Buick revived the mid-size Regal nameplate sedan for the 2011 model year, basing it on the same platform as General Motors’ (GM) German sibling, the Opel Insignia, which won major awards when it debuted in Europe.
Shorter than the popular LaCrosse, the Regal is basically a four-passenger car that could accommodate a rear-center child seat if necessary. The leather interior reminded us of the Acura TSX, in that it’s a nice mix of sport and luxury.
The Regal comes in five trim levels — the base Regal (1SL), Premium I (1SN), Premium II (1SP), Premium III (1SR) and GS (1SX). With four option packages (including GS) that allows buyers a fairly high degree of personalization.
Walkaround: Following the lead of manufacturers such as Nissan/Infiniti, Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus, Volvo and others, GM designed the Regal as a world car built for sales in numerous international markets. It shares all its body panels with the aforementioned Insignia, and bears the signature sloping roofline of today’s contemporary sedans. It’s visually extended by the edge of the rear lamp housings and a short trunk lid with a subtle lip spoiler. A simple character line sweeps down and back behind the front wheel and carries through the rear door. There’s no lower edge trim but textured paint protection does minimize stone chips.
Side chrome is limited to the window surrounds and a front fender-mounted turn indicator. However, both ends have their share of brightwork. The nose showcases the prominent waterfall grille framed by lamp clusters. A large chrome spear anchors a big, truck-mounted Buick crest, and the sweep of the lamps mirror the LaCrosse.
There are also three new color choices for 2013 — Black Diamond Tricoat, Champagne Silver Metallic, and Graphic Blue Metallic.
Interior: With leather standard, even the base model offers a welcoming interior that’s comfortable and quiet, with its character seemingly changing with the chosen color scheme.
Both our test vehicle’s front seats featured 8-ways with a 4-way lumbar support. Long-term support was good — especially traveling — but the lack of lateral support and softness shows the seats are clearly meant for comfort rather than performance driving.
The rear seats are comfortable for occupants under 6 feet. The sloping roofline limits rear headroom — a problem the smaller VW Passat and larger Mazda6 don’t have.
Instrumentation has the computer/message center situated between a watch-dial-like speedometer and tach, underneath numerical fuel and coolant gauges, which are illuminated in GM’s signature ice blue. GPS Navigation is standard on all models and the 7-inch high-resolution, full-color touch screen sits top center offering excellent line-of-sight viewing.
Standard audio is a 7-speaker, AM/FM/Sirius XM (three-month courtesy subscription) stereo with single CD/DVD player, MP3 player, auxiliary input jack, and iPod/USB port. The available SiriusXM Travel Link feature (subscription required) includes fuel locations with pricing information, weather infor¬mation and movie theater locations.
Optional is a harman/kardon 336-watt, 5.1 Matrix Surround Sound, 9-speaker system.
Also standard with both audio systems is Buick’s IntelliLink system, which uses Bluetooth or USB to connect the driver’s smartphone to the radio display via the screen. IntelliLink allows smartphone control via voice activation and steering wheel-mounted controls. The standard Radio Data System (RDS) also enables streaming stereo from the phone through Internet radio services such as Pandora and Stitcher.
White-on-black buttons on the center stack handle audio, car, and navigation chores, with dual temperature climate controls below, and redundant controls on the sporty steering wheel. Chrome trim abounds, framing the shifter, gauges and rotary dash controls.
The 14.2 cubic foot trunk is fairly long and offers moderate lift-to-load and unload dimensions, securing points, and flat sidewalls. The 60/40 split rear seat folds down with a lockable pass-through in the armrest.
Safety features include six airbags standard with rear-seat side-impact airbags optional, as is GM’s Electronic Stability Control.
Under The Hood: There is one basic powerplant, with three configurations, and two transmission choices. Our test vehicle was equipped with GM’s standard 2.4-liter, DOHC, four-banger with eAssist, that puts 182 horses to the highway, with 172 pound-feet of torque, and married to a six-speed automatic — the only transmission with this engine. The eAssist system uses power stored in the lithium-ion battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving situations and enables regenerative braking capability, optimizing engine and transmission operation. Fuel economy is rated at 25/city and 36/highway.
There’s an optional Eco-Tec 220-horse turbocharged, direct-injected 2-liter, that delivers 260 pound-feet of torque, and a high-output turbo version that puts down 270 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque. Both are available with either a 6-speed stick or automatic.
Behind The Wheel: We found the Regal very quiet, with a nice, smooth highway ride. In fact, it may be the quietest car in its class. A bad road surface will transmit some noise however, and we noticed some slight wind noise from behind at speed. But even with the engine pushing hard, it’s little more than background noise, with no audible hint it’s even working hard.
The Regal has a very solid feel, and driving it hard at freeway speeds offered comfort and quiet. The steering provides good feedback, feel and directional stability, and the brakes are certainly up to the challenge. Both the gas and brake pedals are engineered to require some foot travel before you get into heavy braking or kick-down acceleration, rather than the instant bite of a sports sedan. And while it’s not a true sports sedan, like some of its competitors — namely the Acura TSX, Audi A4, Mazda 6, VW Passat, Volvo S60, and Lexus ES — it’s pretty close.
Whines: While the Regal is more than adequate around town or on the freeway, the standard 2.4 could be pushing it passing a truck on a two-lane blacktop or climbing a mountain grade.
Bottom Line: The Buick Regal offers a stylish alternative to the entry-premium midsize sedan segment, delivering visual appeal, soothing quiet, smooth ride, easily deciphered features, comfort and economy conducive to long drives — and a better than average warranty.