2011 Buick Regal: Gen Y Please Buy

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Buick is in the midst of an identity crisis. According to GM executives, the average age of a Buick buyer is 64 years old and they aren’t getting any younger. With Gen Y kids being the biggest group of consumers behind the Baby Boomers, how can Buick move from grandparents to grandchildren? The 2011 Buick Regal is the answer.
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As I mentioned in a previous article, I’ve been in love with European vehicles. I always thought Ford cheated Americans by not offering their European vehicles here. I even had the last-gen Mercury Cougar because it was as close to a European Ford as I could get. That was right after I had a Contour and an SVT Contour. Right around the time I had that Cougar, The General was trying to inject new blood into Cadillac in an effort to bring younger buyers into showrooms. Many might remember the tagline “The Caddy That Zigs” from the commercials for the Catera. The Catera was a badge-engineered Opel that was never quite successful. GM is at it again and has decided to badge-engineer another Opel into the 2011 Buick Regal. Unlike badge-engineering that many of us might know today such as the Caravan and the Town & Country or the Yukon and Tahoe this is much welcomed badge-engineering.
When I got wind of the Regal coming across the pond two years ago I was excited. The Opel Insignia was the 2009 Car of the Year in Europe. It had to be good, right? I recently had two experiences with the Regal. One was a drive and the other was a social event. The first experience was with the 2.4L Regal. It’s assembled in Germany for a few more months till it moves to Canada. The transmission comes from China and the engine from the USA. This vehicle is sold around the world with many different names so having part content from many different countries just goes to show what a global vehicle it truly is.
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My first experience with the Regal was of the silver exterior variety with funeral parlor-like black interior. The exterior is sporty, unoffensive, and not so Buick-like. The interior I had was black leather with black instrument panel with piano black finish and black radio/climate control. Had the “brushed aluminum” from the Opel Insignia replaced the piano black to break up the depressing color (or lack of) it might have been more attractive. Regardless of the color, the interior is well laid out with an electric park brake, auto climate control, and a center stack with some gigantic buttons on it. Maybe so you can see them without your reading glasses? The traction control button was so large that you you could push it with your whole hand. That might come in handy one day.
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OK so the interior functional and has soft-touch materials in more places than any GM vehicle I can remember being in. The exterior isn’t screaming Audi or BMW and this is still a Buick, right? If you’re thinking of marshmallow suspension calibrations and handling that is right down there with a Winnebago you’re sadly mistaken. Considering that the Regal is front-wheel drive, it is an absolute blast to drive through the twisties. The issue lies within trying to get to the twisties. The “butt dyno” tells me the Regal is slow. Upon further investigation it is. The Regal shares the 2.4L I4 engine with the Equinox and many publications have found the Regal to clock 0-60 MPH in 8.7 seconds or slower. The Equinox comes in at 8.7 seconds. Ouch.
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Buick knew this car wasn’t going to win any stop light races so they have been hard at work on two turbo versions. Following in the footsteps of Hyundai and not offering anything larger than a four-cylinder engine in their bread & butter sedan, Buick is bringing the Regal GS to market in the middle of 2011 with a souped-up four banger. I was able to attend the official unveiling in Miami of the Regal GS. It was clear to me then that Buick was after a different crowd with the Regal. Buick rented out a night club in the heart of Miami and brought their entire line-up into the club. Music was blasting into the club that can normally be heard on XM “Top Twenty on Twenty” and everyone seemed to be between 20 and 30 years old. There were hundreds of people at this event! Buick gave this Miami crowd the first chance of anyone in the country to see the Regal GS. Keeping the Gen Y theme of the evening, Buick went all out and introduced chart-topping band “Plain White T’s” on to the stage where people were dancing and singing and enjoying the Buicks on the dance floor. A social experiment that was a success as I watched person after person filter through the Regal and light up with all smiles as they checked out the car that Buick is marketing toward them and not their parents.
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The Regal GS has 255 HP and a six-speed manual or automatic. It has Brembo brakes and addresses some of the shortcomings of the 2.4L Regal with a dual exhaust rear bumper, HID headlights, push button start, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and an adaptive suspension for those who wish to push the limits on that freeway entrance ramp. On paper the Regal GS looks like one sweet machine. It surely has a lot of competition to fend off. Buick considers the TSX, VW CC, and Audi A4 it’s key competitors. I’d be willing to throw in a few more such as the Sonata with 274 HP. The Sonata 2.0T offers up more power and navigation for under $30,000. A mind-boggling bargain but some people can’t get past what Hyundai was a few years ago. Some people might be put off by the front-wheel only setup in the Regal. A RWD Infiniti G25 starts under $32,000 and has been praised for excellent handling and value and can also be had with all-wheel drive. I could go on and on about the Maxima, Lincoln MKZ, Mazda6, VW CC, etc but you get the point. This is a very competitive segment.
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A detestosteroned 2.0 turbo model will also be available soon with 220 HP. This will be the premium engine on the standard Regal if the 2.4L isn’t sufficient for your daily commute.
I really liked the Regal overall. It offered a quiet ride that inspired more confidence than the last Regal did six years ago. There is adequate rear seat room which is sometimes forgotten by German designers. The fuel economy was disappointing which is partially due to a heavy foot that was a result of the anemic 2.4L engine. The Regal doesn’t have spiffy electric power steering or special torque converter lock-up settings like the Equinox, which claims an EPA highway rating of 32 MPG. The Regal comes in at 19 city/30 highway. If you like European vehicles and can get past the Buick logo on the front then this is worth a look. I often forgot I was driving a Buick until I’d get behind an old LeSabre or Roadmaster and the hair on my neck would stand up. I’d wait for one of the two turbo models to debut if you’re interested.

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