Regal, the Buick nameplate, has been around since the 1970s and may invoke images of dowdy sedans. Now comes an all-new Regal, and the only thing it shares with its predecessors is a name. For now, the 2011 Regal isn't even made in America — it's produced in Germany, where it's known as the Opel Insignia.
Appearance: Buick's efforts to reinvent itself paid off last year with the sleek LaCrosse, and the smaller Regal is just as striking — from its waterfall grille to its gently sloping roofline that ends in a faux spoiler and chrome-trimmed rear end. There's a noticeable side body crease that adds dimension and character.
Performance: The Regal may look like a sport sedan, but it isn't there yet. We both found the 2.4-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder to be more than adequate for city driving but wish it had a little more oomph on the highway, particularly when you are merging onto the interstate. (We eagerly await the upcoming turbo version, which should remedy any power issues.) The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and there is a manual option. Where the Regal really shines — and shows off its European roots — is in the corners, which it handles with control and real precision for a midsize sedan. The fuel mileage is a respectable 19 in the city, 30 highway. In all, the Regal is an agreeable cruiser.
Interior: The cabin is quiet; we didn't hear much road noise, even on rough highway. With the exception of a few Euro-style touches, the interior is pretty much what we've come to expect from recent GM cockpits — stylish, yet somewhat generic in its controls and mix of materials. Our tester's dark gray-with-silver-trim color scheme reminded Peter of the GMC Terrain we drove recently. The speedometer and tach are accented with cool-blue lighting and there is a digital mph function as well. But Lyra had a major issue with the gauges. The readings in the tach are displayed "x100" instead of the usual "x1000," which makes it too similar to the speedometer. And that gets confusing. Some other nits: The side-view mirrors are small and the lock/unlock buttons are on the center stack as in some other GM vehicles, which is annoying and not intuitive. The look (low-grade leather) and feel (firm) of the seats is ordinary. Navigation controls were a bit cumbersome. Lyra had trouble getting an address to fill in properly. The dial control for the nav and audio was placed conveniently in the center console below the shifter. The asymmetrical armrest was difficult to open with position of the latch. Lastly, the "new car smell" was bothersome, and was allergy-triggering for Lyra.
Our 3 favorites
Styling: I liked its taut stance and distinctive grille.
Cornering: It likes twisty roads.
Wheels: The 18-inch alloys are a nice accent to the car's clean lines.
Plug it in: The 120-volt plug for the rear passengers would be perfect for electronic gadgets.
Simplicity: Clean and modern lines, nothing over the top
Price point: $26,245 entry level isn't bad for a luxury brand.
The bottom line: Why stick an old name — and its associations — on a brand-new car? This Buick deserves better. We'd like to see some interior refinements, but think the "new Buick" has another potential winner.