Buick recently invited automotive writers to sample the 2011 Buick Regal on the roads surrounding San Diego, California.
It was rather fitting that I traveled to the 2011 Buick Regal media event in San Diego on the day of the Lost finale. I have found a number of similarities between the two events. Like those on Oceanic flight 815, the Buick brand was lost as well. Its models had become plain vanilla with little to offend or excite, serving mostly older buyers and rental car fleets. Just like the Losties, Buick began to find redemption in the Enclave crossover and hit even higher notes with the elegant LaCrosse. Just as in Lost, there’s also a “flash sideways” of sorts for Buick where things are much better, China, where the brand has proven to be immensely popular and quite profitable. But enough about a television show, let’s get back to business.
While similar to the successful LaCrosse, the sportier Regal is aimed at a younger audience. Of course, when speaking about Buick we have to make sure we have a reference point for what “younger” means. Buick officials at the event said that they would be happy to see the average age of the Regal buyer fall in the mid-forties range.
The weather in San Diego was the typically awful stuff that you’d expect: mid seventies, mostly blue skies and a light wind whipping through the palm trees. All of the usual suspects were on hand to sample Buick’s latest sedan: Autoblog, Road & Track and even Dan Neil from the Wall Street Journal was there, all decked out like a fluorescent green Pulitzer Prize winning peacock.
Up for our consideration were both turbo and normally aspirated Regal CXL models. Initially, U.S. buyers are only getting one trim level choice as these Regals are being manufactured in Russelsheim, Germany. Once production moves to GM's Oshawa Car Assembly facility in Ontario, Canada more variety will become available. All of this is rather moot because Buick has announced that it will be ditching trim designations all together in the future and move towards offering packages built off of one model a la Lexus.
The first leg of our test route was spent behind the wheel of a turbo model equipped with the optional Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS) real-time damping system. If you are a fan of short attention span theater, you can simply skip the rest of this review and take away the knowledge that this is the model you should buy. Both my driving companion and I found the turbo Regal to be a comfortable sedan that was willing to get down to business in the twisty bits.
The turbo model’s 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque provided an adequate force to keep our pot on boil and inspire passing maneuvers. The IDCS system provided a softer ride over choppy freeway sections in the Tour mode and then tightened up once things smoothed out in Sport mode. There was also a Normal mode that’s supposed to strike a balance, but most of the time we elected to keep the Regal at either end of the extremes. The IDCS system can also “automagically” adjust should it sense that you are dramatically changing your driving style. For example, if you suddenly awake to find people shouting: “You are going the wrong way!” and need to swerve to avoid a looming semi, IDCS would take care of getting into sport mode for you.
In our experience, the non-turbo model’s 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque simply couldn’t provide enough giddy-up to make life interesting when assaulting any kind of incline. While posting slightly better mileage, an estimated 20/30 mpg versus the turbo model’s 18/29 mpg, and $2,500 lower price tag of $26,995 versus $29,495, the case is clearly made for turbo. The $1,250 IDCS is a must have if opting for the turbo as it rounds out the capabilities of this sedan. My driving companion and I also found the non-turbo’s steering to feel artificially heavy after stepping out of the turbo model’s setup. This sensation quickly disappeared and driven on its own, one would likely not notice it.