The 2011 Buick Regal is being marketed as a lower cost, sportier version of the Buick LaCrosse. That doesn't mean that when the 2011 Buick Regal arrives in the second quarter of 2010, it will be cheaper that the lowest cost Buick LaCrosse. That is because only the higher level CXL model will be initially available and while it will be cheaper that a LaCrosse CXL, it won't be less than the LaCrosse CX. The 2011 Buick Regal will be priced to compete favorably against the Acura TSX which starts at $29,310 before freight charges. You can view pictures from the Regal event in this slideshow and also in this slideshow.
GM's decision to market the Regal not just as a decontented LaCrosse, but also as a sportier entry is a good choice. The 2011 Regal's lines are taut, more athletic and its direct German heritage will appeal to buyers in this market and it will be the first Buick in ages (was it the Skyhawk?) to have an optional manual transmission. When I attended the press event prior to the official unveiling, I had a chance to ask Craig Bierley, Buick's product marketing director, about the Regal's future. Options like ventilated seats could become available after the car's launch, such as when the car is manufactured in North America as opposed to Germany. When switchover from Germany to (most likely) Canada occurs, the Regal could also gain a hybrid option, portholes and other changes. As for more adventurous variations, such as a hotted up 325HP monster motor and station wagon bodystyle, Bierley was much more coy "That would be great, wouldn't it?" he responded to each question. Certainly the fact that Buick is considering these possibilities is welcome news, would greatly enhance the appeal of the car to young buyers and differentiate the Regal from the more luxurious LaCrosse. (Update: Autoblog is confirming that a manual will be offered with the turbo motor, something that was hinted at, but no one would officially state at the Hollywood reveal.)
Also in attendance at the event were Buick's forthcoming "mini Enclave" Gamma-based crossover and the Delta-based small sedan. These two concepts have not been shown to the public yet and we were not allowed to take photos. The crossover is a tight package, looking for all the world like a smaller Enclave with perhaps a bit more detail in the bodywork. This crossover looks to be smaller that the Acura RDX, but undoubtedly the Acura would be a likely contender. The smaller sedan carries over many cues for the LaCrosse and Regal. Some journalists mistook the sedan for the Regal, an issue that I spoke with GM's design chief Ed Welburn about. "They are not Russian dolls," Welburn quipped about the LaCrosse, Regal, and small sedan trio. Certainly when positioned side by side the differences between the models would be evident, but viewed alone, the small sedan evokes much the same look as its elder sisters. That is not to say that this Chevrolet Cruze stablemate is unattractive, but to my eyes it did not have the pop of the small crossover. It will be very interesting to see these vehicles in their final form, something that cannot happen soon enough.
At each opportunity I can, I routinely ask (he might say harass) Jim Federico, vehicle line executive for GM's mid-sized architecture, about active headrest availability in the USA. The Opel Insignia has a mechanical active headrest, much like the Saab system that tilts forward in the event of an accident to help limit whiplash, but it will not be available in the 2011 Buick Regal due to differences in regulations. Federico says that GM is working on both active and non-active systems for the USA, but there is no timetable for implementation. While the LaCrosse certainly is no slouch in the safety department, just look at its fabulous "Top Safety Pick" finish in the recent IIHS testing, I believe that having active headrests is an important marketing tool, another box that can be ticked when comparing against the competition and would be a welcome addition to the Buick lineup.