Before we begin, the Buick Regal you see above is actually a rebadged Opel Insignia, a car designed, and built in Germany. Why the need to tell you this first? Well, there are those in the automotive press crying foul, that GM has learned nothing from its mistakes of the past. Readers, listen to me-this is not a return to the Cavalier/Sunbird/Firenza/Skyhawk/Cimmaron travesty of the 1980’s. In fact, I see no reason to fuss at all. For crying out loud, the Opel Insignia is not even sold in North America. So, should any car buyer even care that the Regal is actually a German Opel? Well, that depends…read on!
Back when GM was on the hot seat in front of Congress, and in the ensuing months when the General had to reorganize itself-and fast-Buick itself was in danger. But GM execs prevailed, and Buick remains. While Buick has seemed to struggle for an identity for, well, as long as anyone can remember, but finally, Buick seems to be defining itself as Lexus, American-style. At least that was our impression when we reviewed the Lacrosse. Certainly a pleasant car, but Buick had a hole in what is still a limited line of cars, and Opel’s Insignia was just the right size to fill a void.
As Buick tries to claw its way out of being the preferred whip at the local senior center, the choice of dredging up the Regal name stymies me. As a Gen-Xer, Regal conjures up two images-Landau roofed coupes with faux wire-wheel hubcaps, and ho-hum rental cars from the 1990’s-images I would think Buick would want to shy away from in its pursuit of a younger demographic. That said, the Regal certainly looks contemporary enough, and retains enough styling cues to be recognized as a Buick. I found the car to be well-proportioned, but quite restrained in execution. The 19″ alloys fitted to our test car are perhaps the most sophisticated wheel to be found on any GM car today. I am smitten with them.
If you have sat in a modern Buick, the Regal will feel familiar to you. Quality, fit and finish, and overall appearance cannot be faulted, but save for some chrome accents, piano black trim on the console and dash and faux aluminum trim, the interior of the Regal acquits itself as a perfectly fine place to log on the miles, just nothing special. Sadly, the audio/navigation controls were infuriating to use. I could not figure out how to set a preset station. The system just felt needlessly cumbersome. At least the sound quality from the Harmon Kardon audio system was decent.
In all, the interior is a comfortable, if an unremarkable place to spend a couple hours. On a weekend jaunt to Boston, the Regal’s seats provided more than adequate comfort. Still, I was a little surprised that at this price, there was no back-up camera, since GM offers this feature on lesser-priced cars. But perhaps most irritating of all was some of the worst dashboard light glare at night I’ve ever seen.
Regals come standard with a 2.4L 182hp engine. Our test car was a Regal Turbo-which for me conjures up images of Buick Regal Grand Nationals, but that is not the case here. Regal Turbos are powered by a 2.0L four, good for 220hp, with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Our test car was fitted with the automatic, which was a willing partner. Still, with 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds, even the most powerful Regal is not that impressive, speed-wise. Perhaps more disappointing was the sound quality of the engine itself. If I’m piloting an entry-level luxury car, I don’t want the engine sound to have all the thrill and refinement of a Ford Fiesta. And that is the Achille’s heel of the Regal Turbo.
Our Regal CXL Turbo was fully optioned out with power moonroof, rear seat airbags, Interactive Drive Control with Sport and Touring modes, aforementioned 19″ alloys, HID headlamps, Harmon Kardon audio, along with a lengthy list of standard equipment for a total MSRP of $35,185, including destination. According to Buick’s press kit, they have set their sights on the Acura TS-X, but at this price point, the Regal Turbo is up against the Lexus IS250 and Infiniti G25, cars with similarly powered but far more silkier V-6 powerplants befitting a car in this price range.
What confounds me the most is that the larger, more powerful, and more luxuriously equipped Lacrosse we tested is cheaper than our Regal Turbo. I blame the exchange rate and weak dollar for this, but even so, it makes the Regal hardly a compelling buy. Buyers thinking that they are attaining a German-bred car with expectations of an Audi A4 or BMW 3-series quality are bound to be disappointed. That may sound damning of what is, overall, a decent car, but to play in this crowd, you have to bring that something ‘extra’. Buick is nearly there, but some fine tuning and closer attention to detail will definitely bring them closer to the mark.