The new Buick Regal is derived from General Motors’ European-market Opel Insignia and initially is being built in Germany—although production shifts to Canada early in 2011.
Does the front-wheel-drive Regal’s basically Euro design make it a genuine sports sedan? Not unless it has the upcoming $28,745 CXL Turbo version’s turbocharged 2-liter, 220-horsepower four-cylinder.
The standard $26,245 Regal CXL has a 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder with 182 horsepower. It provides less thrust than the turbo engine but delivers decent acceleration that should satisfy many Regal buyers.
The CXL with the 2.4 engine comes with a six-speed automatic transmission tuned more for economy and smooth shifts than high performance. It has a manual shift feature that doesn’t allow upshifts or downshifts at inappropriate speeds.
The turbo version also has a six-speed automatic, but will be offered with a no-extra-cost six-speed manual and an adjustable suspension with a sport setting. It also has extra standard features such as park assist.
The CXL delivers an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 30 on highways, while the CXL Turbo gets nearly the same fuel economy. Both engines can use regulr-grade fuel, although premium fuel is recommended for the turbo engine.
The CXL Turbo is more for driving enthusiasts than the CXL—if such drivers don’t mind spending the extra money.
Most Regal buyers are expected to choose the CXL, which has quick, precise steering with decent road feel,, agile handling and a good ride. The brake pedal has a soft action, but stopping distances are good with the all-disc anti-lock brakes, which have an assist feature.
The CXL is well-equipped. Standard are front leather heated seats (with a power driver’s seat), dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, navigation system, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/XM stereo with a CD player and 7-speakers—besides a tilt/telescoping wheel.
Safety features include stability and traction controls, side impact front air bags and head curtain side bags. Rear seat-mounted air bags are in an option package.
Options include a $4,785 package with a power sunroof and power front passenger seat, rear parking assist, premium 9-speaker sound system and ultrasonic rear parking assist. The sunroof can be had as a $1,000 stand-alone option.
The nicely sized Regal has a quiet, roomy interior, with easily grasped inside/outside door handles and an upscale look. Front seats have attractive stitching and offer good support. The rear seat has two nicely contoured seating areas, but the center space between them is too stiff for comfort Doors have fairly large storage pockets, although the covered console storage bin is small.
Front cupholders are set far back and are very deep, forcing one to pick up some hot drink cups by their tops and risking getting burned.
There are too many small dashboard control buttons for a driver to operate quickly, and speedometer and tachometer numbers should be larger for an easier read. Also the gas and coolant temperature gauges are tiny It’s difficult to fasten front seatbelts because one side of them is almost buried next to the console. Rear seatbelts also are hard to buckle.
Rear windows roll all the way down, which makes it easier for back seat occupants to reach for food or drinks at drive-through restaurant areas.
The large trunk has an opening that’s rather high but wide. Rear seatbacks fold forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area. The pass-through opening between the trunk and rear-seat area is large.
The hood opens smoothly on a hydraulic strut and has interior padding for added quietness. However, some fluid-filler areas are at the rear of the engine compartment and thus must be reached from the side.
Buick is after younger buyers with the Regal, which gives it a smaller car for economy minded buyers, besides those wanting a sporty model.
Dan Jedlicka is the former automotive writer for the Chicago Sun-Times. To read more of his new car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.