Review – 2011 Buick Regal CXL: Is It Really Sport Injected?

In my short time on this earth, the Buick Regal has never been a car that seemed like it was sport injected. Yet for some years that was the marketing that went along with the nameplate. Sure, from 1997 to 2004 you could get a supercharged V-6 in a Regal. But did that really make it sporty?

Now we have a new Regal, and yes, it is sport injected. At least that is what the marketing tells us. I recently spent a week with the new Regal to see if the marketing really translates to the pavement.

If you think the exterior of the new Regal looks familiar, you must know your European cars. The new Regal and the European Opel Insignia are near doppelgangers aside from their badging and headlights.

The sheet metal is taut, with nice sculpting on the sides. The rear taillights and front headlights both feature a swept back design that again, looks very European. In reality, this car looks nothing like a Buick. If you covered up the badges most people would never guess what it is.

Speaking of headlights, the Regal sports cheap looking halogen headlight housings. The Turbo model receives the European-style projector headlight housings, which also feature LED daytime running lights. This small detail dramatically changes the look of the front end. Luckily Buick is offering the projector headlights with LED daytime running lights as an option on all 2012 Regals. Frankly, these headlights should be standard on all Regals. If the cheaper 2012 Verano will have projector headlights standard, then so should the Regal.

I personally really like the rear end. From the subtle spoiler that is part of the trunk lid, to the complex taillight design, it all works. Oh by the way, those taillights look pretty cool when lit up at night.

The interior again looks nothing like Buicks we are used to. This looks and feels like a German car, right down to the BMW iDrive-like controller sitting in between the two front seats.

The door shuts with a solid thunk, and all the materials you touch feel great. The materials you don’t touch still look good, but some are hard. It would be easy to mistake the interior for something from Germany.

The center stack is a sea of buttons. Once you realize they are somewhat grouped together, it doesn’t get any easier really. After a few days I was able to remember where each function was, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t clumsy.

The electronics in this car have all the right features, but the design was never meant for Buick. You see, the Opel Insignia has a different software interface, and that is what the center stack was made for. It has been now thrown into a car with a Buick interface. The result is a hot mess. Thankfully all 2012 Regals will come with a new touch screen interface as standard equipment. The sea of buttons will remain, but at least the interface will be touch and designed to work with the buttons.

The base powertrain in the Regal is a 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic. This setup is good for 182-horspower and 172 pound feet of torque, which is sent to the front wheels.  This engine is shared with the new Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. In the Regal I found it to be somewhat gritty when pulling away from a stoplight; it seemed to smooth out when higher in the rev band.

To call this powertrain setup sport-injected is darn near a bold faced lie. Now, I am driving the Regal Turbo this week, and that model can be marketed as sport-injected. But the non-Turbo Regal is just too heavy for the amount of power it has to really be sporty.

The chassis and driving dynamics are terrific. With a solid German-like feel, the ride is controlled but never harsh. The steering is nicely weighted with the right amount of road feel.

The Regal tester I was in had a sticker price of $31,975. This undercuts the German competition and is right on par with the Acura TSX, and this tester had nearly $5,000 worth of options. There’s no question that the Regal offers some value.

At the end of the week my thoughts were very clear. The Regal is solid and drives great. But is the Regal really-sport injected this time around? The answer is sort of. Both the chassis and driving dynamics are where they need to be. But the base powertrain is not. It isn’t bad, but it’s not sport injected. Someone coming out of am Audi A4 2.0T, or any car equipped with a V-6 will likely be disappointed in the base powertrain. My advice is if you want the as advertised sport injected driving experience buy the Regal Turbo. If you are merely looking for a car that has nice a nice interior and will get you safely from point A to point B, the base Regal will suit those needs.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

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2 Responses to “Review – 2011 Buick Regal CXL: Is It Really Sport Injected?”

  1. Good review! I test drove the Regal turbo at Main Street in Motion the other day and was impressed with the performance for the short ride I took in it. It’s not going to light the roads on fire but it’s decent for an “American” sporty sedan…

    03/08/2011 at 1:50 pm Reply


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