buyers are used to...inspired handling and performance. The European suspension features MacPherson struts op front and a multi-link rear suspension, riding on hydraulic bushings. The result is very sure footed but at the same time well dampened, elimination road noise. The base engine is a 2.4L 4-cylinder with 182hp. That's right, no V6 but in it's place is an optional ($3000) turbo 2.0L 4-cylinder with 220hp. That's more power than Audi produces out of their 2.0L turbo! The turbo also includes a Drive Control feature that allows the driver to dial-in different suspension, engine and transmission settings for improved performance. Having driven both the 2.4L and the optional turbo, the clear choice, for only $3000 more, is the turbo. It transforms the Regal from a very good sedan to an excellent performer.
So does the Regal change the face of Buick? Absolutely. Will this exciting new car bring younger buyers into the Buick fold? Time will tell. There is one thing for sure an older buyer will appreciate the Regal's many merits and the younger buyers who try this car will be pleasantly surprised. If you are in the market for any sedan costing between $30,000-$35,000, do yourself a favour and try the Regal. Buyers used to Japanese cars won't believe how much nicer the interior is compared to many Hondas and Toyotas. German car buyers will be surprised at the on-road capability of the turbo. With Buick consistently ranked as one of the most dependable brands, according to JD Power and Associates, the thought of trying a Buick makes a lot of sense. Young or older, the people who buy a Regal have chosen a very good sedan indeed.
The Good, The Bad
Good: With a starting price below $32,000 the Regal is a steal. An entry-level luxury car for the same price as a well equipped Toyota Camry.
Bad: No all-wheel drive yet and the turbo prefers premium fuel.
Power: 2.4L 4-cylinder with 182hp or 2.0L turbo with 220hp
Fill-up: 10.8/6.5 L/100km ( city/highway 2.4L)
Sticker price: $31,990-$34,990